Ingrid Betancourt candidate for the Colombian presidency

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Ingrid Betancourt, a former congresswoman and former guerrilla hostage who symbolizes both the brutality of Colombia’s long war and the country’s reconciliation efforts, will run for president, a person familiar with this said on Tuesday. of Mrs. Betancourt’s campaign. .

Ms Betancourt, who was kidnapped in 2002 and held by the country’s largest guerrilla force for more than six years, announced her candidacy in May’s elections with the country at a critical crossroads.

After more than 50 years of war between the government and the guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the two sides signed a peace agreement in 2016. But a wave of other armed groups swept through the vacuum and continued to fight.

Violence has increased in parts of the countryside – and critics have blamed the government for not investing enough to tackle the inequality and poverty that had helped fuel the war, as it pledged to do in the ‘peace agreement.

Many in Colombia are fed up with the political status quo, a sentiment that burst into the public sphere last May, when thousands of people took to the streets for more than a month to protest hardships that have not only makes the pandemic worse.

Ms Betancourt was campaigning for the presidency two decades ago when she was captured by the FARC. After her years in captivity – during which she was sometimes chained – she has both supported the peace process and criticized the FARC, emerging as a symbol of national attempts to recognize the costs of war, but also to go to the -of the.

Sergio Guzmán, an analyst in Bogotá, called Ms Betancourt the country’s “candidate for reconciliation”.

The question, he said, is whether this is what Colombians want.

There is widespread dissatisfaction with the current president, Iván Duque, who is a product of the country’s right-wing political establishment, while a left-wing populist, Gustavo Petro, is leading in the polls amid of an anti-incumbent leftist wave that is sweeping Latin America.

“Can Ingrid become a balm for these overriding negative emotions we are feeling right now?” he said. “I don’t know. That’s one of the things his candidacy will tell us.

But to make headway among voters, he said, “she has to sell the idea that reconciliation is better than populism.”

“All of our elections have been: fear, hope and hate,” he continued. “No election was really conducted on compassion and reconciliation.”

While Ms. Betancourt is widely known across the country, a victory in May is far from certain.

Today, there are more than 20 presidential candidates, with most of the best-known candidates grouped into three coalitions: a left-wing coalition, led by Mr. Petro; a coalition in the center, which Ms. Betancourt joins; and a right-wing coalition, whose members are seen as the torchbearers of the current government.

To even make it to the May election, Ms Betancourt would first have to win the March primary, in which she will face others in the center, including Alejandro Gaviria, a former health minister and recent director of a prestigious university.

Mr Guzmán pointed out that Ms Betancourt had joined the race late in the electoral calendar and called her candidacy “Hail Mary”.

Ms. Betancourt is one of the few women candidates in the three main coalitions.

The most high-profile candidate to date is Francia Márquez, a young Afro-Colombian politician and environmental activist.

Ms Márquez, who joined the left-wing coalition, stood out not only because of her identity – Colombian politics has been dominated by wealthy white men – but because of her outspoken embrace of feminist politics and her will to criticize Mr. Petro.

Ms. Betancourt is the daughter of a Colombian politician and a Colombian diplomat, then became a French citizen through her first husband.

In 2002, after serving in Congress, Ms. Betancourt launched a campaign for the presidency as a member of Partido Verde Oxígeno, a young political movement with a pacifist, environmental and anti-corruption ethos. On February 23, 2002, while on her way to a campaign event in the town of San Vicente del Caguán, she was stopped at a roadblock and taken hostage by the FARC.

During her years of captivity in the jungle, she was treated brutally and tried to escape on several occasions, experiences she recounted in her book “Even Silence Has An End”.

She was eventually rescued by the Colombian government, and over the years has become the country’s best-known victim. But she has also been the subject of criticism – from those who say she diverted attention from poorer and lesser-known victims, and others who criticized her for seeking compensation from the government. Colombian after his captivity and rescue.

In a country of 50 million people, nine million are registered with the government as victims of conflict.

“We have a window – a generational opportunity – to leave behind the senseless violence that we have experienced all our lives,” Ms. Betancourt told The New York Times in an interview last year, speaking of the peace accord. country. “I wish we could open that window and let the light in.”

Sofia Villamil contributed report.