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FARC Hostages

Is Ingrid Betancourt behind $15 million bankrupt Colombia litigation?Peace

 By Judi McLeod  Thursday, July 15, 2010

imageThe almost $15 million in lawsuits, launched against the Colombian government by four former Colombian Congress members held captive by FARC,  indicate that Ingrid Betancourt may have been on a path to bankrupt the Colombian government in her bid for $6.8 million.

Just like Betancourt, all four former Congress members Gloria Polanco, Jorge Eduardo Gechem, Orlando Beltran and Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo base their claims in separate lawsuits that the government failed to provide them with adequate security.

Amid a vociferous public outcry, Betancourt said she wouldn’t sue and that her aim in filing for compensation for her time as a hostage was to help other ex-hostages.  Her `request for conciliation’, she said,  was intended to “open the way so that other people who have been kidnapped can get compensation”.

Opening the way for compensation for “other people” who have been held hostage, in this case seems to be restricted to former hostages who are former congress members.

The $15 million in lawsuits against the Colombian government had already been launched by the four former congress members between April and May of this year.

The news of Betancourt’s compensation came within days of her return to Colombia to mark the second anniversary of her July 2, 2008 release with 14 other hostages.

There is no doubt that Betancourt had strong ties to the litigious four, having served time as a representative and a senator when three of the four were in office and having been in the same jungle prisons when they were held captive by FARC.

Three of the four former congress members were released Feb. 2008 in a deal brokered by Venezuela President Hugo Chavez.  Gonzalez was liberated by FARC on January 10, 2008.

Amid huge fanfare that all but drowned out the media-inspired “no names” (average Colombian FARC hostages with no big name status), Betancourt was released on July 2, 2008 in a daring mission by soldiers posing as members of humanitarian organizations and aid workers.

FARC is reported to be holding several hundred hostages,  most of them average Colombians who worked as soldiers or police officers.  Not a single one of them has filed suit against the Colombian government for compensation as have the politicians.

Although Betancourt had accused the government of taking away her bodyguards when she was kidnapped in February of 2002, long lost in memory is the fact that she was trying to jump start her flagging presidential campaign when she ignored warnings and stumped in FARC-endangered territory.

The Colombian election three months after her kidnap was to prove a presidential campaign going nowhere as Betancourt’s name on the ballot drew less than 1% of the popular vote.

FARC hostage Gloria Polanco, on the other hand, whose name was placed on the ballot in absentia by her husband handily won her seat.

Treated as a homecoming hero in France where President Nicolas Sarkozy awarded her the prestigious, Napoleon Bonaparte-inspired Légion d’honneur,  Betancourt was nominated for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to Martti Ahtisaari of Finland.

Besides hoarding food, books and a transistor radio in her jungle prison and ordering other hostages around, was Betancourt plotting lawsuits that would someday run the risk of bankrupting Colombia?

Colombia’s Comptroller General Julio Cesar Turbay said yesterday that the state does not have sufficient funds to pay all the petitioners, in the event that all four win their lawsuits.

“The exaggerated number of claims is going to put the state in a situation where it cannot pay and could go bankrupt,” Turbay said.

FARC, who could easily sustain the lawsuits with the profits from drug trafficking and kidnapping, must be toasting each other with coffee now that friends of Bankrupt Betancourt are in a position to jeopardize Colombia’s struggling economy.

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Judi McLeod  Bio
Judi McLeod Most recent columns

Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the print media. A former Toronto Sun columnist, she also worked for the Kingston Whig Standard. Her work has appeared on Rush Limbaugh, Newsmax.com, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com, and Glenn Beck.

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