Ingrid Betancourt was the symbol of Colombia's cruel war for years. The former senator was abducted by the FARC guerrillas for about seven years, kept in captivity under miserable conditions. Her release took place last July, in a successful counter-intelligence operation launched by the government of President Alvaro Uribe.Her release was nothing but spectacular and fanned optimism over the decay of the FARC and the possibility that Colombia would someday finally be in peace.
That infamous symbol is over, thank God!
On Friday, three U.S. contractors who were also retained by the FARC for 1,976 days after their plane was shut down by the guerrillas (they refuse to be called spies but they probably were spying on the FARC's drug operations) released a book in which they thrash Mrs. Colombia War Symbol, a.k.a. Ingrid, accusing her of hoarding and stealing food, complain about her attitude to her peers in the camp and tell a tale of cruelty, envy and arrogance. As AP Bogotá-based writer Frank Bajak said in his story, the Americans revealed that ''she was haughty and self-absorbed, stole food and hoarded books, and even put their lives in danger by telling rebel guards they were CIA agents.´´ What a national heroine we have in this country!
But here comes the funny thing. As if it were a sort of an offense against Colombian sovereignty, politicians, clerics, children, the poor and the rich -- everyone -- came to the attack of the three Americans (as if they hadn't been kidnapped and put under the same suffering of the national heroine for long years) to defend our brave former senator. Colombians alleged that the Americans had broken a slient, tacit, Biblic-if-you-fancy code that states ''kidnapping jungle experiences die in the jungle.´´Pure BS. It seems that Colombians are afraid of the revelations about their lives in the jungle -- I don't know what kind of secret code was that or where it did come from.
The truth is, that code exists no more, thanks to the bravery of these three spies who seem freer and less inclined to worshipping false idols like Betancourt than 44 million people. Looks like life in a FARC camp is pretty much a season of ''Big Brother,´´ that horrendous reality show were contestants love stabbing one another in their backs, cheating their couples outside the house where the show is filmed, intriguing for and against others ... well, I can only say I laughed when I read the news.
Since we write about markets here, I will put this on market terms: Colombians, please sell your holdings of Ingrid Betancourt shares sooner than later. I urge the rest of the world to do the same. Stop believing in her. If you once were sympathetic to her mother, the former beauty queen and pedantic longstanding member of Bogotá's oligarchy, Mrs. Yolanda Pulecio, shun her stock quickly too, before they tank like Citigroup Inc.'s stock. Those two are the reflex of a fetid Colombia -- and I don't mean their suffering should be overlooked, but carefully assessed, put into perspective. Truth is, Ingrid Betancourt's irresponsible attitude during the aftermath of the breakdown of peace negotiations in Feb. 2002 led to her abduction. Her irresponsible attitude put the country and then-President Andrés Pastrana at a crossroads.
Betancourt would do something good to the world by sending back that prize she won, the Príncipe de Asturias. She should renounce to a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. That would be a shame for the country she says she loves so much -- but put on dire straits the day she decided she had to be kidnapped by the FARC to make a point.
''I watched her try to take over the camp with an arrogance that was out of control," Keith Stansell, one of the contractors, told AP before the book was published. "Some of the guards treated us better than she did.´´
Betancourt didn't respond to calls made by this blog seeking comment. She was in the Seychelles again, one associate of hers told us, helping her mother cope with the inexorable test of age and bitterness.
''Que viva Ingrid ... pero bien lejos,´´ one upset Colombian boy responded to me while I was sadly though firmly writing these lines against Colombia's sovereignty.
We won't advise you, dear reader, to buy shares of Northrop Grumman (the employer of the spies) nor laud the contractors' attitudes. Probably the book they wrote is worth only for their bitter criticism of Betancourt. But one things is for sure -- the tacit code of secrecy invented by some stupid Colombian person not interested in letting the rest of the world learn about the atrocities of life in a kidnapping camp is over.
Economist, Universidad de los Andes (Bogota, Colombia). Worked for Bloomberg LP for 10 years as a financial correspondent. Covered economy and policy issues in Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and other Latin American countries. Responsible for bond and currency markets, corporate finance and investment banking coverage for Brazil and Latin America between 2006 and 2008. Currently working as an analyst and a freelance reporter.
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