Claudia López: “Don’t give up. We are with you” FARC hostages: “This demands a little reflection”
Dec 052007

Ingrid Betancourt’s letter to her mother, Yolanda Pulecio (excerpts)

Rainy morning, like my soul, jungles of Colombia, Wednesday, October 24, 8:34 AM

My adored and divine mother of my soul.

Every day I wake up thanking God that I have you.

Every day I open my eyes at 4:00 AM and prepare myself to be wide awake to hear your message on la cantera de las 5 [a radio program]. … Every day, you ask me how my life is. I know that [Jhon Frank] Pinchao [a police officer who escaped from the FARC in May, after 9 years of captivity] gave you many details, and I bless him and thank him for having told you everything. …

Well, things have gotten harder for us since Pinchao’s escape. The measures became more extreme, and this has been terrible for me. They separated me from the people with whom I had relationships, affinity and affection, and they put me in with a very difficult group of people.

Mamita, I am tired, tired of suffering, I have been – or tried to be – strong. These almost six years of captivity have shown me that I am not as resistant, nor as brave, intelligent or strong as I had believed. I have had many battles, I have tried to escape at several opportunities, I have tried to maintain hope, as one keeps one’s head above water. But mamita, now I have given up. I want to think that one day I’ll get out of here, but I know that what happened to the diputados [the eleven provincial legislators, held hostage since 2002, who were killed in June], which hurt me greatly, could happen to me at any moment. I think this would be a relief for everyone. …

Mamita, this is a very hard moment for me. They are asking for proofs of life at point-blank range, and here I am writing to you with my soul laid out over this paper. I am in poor shape physically. I have not been eating. My appetite is blocked. My hair is falling out in large quantities. I have no desire to do anything. I think that last one is the only good one: not wanting to do anything. Because here in the jungle, the only response is “NO.” It is better, then, not to want anything, to be free, at least, of desires. …

Well, as I said, life here is not life. It is a gloomy waste of time. I live, or survive, in a hammock hanging from two poles, covered with mosquito netting and a tarpaulin overhead, which serves as a roof, which allows me to think that I have a house. I have a shelf where I keep my equipment, that is my backpack with clothes and a Bible that is my only luxury. Everything is always ready in case we have to run off. Here nothing is one’s own, nothing lasts, the uncertainty and precariousness are the only constant. At any moment they give the order to pack and one sleeps in any hole, hanging in any site, like any animal. Those moments are especially difficult for me. …

I try to be quiet, to speak as little as possible in order to avoid problems. The presence of a woman amid prisoners who have been captive for eight and ten years is a problem. I hear RFI and BBC a bit, I write only a little because the notebooks [illegible] that is a torture. I have already burned about four of them. And when the search us, they also take away what one most wants to keep. …

I did not hear any messages [from the outside] until they kept me with Lucho, [hostage Sen. Luis] Eladio Pérez, on August 22, 2003 (his daughter’s birthday). We have been very close friends, but they separated us in August. But during all that time he was my support, my shield, my brother. …

For years I could not think of my children, due to the horrible pain of not being with them. Today, I can hear them and feel more happiness than pain. I look for them in my memories and I support myself with the images that I keep in my memory of each of their ages. On each birthday, I sing them “happy birthday.” I ask them to let me make a cake. Before, they let me and I made something in order to mark the date. But in the past three years, whenever I ask, the answer is no. Even if they bring a cookie or the usual food of rice and beans, I pretend that it is a cake and I celebrate their birthdays in my heart. …

Mamita, there are so many people whom I want to thank for remembering us, for not having abandoned us. For so much time we have been like the lepers at the dance, we hostages aren’t a “politically correct” subject, it sounds better to say that one must be strong against the guerrillas, even if some human lives are sacrificed. Against this, silence. Only time can open consciences and elevate spirits.

I think of the generosity of the United States, for example. This generosity is not the product of wealth in land, resources, etc., but the product of the generous souls of the leaders who molded that nation. When Lincoln defended the black slaves’ rights to life and liberty, he also confronted many Floridas and Praderas. Many economic and political interests that were considered to be superior to the life and liberty of a handful of black people. But Lincoln won, and left in that nation’s collective consciousness the priority of human life over any other interest.

In Colombia we still have to think about where we come from, who we are and where we want to go. I hope that some day we will have that thirst for generosity that lifts peoples from nothingness toward the sun. When we are unconditional in our defense of our people’s life and liberty, that is to say when we are less individualist and more in solidarity, less indifferent, more committed, less intolerant and more compassionate … then I believe that that day we will be the great nation that we all wish that we were.

This generosity is still sleeping in our hearts, but our hearts have hardened and weigh so much that they do not allow for higher feelings. But there are many people whom I would like to thank, because they are contributing to the awakening of our spirits and to making Colombia greater. I can’t mention them all, President Alfonso López [1974-1978, who worked for a humanitarian accord and died earlier this year] and, in general, all of the Liberal Party ex-presidents. But President López because his death has been especially painful for us. I have also regretted not being able once again to embrace Hernán Echavarría [a businessman and philanthropist who died in 2006], from whom I learned so much, and to whom I owe so much. This must be the moment to express to him my admiration and deep affection. To the families of the [assassinated] diputados, of Juan Carlos Narváez, C. Alberto Giraldo, C. Alberto Barragán, Alberto Quintero, A. Charry, Nacianceno Orozco, Rufino Varela, Héctor Fabio Arismendi, Ramiro Echeverri, John Jairo Hoyos, Edison Pérez. I have each of them in my prayers and I don’t forget them for one minute, as a homage to life, what is left in me and what belongs to them.

Mamita, they’re coming for the letters. I’m not going to be able to write everything I wanted. To Piedad [Córdoba] and to [Hugo] Chávez, all of my affection and admiration. Our lives are there, in their hearts, which I know are large and brave. To President Chávez, I want to tell him so many things, and above all, how I enjoy his spontaneous and generous manner, when I hear him on the radio on Aló Presidente [Chávez's weekly radio show]. I was touched when the niños vallenatos [a Colombian children's musical group] came to sing to him. It was a sublime moment of tenderness and brotherhood between Colombians and Venezuelans. Thank you for your interest in a cause that is ours, and that is not very high-profile because another’s pain, when it is expressed in statistics, doesn’t interest anyone. Thank you, President.

Thanks as well to Álvaro Leyva [a former senator and government minister who has sought to keep peace efforts alight by maintaining periodic contact with the guerrillas]. He was close, but the forces working against the freedom of this handful of forgotten people are like a hurricane that wants to topple everything. They are not interested. His intelligence, his nobility and his persistence have given many something to reflect upon, and here, more than just the freedom of a few crazy people condemned to live in the jungle, it is a matter of being conscious of what it means to defend the dignity of human beings. Thank you, Álvaro.

Thanks to [Bogotá Mayor] Lucho Garzón for his commitment, his compassion, his generosity and his persistence. Here also the fireflies lit up the jungle when the concert took place [the Bogotá city government has hosted musical concerts in favor of a humanitarian accord]. Here too we sang with voices of hope.

Thanks to [opposition Senator] Gustavo Petro for remembering us with photos [illegible] and in his speeches and every time he can. And the same to so many friends who help us with their commentaries of support and encouragement, from the Polo [Democrático, the political party to which Garzón and Petro belong] and the Liberal Party, thank you to all for not forgetting, for not being resigned to the forgetting about the hostages. …

My heart also belongs to France. … Since the beginning of this kidnapping, France has been thr voice of wisdom and love. It has never given up, it has not accepted the passage of time as the only solution, it has never wavered in defense of our right to be defended. When the night is darkest, France has been the beacon. When asking for our freedom was frowned upon, France was not quiet. When they accused our families of doing harm to Colombia, France gave them support and counsel. …

President Sarkozy has assumed leadership over deep changes in France. I am convinced that the power of his convictions and the nobility of his feelings will enlighten hearts and minds. I know that what we are living through is full of unknowns, but history has its own timeframes and President Sarkozy is standing on the meridian of history. With President Chávez, President Bush and the solidarity of the whole continent, we may be able to witness a miracle.

For many years I have thought that while I remain alive, while I keep breathing, I have to keep maintaining hope. Now I don’t have the same strength, now it is a lot of work for me to keep believing, but I want you to feel that all that you have done for us has made a difference. We have felt like human beings. Thank you.

Mamita, I have many things to say to you, to explain to you that I haven’t had news of Clara [Rojas, Betancourt's 2002 running mate who was taken hostage at the same time, and who has had a child in captivity] and her baby. Ask Pinchao to give you details. He will tell you everything. …

I know that you have had contact with the mother of Marc Gonsalves [one of the three U.S. citizen hostages]. He is a very special person, of a great human quality. Tell her to send messages on la carrillera, they hear that program. I believe that we all do. I am now with another group, but I love Marc very much, please tell Jo that her son is well.

Well, I don’t want to say goodbye. May God allow this to reach you. …

For always and forever. Your daughter.

16 Responses to “Ingrid Betancourt’s letter”

  1. flor bustos Says:

    I just finnished reading Ingrid’s book, Till Death Do Us Apart, and really I have to admit that Ingrid is a very corageous woman, a woman with integrity and true ideals for her country and her people. A woman that had to be silenced for the sake of the narcotrafic, the Colombian government and its corrupt politicians. Colombia is a country that have been on war since 1947 and the drug traffic worsen the situation along with the guerrilas who lost their initial ideals and joined the drug cartels. Reading this book one understands how corrupted that country is, and one must ask if Ingrid’s sacrifice and mainly that of her children is worthy of Colombia…I dare to say NO!

  2. Diana Says:

    I’ve also read the book and I actually used it as my research for a project on corruption in school. It was a great book and yes she is a very corageous woman; one to admired and look up to. One major thing that i have to disagree with you is that in my opinion YES colombia is worthy of that and more. I do not know your orgin but with all do respect… if you are colombian no wonder we are finding it so hard to find peace and a needed change in our country with mentalities like yours. I would like to close my argument with a quote by the famous Leader Ghanddi “YOU MUST be the change YOU WISH to see in the world”. si toda la humanidad aportara constantemente algo positivo seriamos un mundo MEJOR!!!!

  3. NORMA Says:

    Dont give up, we are with you, be strong, God bless you honey!!!

  4. Claudio Brumen Says:

    Igrid, we wish for you the most speedy release so that you can return to your family. My fear is that for political reasons Uribe’s actions are jeopardizing your and other’s release.

    Nobody should go through what you have gone through, but it appears that it will all be over soon. Keep your chin up and I hope that you soon return to fight for political change in Colombia.

  5. Marisel Walston Says:

    Ingrid que Dios te bendiga. Tu carta me rompe el corazon.

    I hope you are free soon and with your loved ones. I will add you to my prayers.

  6. Jusiris Arias Says:

    Acabo de leer la carta dirigida a la madre de Ingrid Betancourt me dio mucha nostalgia pero mas aun coraje para poder ver la vida de diferente perspectiva. Ella es una mujer luchadora con coraje la admiro intajantemente en este mundo faltan muchas mas Ingrid Betancourt para que fuese mas solido.

  7. Jeanmarie Amend Says:

    Dear Ingrid, Pres vous.

  8. Mady Says:

    I heard today you were saved!! I’m so happy!

  9. joel castillo Says:

    Senora Ingrid Betancourt, El dia de ayer fue uno de los dias mas felices en mi vida, el saber que habia sido liberada causo en mi una enorme alegria, pues es Usted un orgullo a seguir admiro su fortaleza y su lucha, y quizas mis plegarias unidas a las de todos los que oramos por Usted sirvio de algo para que Usted pudiera ser liberada, nada en este mundo me hara mas feliz que algun dia tener la dicha de poder conocerla en persona, que Dios la bendiga hoy y siempre al igual que a toda su familia y seres queridos, reciba un fuerte abrazo y un beso de uno de sus mas ferbientes admiradores, Joel Castillo

  10. mmischla Says:

    Alleluia, Little Sister! Your Freedom comes in USA Freedomweek! Joy will overshadow sorrow! Let it be so, Merci & Godspeed!

  11. MAURICIO VALLEDUPAR Says:

    INGRID, YOU GO GIRL!
    LET’S KEEP IN MIND THAT THE LIBERATION OF INGRID IS JUST A GRAIN OF SAND FROM THE OCEAN, OF THE MANY GOODS THAT AMERICA HAS DONE FOR US COLOMBIANS

  12. MAURICIO VALLEDUPAR Says:

    POOR THE ONE WHO WITH AN UNGREATFUL CONCIOUS DOESN’T REALIZE HOW MUCH MORALLY WE OWE TO OUR FRIEND USA

  13. Sister Felipa Gonzalez Says:

    IF POSSIBLE I WILL LIKE TO GET IN TOUCH WITH INGRID BETANCOURT
    THANKS

  14. innocent adiele onyeji Says:

    i praise Jehova God for ur release madam betancourt. To god be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

  15. Lelia B Says:

    I was so touched by this letter and Ingrid’s life story with such an intensity. Thank you Ingrid for being such an example to all of us. Thank you for sharing your life with the rest of us. You are an excepcional person. I also want to celebrate her rescue, her freedom and her family. Mrs. Pulecio is a courageous mother! My heart also goes to her. I wish I could meet Ingrid and her mom personally. I was ecstatic, thrilled, when I found out from my son, mom, INGRID BETANCOURT is free!!! WOW, what a feeling!

    I want to add that Presidente Uribe deserves credit and a great recognition for his tireless work in Colombia. I am thankful for the work he is doing. Maybe USA was able to help more because Uribe is there. I have been travelling to Colombia and every time, I find a safer and cleaner country. This was not happening for decades. Now, people can drive from city to city, mas paseos and more work and people are enjoying more security.

    May God Bless Ingrid, her family and Colombia.

  16. Ingjerd Says:

    Just saw you speaking on the television in my country – far away from Colombia, – a ten minutes interview. After the interview I looked you- and your letter to your mom, up – here at the internet. I have not red your book, but from your letter and from seeing you and hearing you, I got tears in my eyes. You move me deeply. Your mother must truly be a strong and wonderful woman, and the same for you. Without doubt. It is so great that you are now not longer captured, that you finally can be with your family again. Thank you for courage to stand in the official light and telling your story. Thank you. I wish for you a good future, a really good future. Good luck in your life and in all of your choices. :)
    My deepest of regards to you!

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