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Ingrid Betancourt

Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 2008

Ingrid Betancourt (Bogotá, Colombia, 1961) is the daughter of a former Education Minister, Gabriel Betancourt, and of the former Member of Congress and former Ambassador to Guatemala, Yolanda Pulecio. She studied Political Science in France, where her father held the post of ambassador to the UNESCO. When there she married a French diplomat, thus obtaining said nationality. She returned to Colombia in 1990 and worked as an advisor in the Treasury Department and in the Foreign Trade Department.

Betancourt's political career commenced in 1994, when she stood for parliament as a candidate for the governing Liberal Party. A staunch defender of freedom and human rights, her efforts during her period in public office focussed on fostering democracy and social justice, the fight against corruption, drug trafficking and violence, in pursuit of a different, more promising future for the children and youth of Colombia. She abandoned the Liberal Party in 1998 and stood for the Senate for the Green Oxygen Party. She resigned office to stand in the presidential elections for the New Colombia Movement in 2002, the year in which she was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) along with her campaign director, Clara Rojas, who was freed on the 10th January 2008.

She wrote two books during her period of public office: Sí sabía (1996), about the alleged funding of Ernesto Samper's presidential campaign by the Cali Cartel, and La rabia en el corazón (2001), published in France, in which she criticized the widespread state of corruption of her countrys political class. Her kidnapping has had major repercussions all over the world and, as a result of international mobilisation in favour of her release, she has been named Honorary Citizen of more than a thousand cities in over twenty countries. In 2004, she was awarded the Dutch Cross of Resistance, which was collected by her mother and daughter. Support committees were also created, forming the International Federation of Committees for Ingrid Betancourt, whose first general assembly was held in Paris in 2005. That same year, a major mobilisation also took place to demand her release, in view of the worrying news regarding her precarious state of health. The Colombian Army finally put an end to her captivity on 2nd July 2008 in an operation in which three US citizens and eleven Colombian soldiers were also freed.

Named Honorary President of the International Congress of Green Parties held in São Paulo when she was still held captive, once released Ingrid Betancourt was decorated with the Rank of Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour by President Nicolas Sarkozy during the celebrations of the French National Holiday on 14th July 2008 and has been bestowed with the Women's World Award as "Woman of the Year 2008".

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