It was in July 2002 that Ingrid Betancourt was able to address her family for the first time since she was taken hostage by the FARC some seven months earlier.
Betancourt, who gained French nationality through her first husband, also had this to say:
“To all the French people who have supported me, despite the distance… thank you.”
It is partly through efforts to win her freedom and the media coverage of her case in France that Betancourt has become the symbol of those held by the FARC. But it is a phenomenon that affects thousands in Colombia.
At one o’clock in the morning, one radio station in Bogota broadcasts messages of support from the hostages’ families and friends. At this time there is a greater chance they may hear. The words give hope and serve as a link with a father, a wife, a son.
“Please give me a reason?” said one mother. “What do you want, what do you want from us? Let me know if he is with you. This is unbearable for us, the parents.”
In one year, there were more kidnappings in Colombia than in the rest of the world put together. It is used both to exhort money and as a political tool, with devastating effects for the victims.
Journalist Guillermo Cortes was taken hostage in January 2000 and held for eight months.
He said: “On top of the lack of liberty, you feel like an object, something to be exchanged, merchandise and that is even more humiliating.”
No one is immune. Earlier this week, a little boy was returned to his parents after six months in the jungle.
The female rebel who had been looking after the five-year-old fled with him, walking for 24 hours until she ran into some soldiers on patrol.