Bogota (Colombia): Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt has asked Colombia`s government to pay her USD 6.8 million for damages she suffered during six years in rebel captivity.
The request was made public on Friday by the government, which expressed surprise and consternation.
Betancourt was kidnapped in February 2002 by leftist guerrillas while campaigning for president in Colombia`s south, a longtime rebel stronghold.
She was among 15 captives — including three Americans — rescued in 2008 by Colombia`s military in an elaborate ruse after months of preparation.
Betancourt, 48, did not respond to e-mails seeking an explanation of her request, which was filed with the Defense Ministry on June 30 and sought the payment not just for Betancourt but also for her two children, mother and sister.
Betancourt, a Franco-Colombian who now divides her time between New York and Paris, was in Colombia last week for a reunion of rescued hostages on the second anniversary of her liberation.
Colombia`s Defense Ministry issued a statement on Friday expressing "surprise" and "sorrow." It said Betancourt has no grounds to hold the state responsible and recalled that shortly after she was freed, she described the bloodless operation to rescue her as "perfect."
It also noted that Betancourt, before she was kidnapped, "did not heed the insistent recommendations of security forces and other authorities" not to travel to the area where she was seized by the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Vice President Francisco Santos, who was himself kidnapped and held by drug traffickers for eight months in 1990, expressed dismay at Betancourt`s request in a radio interview Friday, calling it "ingratitude."
Betancourt`s request is not a lawsuit. But that option remains open to her.