Even Silence has an End by Ingrid Betancourt (Born in Bogotá, raised in France, Betancourt at the age of thirty-two gave up a life of comfort and safety to return to Colombia to become a political leader in a country that was being slowly destroyed by terrorism, violence, fear, and a pervasive sense of hopelessness. In 2002, while campaigning as a candidate in the Colombian presidential elections, she was abducted by the FARC. Nothing could have prepared her for what came next. She would spend the next six and a half years in the depths of the jungle as a prisoner of the FARC. Even Silence Has an End is her deeply personal and moving account of that time. Chained day and night for much of her captivity, she never stopped dreaming of escape and, in fact, succeeded in getting away several times, always to be recaptured.) Took my breath away. I can’t imagine her experience and the days of waiting for rescue. The betrayal of her to the rebels is also an insight into petty and dangerous politics. Some of her comments are worth noting here from an NPR interview:
“We discovered that the jungle was another prison,” she says. “It was impossible to just get out.” But she kept trying, five times in all. And after her fifth attempt, the guards had had enough; they beat her severely and kept her chained by the neck to a tree, 24 hours a day.
The brutal treatment did not break Betancourt’s spirit. Over the six years of her captivity, her fellow hostages learned to adapt. They began to answer to numbers rather than names. They did what they could to survive. But Betancourt remained stubborn. “I had a problem,” she says. “I had this belief that I couldn’t just accept to be treated as an object. It was a problem of dignity.” She says her fellow hostages saw her behavior as arrogance or troublemaking. “But it wasn’t that. It was just that I couldn’t accept that they would call us by number, because I thought it would make it easier for them to kill us if they had to kill an object, a number.”
Betancourt didn’t want to make it easy on her captors, she says. She was fixated on the idea of escaping and returning to her children. But there were times, Betancourt says, when she thought she’d be stuck in the jungle forever. “The relationship with time changes when you’re captive. In the free world, your days pass very quickly because you have so many things to do, and you’re in control of your life.” But with the FARC, she says, the days were eternal.There were two states of extremes: boredom and the anxiety of what could happen. Betancourt says her time in captivity dispelled any romantic illusions she had about the FARC and their mission. “I am of a generation where we like Che Guevara, you know, the very romantic kind of revolution thing,” she says. “And in a way, I thought that the FARC was kind of a romantic rebellion against a system that I didn’t like either.”But in captivity, she says she came to realize that the FARC was nothing more than the military wing of Colombia’s drug cartels. “It was as corrupt as the system; it wasn’t a response to the problems we have in Colombia.” ( NPR, 9/ 25/10)