ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
It has been a period of dramatic reunions for Ingrid Betancourt. On Wednesday, she was freed from the FARC, the Colombian rebel group which held her hostage for years. Yesterday, Betancourt was reunited with her family in Colombia and today, she flew to France where she received a hero's welcome. French President Nicolas Sarkozy met Betancourt and her family at the airport. And on the tarmac, she spoke of her love for France.
Ms. INGRID BETANCOURT (Colombian Politician): (Speaking in foreign language.)
SIEGEL: Ingrid Betancourt said, I've been dreaming of this moment for seven years. It's so moving for me to breathe the air in France, to be with you. I owe everything to France. Well, for more on her return to France, we go now to Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. Hello, Eleanor.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Hello, Robert.
SIEGEL: And first of all, we heard Ingrid Betancourt say she owes everything to France. Tell us more about the connection between Ingrid Betancourt and France.
BEARDSLEY: She is the daughter of a diplomat who worked here and she grew up here. She did her university studies here. Her first husband was French and her two children are half-French, of course. And I would add, more than that, she's become a household name in France. France fought really hard for her release.
Former President Jacques Chirac worked for it and Sarkozy, you know, the night he was elected, he said, France will not forget Ingrid Betancourt. He really did a lot to make this, you know, Colombian hostage crisis an international affair. So they really, really fought for her, and she knew that.
SIEGEL: What was the scene like when she actually arrived in France?
BEARDSLEY: Oh, well, it was playing live on all the French television channels and everyone saw Sarkozy go, you know, kiss her with his wife, Carla Sarkozy, and he said, welcome home. You know, and that's when she gave that poignant speech about she owed everything to France. And there's a real joy throughout the country. People are just so happy to see her reunited with her family and to finally see her free.
SIEGEL: What do you hear, by the way, about something between a rumor and, I gather, radio reports somewhere that the rescue operation that freed her was in fact staged, and that Colombia paid the FARC $20 million for her release. What did she say about that?
BEARDSLEY: Well, that is a rumor going around and she was asked about it. And she said she absolutely didn't think it was true because she described the intensity of the emotions, the tension, the anguish, and even the joy of the commandos when they realized they carried it off. And she said if that had been pre-planned, there's no way that emotion would have been that real. So she just doesn't think it could have been fake.
SIEGEL: Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. Thank you, Eleanor.
BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Robert.
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