Latin America & Caribbean

Ex-hostage Betancourt 'will not sue' Colombian state

Ingrid Betancourt speaking to Caracol on 11 July with the caption "I have a blood pact with the military"
Image caption Ingrid Betancourt said the sum she was seeking was "symbolic"

Former Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, held by Farc rebels for six years, has insisted she will not sue the Colombian state for damages.

Ms Betancourt was speaking after a wave of criticism in Colombia over reports that she was seeking $6.8m (£4.5m) in damages for her time as a hostage.

Her aim in filing for compensation was to help other ex-hostages, she said.

Officials voiced surprise at her move, noting that troops risked their lives to rescue her in 2008.

Vice-President Francisco Santos said Betancourt had won "the world prize for ingratitude".

In an interview with Colombia's Caracol TV and radio on Sunday, Ms Betancourt said she never wanted to attack those who freed her.

"I love Colombia's military. I love my country," she said.

"There is no claim, there is not going to be a claim, and I have not had any intention of suing," she said.

Ms Betancourt has presented what is known as a request for conciliation - an initial move to discuss compensation. She has the option of suing if there is no agreement on an acceptable award for damages.

She said she wanted to "open the way so that other people who have been kidnapped can get compensation".

Her story

Asked why she was seeking so much money, the former hostage admitted the sum was "astronomical" and "absurd", but she stressed it was "symbolic".

She had acted because the statute of limitations was running out, she said.

Ms Betancourt said she also wanted to tell her side of the story as she had been accused of irresponsibility by undertaking the journey that ultimately led to her kidnap.

The authorities had in fact taken away her bodyguards, she said.

"They let me continue by road. If it was so risky, they should have blocked me and not let me go on," she told Caracol.

Officials have said Ms Betancourt ignored advice not to go to the area where she was kidnapped.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) seized Ms Betancourt in the south of the country while she campaigned for the presidency.

In July 2008, the group was tricked into handing Ms Betancourt and 14 other hostages over to soldiers masquerading as members of a humanitarian group that had volunteered to fly them by helicopter to a new location. No shots were fired during the rescue.