Until Death Do Us Part

Imagine being an unknown woman, and distributing condoms on the city roads for an election campaign… !

Just finished reading Ingrid Betancourt’s memoir about her political struggle for Columbia. Betancourt was a presidential candidate in the 2002 elections in Columbia, when she was kidnapped and chained in jungles, until her rescue six and a half years later.

In a very moving book — written before her kidnapping — she recalls political struggles and inspiring incidents from her life. The book begins with her childhood years which were spent in Paris. Ingrid’s mother was Miss Columbia and her father was a minister in the government. After her studies, and a few years of having been married in France, she decides to come back to Columbia with a mission to rid the country of corruption.

In a country where the crooked choose politicians and policy, she finds herself in a negligible minority. Betancourt describes how, with few resources and many enemies, she struggles to start a political campaign. She is first elected as a representative, then a senator, before she becomes a candidate for the presidential candidate until being kidnapped.

What I find remarkable about the story is the fearlessness of Ingrid Betancourt.

Her first election campaign’s symbol was a ‘condom’. She chose it to symbolize protection against corruption, which was as deadly as the AIDS virus. Imagine being a woman, running your first election campaign with little money, and distributing condoms on the city roads with people making mocking comments!

And, she won. She won. The enthusiasm, the purity, the strength, the focus of her message hit the right spot. When people have become numb and indifferent to long stretches of injustice, it is radical, fearless, and bluntly honest messages which can deliver radical changes in attitude. That was my inspiration from Ingrid Betancourt.

The book mentions several other remarkable instances, almost like a thriller story. The politicians that Betancourt tried to label as corrupt, used it against her. Press, public opinion, threats were all used against her. As a mother with young children and amongst the thin minority in a corrupt political class, Betancourt was frustrated. These are critical moments of individual test, when there is a thin line between perseverance and resignation.

Betancourt went on national media and spoke with such straightforwardness that surprised — almost offended — people. And that helped her shake the conscience of a nation that had become hopeless with its politicians.

It is a story of hope, courage and conviction. Ingrid Betancourt was released earlier this year as an outcome of a bloodless rescue mission, after six years in captivity. Her book is inspiring, and one hopes that she regains the conviction to finish the highest missions that she had aspired for.