COLOMBIA

Ingrid's liberation seen from Bogota: "The whole room was cheering"

When the Colombian authorities announced that Ingrid Betancourt had been freed, one of our Observers was travelling through Bogota airport. He tells us about the wave of emotion that followed the news as it spread through the crowds. Read more..

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Update (07/07/08):  Below, a video released by the Colombian army on Friday which has caused controversy. 

When the Colombian authorities announced that Ingrid Betancourt had been freed, one of our Observers was travelling through Bogota airport. He tells us about the wave of emotion that followed the news as it spread through the crowds.

Footage of the rescue operation filmed by a Colombian soldier

 

This footage of Ingrid Betancourt's rescue operation was filmed by a Colombian soldier and released by the army on Friday. The video was made public in order to quash rumours that a ransom had been paid for the Franco-Colombian hostage. Originally 15 minutes long, it had quite visibly been reworked by the army, which led to accusations from European media that it was a reconstruction. However, the country's daily, "El Tiempo", despite being one of the first to point out that the images had been edited, refutes the theory that the video was faked.

Just after her release, she makes a call to her mother

This video was filmed as Betancourt took her first steps off the plane that completed her rescue, which landed at a military base, from where the plan was carried out. She made her first call to her mother. "I'm alive, I'm alive" she told her. Ingrid was then transferred to Catam airport, where she met her mother and spoke to the press.

"Clap by clap, the applause got louder and louder until the whole room was cheering"

Sebastien Longhurst is one of our Observers in Bogota.

I was travelling through Bogota airport when I heard the news. I was sitting near the TVs in the waiting room. Some people talking on their mobiles started to tremble, tears in their eyes, and then the news spread like wildfire. People stood up breathlessly and gathered together, holding on to each other, in front of the television screen. "La liberación! Ingrid esta libre!!" And then clap by clap, the applause got louder and louder until the whole room was cheering. They were cheers that had been waited for for a long time, and that celebrated the triumph of the Colombian army, who've had too much flack recently.

What happened in the airport reflects a huge sense of relief across the whole country. Held hostage for such a long time, Ingrid's release had become what seemed like a human drama that would never end. Colombia had had enough. It was an affair that had tarred their image abroad, so the news served as a kind of release for the people too. They're happy for themselves, for Ingrid, for the freedom of three Americans and for the eleven Colombian police and army officers. One in particular was showered with thanks yesterday for having been Ingrid's "guardian angel" when she was sick.

There's also relief because this is the first ever successful hostage "rescue" by the army and proof that it's possible. This tactic was always considered a long shot because it was so risky. It will undoubtedly alter relations with the FARC.

This latest blow to the FARC will be a really hard one because Betancourt was by far, along with the three Americans, their most prized catch. They haven't actually reacted to it yet. It's difficult to estimate how they'll get their revenge. But what's sure is that they're at their lowest point ever right now. Let's hope that they opt to negotiate."