As a parent, Machetera can easily imagine doing and saying almost anything to get her child out of being chained up in the jungle. Yet even though there’ve been some cynical things written (some of which Machetera has translated) about Ingrid Betancourt’s family, specifically her mother, Yolanda Pulecio, and Hugo Chávez Frias, suggesting Pulecio was somehow being less than genuine in all the statements she made in his company, and Chávez himself was being used, Machetera disagrees.
Hernando Calvo Ospina, who was there, also disagrees, and Chávez, as far as Machetera can see, is nobody’s fool. Machetera has no love for the oligarchy, but families are complicated things and, newsflash! They don’t always agree. No-one’s interviewing Yolanda Pulecio at the moment.
Please remember that Machetera’s first priority is the translation of items from the Spanish language press that otherwise do not appear in the English language press. Usually they follow her editorial line, but not always. Machetera trusts her readers to distinguish between the two, but you’ll have to pay attention!
Hernando Calvo Ospina – Rebelión
All Ingrid Betancourt needed was a microphone in front of her in order to begin to praise the Colombian president, the Defense Minister and the Armed Forces. That was only a few minutes after getting off the plane and being presented to the journalists in attendance, along with the 11 policemen and Colombian soldiers, and the three U.S. mercenary soldiers (read that carefully: U.S. mercenary soldiers). From that moment she hasn’t stopped expressing beautiful words toward those who, in Colombian history, have filled the streets and countryside of Colombia with more blood than anyone.
Since it seems that they’ve forgotten some “tiny details,” it’s good to remind them of other “tiny details.”
“I’ve only hated one person in my life: Presidente Uribe Vélez.”
“Uribe has only wanted to humiliate me, taking advantage of my pain as a mother.”
“If my daughter is still not free, it’s Uribe’s fault.”
“I’ve opposed Ingrid’s children living in Colombia, for fear that Uribe, his army, or his paramilitaries would harm them.”
“I’ve never spoken badly of the FARC, because I understand their struggle.”
These are some of the many phrases that Ingrid Betancourt’s mother, Yolanda Pulecio, told me in Caracas this April. I cannot deny that after the exchanges we had, I came to admire her. Just as I did Astrid, her other daughter, in Paris. Both, although bourgeois, have had a more objective analysis of the Colombian political situation than that of certain leaders who claim to be leftists.
And for the record: the majority of the things they told me were not my exclusive. They’ve said them to the most important information media on the planet. Occasionally they didn’t mince words in their indictment of the narco-paramilitary character of the Colombian state. “Maybe that’s why,” as someone at a high level in the French government told me at the beginning of the year “they’re not being interviewed like before. They’re very anti-Uribe. They already seem pro-FARC.”
That’s been true. The attention of the French news media went on to focus almost exclusively on Ingrid’s two very young children, non-politicized, distant from Colombian reality, influenced by their father, a French Sarkozista diplomat. He himself became, to the surprise of many, practically a spokesman for President Uribe during his last visit in Paris this year.
On April 12, in Caracas, Yolanda said, verbatim, in the presence of President Chávez, almost a hundred people who attended the Meeting of Intellectuals and Artists in Defense of Humanity, and plenty of news media:
“Señor Presidente, for me it’s a great honor that you should hear me here […] and I want to take advantage of this opportunity to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you’ve done for those who’ve been kidnapped and what you’ve done for my daughter.
So I already don’t know what else to do […] in the first place, I feel confident in everything that you’ve done, and I feel much safer here than in Colombia.
As you know, I’ve had to suffer all the lies, all the deception during these six years in which we’ve been permanently deceived, naturally I’ve had to suffer the fact that there is no true press. This morning when I heard that we need to recover truth in the media, that the media should tell the truth, and that all of us must be vigilant, this hit me in my soul. Because in Colombia all I read are lies, I read the papers and say: ‘This is false, this is false, this is false.’
Even the polls they do, Presidente, deceive the people. But, okay, I don’t want to get into political things […] but I do want, Presidente, to give you infinite thanks for what you’ve done and may do for my dughter and for all those who are kidnapped.
To all of you I ask for your solidarity, this I wouldn’t wish on anyone, I’ve endured an ordeal, but my daughter has endured a worse ordeal, going on seven years now. I give great thanks for the help that you may give us, for your support right now, for something that for me, is really, Presidente, as you know, very hard. Thank you very much.”
I can tell you that I got a lump in my throat seeing and hearing her. And I wasn’t the only one. I saw a number of those present drying their eyes.
At the same event, President Chávez told me that when President Uribe prohibited him from continuing to mediate for the liberation of the hostages, since everything was moving forward in leaps and bounds:
“[…] after this hard blow to the agreement, the exchange, took another direction. And despite that it was without the approval of the Colombian government, it began to work, achieving the first liberations: Clara, Consuelo, and the appearance of the child, Emmanuel […]
Later a second liberation happened. And we were working on the third. For this third, and this I only only say now, because what’s happened has happened […] a little for tactical movement, or strategically, I asked Rafael Correa that it be oriented toward Ecuador in order not to follow the same path, since they were hunting us. Did they know? The gringos are in Colombia and they have any kind of technological resources one can imagine: smart, invisible planes, smart bombs, etc. […]
And that’s the main reason that Raúl Reyes moved toward Ecuador, as Iván Márquez did toward here. And even, as I’ve also said, the French government was in on this intention and had a commission oriented through Ecuador toward this Colombian region.
Unfortunately, they hunted us. Hunted through a telephone call. It’s been said that it was through a call that Raúl Reyes made. Lies, but everyone is free to invent whatever they want. [*] And now we all know what happened [the murder of Reyes].
It was in important gesture by the FARC. They had reached an agreement with us: liberating groups without conditions […]”
Due to Ingrid Betancourt’s intestinal problems, from which she’s always suffered, according to what [Yolanda’s] daughter Astrid told me, and to an unbalanced diet, such as that ingested by the rest of the guerrillas, she began to lose weight. From there she began to have hepatic problems, also something normal for her, according to Astrid. Ingrid became a lot skinnier than could be attributed to the conditions of surviving in the jungle as a hostage. It was at this time that the FARC sent a video and letters to prove that she was alive. Ingrid needed a vitamin supplement. The response of the Colombian government to the request of her mother to allow it to arrive somehow, was to redouble its militarization and bombardment of the zone where she was found.
The only ones who heard and immediately offered to get some Ensure® as it were, to her, was the captured guerilla commander, Martin Caballero, and the Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias.
Yolanda told me. I’ve never told anyone. And if I do it now, it’s because her daughter is free.
Not three months after the arrival of the vitamin, Ingrid is free and demonstrating a physical vitality and mental clarity that millions of women and poor children in Colombia do not have due to the ultra-liberal politics imposed by the state that she now applauds.
These millions don’t have anyone to send them any kind of medicine.
And practically the only words that occur to Ingrid Betancourt for President Chávez, as well as the Ecuadoran President, Rafael Correa Delgado, who also put his hands in the fire for her liberation, and like Chávez, practically emerged burned, were “Don’t meddle in Colombian democracy!”
Señora Ingrid has barely mentioned Senator Piedad Córdoba. The same that is on the point of going to jail – if they don’t kill her first – for the contacts that she had with the FARC to insist that they free…Ingrid Betancourt!
God willing, Señora Ingrid will learn from Yolanda and Astrid. I don’t believe, and I hope I’m not wrong, that now they’ll change their discourse and say that everything they said in so many forums and to so many media, was for lack of anything better to say.
Hernando Calvo Ospina is a Colombian journalist and writer living in France. Nominated for the Lorenzo Natali Human Rights Prize, 2005, of the European Commission. Collaborator in Le Monde Diplomatique. Author of, among others, “Colombia, laboratorio de embrujos. Democracia y terrorismo de Estado” [Colombia, Haunted Laboratory. Democracy and State Terrorism), Akal-Foca, Madrid 2008
[*] According to the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique, July 2008, four days before the murder of Raúl Reyes and other persons, Luis Carlos Restrepo, Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace, insisted to a French commission that he was in constant communication from Panama with Reyes by satellite telephone.
This coincides with the information obtained, unofficially, from French government sources by the author of this note, Calvo Ospina, who assured him that this was how Reyes’ camp was precisely located and bombed.
Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.