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Ingrid Betancourt

Her Silence, Her Voice

When Ingrid Betancourt was taken hostage on February 23, 2002, by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or the FARC as this fifty-year-old nationalist and peasant movement is better known, she was a feisty, outspoken, and rather unknown senator running for president under the banner of Oxígeno, the Green Party, that she founded four years earlier. The party was known as Ingrid's party—in Colombia, she is Ingrid—and she was making news more for her political methods than for her track record. For her senatorial race, she handed out condoms for "protection against corruption" and Viagra to "reinvigorate" voters. She staged a hunger strike and named the names of those she thought had ties to the paramilitary and drug lords during congressional sessions. As a Colombian-born woman, I welcomed this new female face in the political arena. She spoke differently than other Colombian women in politics, dressed differently, moved differently. She walked a fine line between feminist and feminine. She seemed more modern than the others. We exchanged greetings once at a forum in New York City in 2000, and I noticed she had an ankle tattoo. I didn't know then that in addition to being Colombian, she was also French.