An icon is born

Juan Cristobal says: – Amidst the shuffle of news following the release of the 15 hostages in Colombia, the two things that have stayed with me the most are Ingrid Betancourt’s brilliant speech last night on the tarmac of CATAM Air Force Base and her words later in the day in Bogotá’s Palacio de Nariño (Colombia’s Miraflores).

Showing a hostage release is trickier than you might think. The hostages themselves will obviously be elated, as will be their relatives, but handle it wrong and you can send all the wrong signals. At its worst, you end up putting the hostages on a stage, manipulating them for political purposes. The last thing we needed was another “circus”, to paraphrase Ingrid.

But yesterday I didn’t see any of that. What I saw was an eloquent, smart woman, a survivor, and a political lioness.

Betancourt didn’t miss a beat. Once an anti-establishment crusader, she now stands squarely with the Colombian military. While her mother has bad-mouthed the Uribe administration for years, Betancourt was clearly giving Uribe all of the credit for this, and signalling she is still interested in serving Colombia. Long-forgotten are the days when she accused Uribe of “tolerating murder as a way of fighting the guerrillas.”

She also hinted at the indignities of her captivity, how she has felt like a pawn in the hands of FARC all of these years. And in a remarkable statement, she asked Pres. Chávez to respect Colombian democracy. She added she was happy that Alvaro Uribe, the man she was running against in 2002 when she was kidnapped, had been elected instead of her.

This was not lost on Uribe’s enemies. In an incredibly-timed decision, last night Colombia’s Constitutional Court decided they were not going to review the legality of Uribe’s 2006 re-election.

Heartfelt, sincere, historic, and incredibly astute – it was Ingrid’s “por ahora” moment.