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Last week the Colombian news channel RCN released poll results showing that, if current president Alvaro Uribe did not seek a second re election, the two personalities most often mentioned to succeed him to the Casa de Nario were Sergio Fajardo, the former mayor of Medellín, and ngrid Betancourt, each gaining around 14% of the votes. Normally anyone who leads voter preference surveys becomes a candidate. For Betancourt, who had only 1% of popular support when she was kidnapped by the FARC guerrillas while running for president in 2002, it should be a great satisfaction to see that six years of captivity have multiplied her prestige by 1,400%.

However the same day that the survey results were revealed, ngrid made it clear that the one thing she was not interested in was returning to Colombian politics. “I do not want to be involved in an electoral contest. I do not want to become involved in an environment where there is polarization and division,” she said in an interview with Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.

Even though when it comes to politicians it is usually best to take such statements with a grain of salt, it is quite likely that in this case she means what she says. Her kidnapping has brought her unexpected possibilities that are much more interesting than that of getting involved in Colombian politics. ngrid, who was before her tragedy somewhat ridiculed for supposedly pretending to be a Joan of Arc figure, has now become just that for the international community. In a time span of just ten days she was received by the Pope, was chosen Woman of the Year by the Women’s World Award, was the most important invitee by the general secretary of the United Nations at a forum on victims of terrorism, won the Prince of Asturias award and was nominated by the Chilean government for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Such recognition has not been seen since Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years in prison. It would be foolish to come down from that cloud to return to Colombia and fight for votes with Gustavo Petro, a leading critic of Uribe of the left wing Polo Democrático Alternativo party; Luis Eduardo “Lucho” Garzón, former mayor of Bogotá and also a member of the Polo; Sergio Fajardo and others. Despite having taken intelligent and moderate positions, based on her political past she would not align herself with president Uribe. But neither would she go against him, as that would make her vulnerable to accusations of ingratitude against the man who rescued her from hell.

The new ngrid has a much more important and universal mission which is to champion the cause of Colombian suffering before the world. And more than that, the suffering of all victims of terrorism. For that cause, she has the legitimacy granted by her martyrdom in the jungle, which was not a result of self promotion but rather based on global sentiments. An international figure of that caliber could live comfortably between Europe and the United States thanks to organizations who seek her experience.

ngrid has added a dramatic element to her current circumstance by stating that she could not return to Colombia because of security reasons. According to her, the FARC, in a mood of revenge, would like to assassinate her. This argument is not very convincing as, for one thing, the government would be amenable to grant her the security she would need, and for another, nobody thinks that the FARC would commit suicide in the court of public opinion by killing one of the most popular women in the world. That version, none the less, is widely held in Europe and strengthens her profile there.

This does not mean that the ambitious and combative Betancourt of the past has become Mother Teresa. Like Uribe, she knows very well that you shouldn’t close any doors. It is not sure that she has given up on her old dream of becoming president of Colombia. What is sure is that it would be easier to realize that dream if she returns to the country with the Nobel Peace Prize.
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