Former FARC Hostage, Ingrid Betancourt, Recounts Captivity In First Novel

Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt has published her first novel, titled The Blue Line, which tells a story similar to her own about a woman named Julia who becomes a political prisoner during the country’s Dirty War. Ingrid was kidnapped by revolutionaries in 2002 during her bid for presidency, and was held captive for six years in rebel camps in the middle of the jungle. Her dramatic military rescue in July of 2008 made international headlines, especially in France because she also held citizenship due to her prior marriage to a French diplomat. The former senator published her harrowing experience as a hostage in a 2010 memoir titled Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle. Now, she’s telling NPR about the parallels between her story and that of Julia.

“Certainly there are influences of things that I have lived. But actually it’s like a reverse biography, because this girl,” she said. “She is a leftist kind of revolutionary that’s going to be abducted, or disappeared, by a dictatorship, a military dictatorship. In my case, it was the opposite: I was a Colombian presidential candidate and I was abducted by a communist guerilla group.”

As the New York Times notes, “The Blue Line is set mainly in Argentina in the years before and during its Dirty War and in the present-day Northeastern United States.” Julia has the “supernatural ability to see terrible events through other people’s eyes, anticipating disaster.” She and her lover, Theo, the father of her unborn child, are rounded up and imprisoned, and Ingrid explained how their approach to life after captivity is what makes for a compelling read.

“In the case of Julia and Theo, it’s two ways. It’s a parallel kind of motion. Julia will dig into what’s important for her — her son, the love she has for Theo — and she will be always walking to the future. She has her path in the future, so she has hope,” Ingrid explained.

“Theo is anchored in his hate, in his thirst [for] revenge. He cannot forget and he’s drawn to the past. But I think that it’s also what he chose. And the choices we make define ourselves,” she added.

The book is inspired by the real events of the Dirty War, and Betancourt said that she was motivated to tell this story because “It’s a way of attacking subjects that you cannot confront in the eye. Sometimes you need other people to embody situations so that you can talk about things that for you are important.”

In the years since her captivity, Ingrid has spoken candidly about the mental and physical abuse and torture she endured at the hands of FARC rebels, but some of her fellow captives have also been vocal about how she was “manipulative,” and an American hostage blasted the anti-corruption activist back in 2009 for being “self-absorbed” and putting their lives at risk “by informing the guards that they were CIA.”

Former Marine Keith Stansell told the Associated Press: “I watched her try to take over the camp with an arrogance that was out of control. Some of the guards treated us better than she did.”

Betancourt declined to comment on his allegations, instead, she traveled the world collecting numerous awards for her courage and heroism. In 2010, she sued the Colombian state for $6.8 million in damages, accusing them of taking away her bodyguards shorty before she was kidnapped. She later dropped the suit amid criticism that she didn’t appreciate the Colombian military forces who risked their lives to save her.

Four years later, Ingrid would open up about how she was no longer lured by the cutthroat political world in which she was raised — her parents were politicians. Instead, she was focused on healing and finding closure through spiritual liberation.

“The experience of captivity changed my relationship with God,” she said in a 2014 interview. “It started to be a real conversation with someone whose presence I couldn’t be ignorant of anymore. Wherever I looked for God, I found him.”

These days, Ingrid Betancourt reflects on the “years after my liberation” and describes them as “years of reconstruction and I think I made the right decisions.”

[Images courtesy Katja Lenz/AP Images/Twitter]