Ingrid Betancourt’s impromptu airport press conference, flanked by the bloody Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and other military officers with undeniably gringo features was one of the strangest spectacles Machetera has ever seen. Even considering the joy she must have felt at being liberated after so much time in captivity, her effusiveness toward her liberators suggests that the time she spent in the jungle with the FARC left her with no greater understanding of the Colombian conflict than when she was seized on her presidential campaign tour seven years ago. Her extravagant praise of Colombian President Uribe and the Colombian army (who, she implied, had one-upped Israel with its commando tactics) sounded more like a campaign speech than anything else – minus a recent visit to the dentist and blonde highlights in her hair.
Betancourt mentioned how shortly after the helicopter lifted off, suddenly, somehow, the lead guerrilla was on the floor, blindfolded, and the soldiers, oh-so-cleverly disguised in Che Guevara t-shirts (the most cynical appropriation of this great man’s image ever, but also a confirmation of his everlasting symbolic power), announced that they were actually from the Colombian army, and the hostages were now free. In respect to the capture of the guerrilla, she said, “Don’t think that I felt happy; I pitied him a lot, but I gave thanks to God that he was with people who respect the lives of others, even when they are enemies.” Someone should suggest that she tell that to the family of the Ecuadoran who was killed with a blow from a rifle butt to his neck after surviving Colombia’s bombing of the FARC camp on Ecuadoran soil.
The FARC is an easy target these days, with dwindling support from all quarters for its armed struggle, so Machetera has little desire to pile on. Yet there is something strange about the fact that seven years on, a captive should emerge with so little respect for the struggle being waged and should refer to her captors as “humiliators” and “despots.” The only hint at sympathy came near the end of what El Tiempo chose to broadcast of Betancourt’s statement – if there was more, perhaps it wasn’t convenient to the storyline – where she pointed a convoluted message at Alfonso Cano, insisting that the guerrillas were not to blame, that they’d left the hostages alive, but it was simply a “perfect operation.”
As usual, though, there’s more to the story. Pascual Serrano explains:
Doubts over whether the Colombian army intercepted the liberation in order to present it as a government success. Continue reading