Betancourt returning to Columbia to write play

Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt said in an interview on Sunday she would return to Colombia “in a few days” to write a play about her experience after being held in the jungle for six years.

Earlier the 46-year-old former hostage, who was freed on Wednesday, said she had been given a clean bill of health after seven hours of medical tests at a Paris military hospital.

Betancourt told Le Journal du Dimanche: “I shall return to Colombia in a few days. Meanwhile I want to see France, all of France. But I also want to be alone with my children ...
I want to give this time to my family, to the father of my children whom I adore, who fought an extraordinary fight for me.”

Asked whether she would write a book about her experience, she replied: “I’ll write a play.”

After her tests Saturday at the Val-de-Grace hospital, she told France 3 television: “The doctors showered me with good news. I have had a number of concerns all these years. Now, I’m totally happy.”

She said she was “very, very surprised” not to have any physical side-effects after more than six years of captivity in the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

“The spirit helps you to carry on,” said Betancourt, who has often spoken of her Catholic faith and of a “spiritual protection”.

Earlier, her sister Astrid had told Agence France-Presse that the results of the tests were “satisfactory”, stressing that the doctors had recommended rest for Betancourt, who has faced numerous interviews, press
conferences and official receptions.

Snatched from the grip of Marxist Farc rebels in a Colombian army operation on Wednesday along with three US hostages and 11 Colombians, Betancourt arrived in France two days later on board a French
presidential plane from Bogota.

President Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday called his counterparts in Ecuador and Argentina, Rafael Correa and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, to thank them for their support in the freeing of the hostages.

Betancourt told the Sunday paper that after sleeping well on Friday night in a Paris hotel “I couldn’t get up, I had such a pain in my back.

“Me, who slept on the ground in atrocious conditions, I had back pains getting up from an extraordinary bed. I really must get used to it again,” she said.

Meanwhile a video showing hostages sobbing with relief aboard a helicopter upon discovering they had been freed was shown on Friday at a press conference by Colombia’s military.

The video was released to counter questions about the military’s dramatic and bloodless coup, Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos said, denying reports that it was arranged in advance with the help of $20-million paid to bribe the hostages’ guards.

Bogota insists the 15 captives were rescued on Wednesday after Colombian soldiers disguised as rebels arrived at a jungle hideout of the Farc and tricked the guerrillas into handing them over, ostensibly
to be transferred to another Farc site.

Santos also vehemently denied that foreign nationals had taken part in either the planning or execution of the operation.

But Rodolfo Rios, an attorney for one of the Farc members taken prisoner during the rescue, said his client had told him that “foreign nationals were aboard the rescue helicopter”.

Rios said their nationality was unknown.

Army chief General Mario Montoya warned the Farc against harming any of the dozens and perhaps hundreds of hostages it still holds.

Defence Minister Santos also said the rescue operation was moved forward by 10 days because Colombian authorities feared word of it would leak out.

In her interview on France 3, Betancourt said she did not believe the local commander had been paid any money to hand over the hostages.

“When I saw him on the ground with his hands and feet tied and his eyes blindfolded, the expression on his face, on his mouth, it was not of someone who had been bought. He was mortified,” she said. - AFP

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