About Ingrid Betancourt

Presidential Speaker Series

Ingrid Betancourt

Ingrid Betancourt was the the longest female hostage held in captivity and also the most recalled one. A global symbol of freedom and human resistance in the face of the toughest of adversities, her fight for democracy, freedom and peace has been a shining example of dignity and bravery for the entire world.

Guerillas belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) kidnapped Ms. Betancourt as she campaigned for the Colombian presidency on February 23, 2002. She was held captive for six years in Colombia’s vast rain forest, a jungle so dense that the ground is completely invisible from the air. On July 2, 2008, she was liberated with 14 other hostages in a daring rescue staged by the Colombian army.

Ms. Betancourt has since continued to dedicate her life to democracy, freedom and peace, as well as campaigning for the release of more than 700 hostages still being held captive by the FARC by keeping their plight in the limelight. “I will not feel totally free, not happy, as long as one of my companions remains jailed in the jungle,” she has said.

Ms. Betancourt has also urged neighboring countries to help Colombia work on political transformations by democratic means. She has said often since her release that she does not seek revenge against her captors and favors dialogue and reconciliation to end Colombia’s decades-old guerilla war.

Ms. Betancourt had been a critic of the FARC during her campaign in the Colombian presidential election. Her campaign was built on her promise to curb drug trafficking, corruption and the FARC's methods of kidnapping innocent people. She even met with FARC leaders, imploring them to end this inhumane practice, but in the end she became a victim of their rebel tactics.

Upon her return from captivity, Ms. Betancourt engaged in a whirlwind of public addresses and international meetings with Presidents and Heads-of-State, including King Juan Carlos and President Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain, King Albert II of Belgium, President Sarkozy of France, President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, President Evo Morales of Bolivia, President Alan García of Peru, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, President Lula of Brazil, President Rafael Correa of the Republic of Ecuador and President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, as well as Secretary-General Ban Kimoon and Pope Benedict XVI.

Ms. Betancourt has received multiple international awards, including the French National Order of the Legion of Honor, The Prince of Asturias Prize of Concord, and The Prize Grinzane Cavour. She has also received the first Woman of the Year Award 2008 from the World Awards Association for her commitment to democratic values, freedom and tolerance.