MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
We're going to hear now from Ingrid Betancourt, the politician who was freed last week in Colombia. Shortly after her rescue from the FARC rebel group, Betancourt flew to France. Her two children live there and she has dual French and Colombian citizenship.
This afternoon, she spoke with reporters in a Paris hotel as Eleanor Beardsley now reports.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: A frail but elegant-looking Ingrid Betancourt walked through the front door of the Hotel Marais accompanied by her 22-year-old daughter and several aides. Betancourt was dressed in a dark suit, the hair she never cut during six years of captivity trail down her back in a pony tail.
Betancourt has been given a hero's welcome in France and has been talking mostly to the French press, but today, she spoke in English. After her initial elation, Betancourt says that now she is utterly exhausted and fears she may slip into a depression. She spoke quietly and slowly about her ordeal. She says her Catholic faith helped pull her through, but she also found other ways to cope.
Ms. INGRID BETANCOURT (Colombian Politician): The important thing was to fill the day with activities that could be repeated like in a schedule, so to give you stability in a world of no stability. That was the key.
BEARDSLEY: Betancourt was campaigning for the Colombian presidency in February 2002 when she was taken hostage by FARC guerillas. The Marxist group has been fighting the Colombian government for 40 years and holds more than 700 hostages. Betancourt was one of 44 high-profile political captives, so were three American contractors who Betancourt met during their five years in the jungle.
Ms. BETANCOURT: It was very difficult for them. It was difficult for them because they arrived and only one of them could speak the language. They had gone through very hard conditions. When they were put in the same group as us, in the same camp, I think that they found a way of sharing with others what they thought was only what was happening only to them. So the sharing is important, the sharing of the despair.
BEARDSLEY: The hostages were chained to a tree every day. Betancourt says they were tormented and tortured. She was one of the few women being held by the FARC. Betancourt has so far refused to speak of the grimmer details of her captivity.
Ms. BETANCOURT: It's not easy to talk about things that are still hurting. And probably, it will hurt all my life, I don't know. The only thing that I've settled in my mind is that I want to forgive. I have to forget in order to find peace in my soul and be able to forgive.
BEARDSLEY: Betancourt says she will eventually testify about what happened in the jungle. She and the American captors were rescued in a spectacular military operation by the Colombian army. Pretending to be FARC guerillas, Colombian soldiers spirited Betancourt, the Americans, and 11 other hostages away on the helicopter. Betancourt calls her rescue a miracle and says she's still trying to adjust to her new freedom.
Ms. BETANCOURT: I know that now, this is the time to retreat, to be with my family. You know, I'm like landing like a parachute in the life of others. They have their own lives, their daily activities, and I don't have anything.
BEARDLSEY: Betancourt says eating good food, sleeping in a bed, and being with her children is a blessing. She now plans to work for the release of the remaining hostages still held in the Colombian jungle and she says she won't cut her hair until they've all been freed.
For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
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