Ingrid Betancourt, a senator and a presidential candidate in Colombia, grew up among diplomats, literati, and artists who congregated at her parents' elegant home in Paris, France. Her father served as Colombia's ambassador to UNESCO and her mother, a political activist, continued her work on behalf of the country's countless children whose lives were being destroyed by extreme poverty and institutional neglect. Intellectually, Ingrid was influenced by Pablo Neruda and other Latin American writers like Gabriel Garc ' a M ' rquez, who frequented her parents' social circle. She studied at ' cole de Sciences Politiques de Paris, a prestigious academy in France.
From this charmed life, Ingrid Betancourt ' not yet thirty, happily married to a French diplomat, and a mother of two children ' returned to her native country in the late 1980s. On what was initially just a visit, she found her country under internal siege from the drug cartels and the corrupt government that had allowed them to flourish. After seeing what had become of Colombia's democracy, she didn't feel she could leave.
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December 24, 2001
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Excerpt from Until Death Do Us Part by Ingrid Betancourt
December 1996. Vacation begins in a few days; the legislative session is almost over. Even more than usual, I'm rushing back and forth between my office, where I have back-to-back appointments, and the legislative assembly, where I'm supposed to speak. I'm thirty-five years old, and I've been a member of the legislature for two years.
Toward three-thirty in the afternoon, while I'm talking with someone in my office, my secretary pokes her head in the door.
"Someone's asking to see you right away, Ingrid. A man."
"Does he have an appointment?"
"No. But he's very insistent."
The debate in the assembly starts at four. I think for a moment.
"All right, tell him I'll see him immediately after this person, but for no more than half an hour. That's all the time I have."
He comes in: elegant, in his forties, average height, neither handsome nor ugly, so that later on I will be unable to describe or identify him.
"Please sit down."
"Thank you. We've been following your work with the greatest attention, Doctora, and we have the highest regard for what you're doing."
We smile at each other. I sit erect, with my elbows on the desk that separates us; I assume he's going to ask for something, like most of the people who come to see me.
"And that's why I wanted to meet you, Doctora. We're very worried about you. Colombia is going through a period of great tension, great violence. One must be careful, very, very careful."
Then he frowns, grows more serious, stops looking me in the eyes.
I'm used to this kind of talk. Most of the people I meet and who support me share this obsession with danger. Women, in particular, invariably assure me, with genuine affection, that they're praying that nothing happens to me, that God will protect me. I try to convince them that my security is very tight and I'm in no danger, because I believe those in power exploit this fear that grips Colombians. What better way to destroy people's hopes than to persuade them that anyone who dares to speak, to accuse, will inevitably be eliminated?