Once-kidnapped Colombian politician wants more 'heart' from ex-rebels

Ingrid Betancourt, French-Colombian politician and former FARC hostage, speaks during an act of recognition with the participation of her kidnappers and their now political party Comunes, in Bogota, Colombia June 23, 2021. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

BOGOTA (Reuters) - A former Colombian presidential candidate once held for more than six years by the FARC rebels on Wednesday criticized former guerrillas who have asked forgiveness for kidnappings.

Ingrid Betancourt, who was rescued in a cinematic military operation in 2008, met face-to-face for the first time with now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leaders as part of the ex-guerrillas' participation in a truth commission created under a 2016 peace deal.

"I wanted to hear you speak from your heart, not from politics," Betancourt said. "This is a meeting of hearts, not a political meeting."

Former FARC leaders accepted responsibility for tens of thousands of kidnappings earlier this year. Ex-fighters, including top leader Rodrigo Londono, repeated their regret on Wednesday.

Betancourt thanked some ex-guerrillas who have tried to understand the suffering of the kidnapped and their families, but said while she and other victims cried at the event, former fighters had dry eyes.

"Becoming human again is crying together. Someday we will need to cry together," Betancourt said, urging the group to hand over drug trafficking assets for victim reparation.

The event included testimonies from seven other victims and seven former combatants.

Some victims said they forgive the FARC.

"I have forgiven to stop poisoning my spirit," said Armando Acuna, who was kidnapped in 2009. "I want to ask (the FARC) to do all that is humanly - and even inhumanly - possible for the peace of this country."

Others said more needed to be done, especially in the search for remains of hostages who died while being held.

"There isn't a day when I get up and don't think of them," said Helmuth Angulo, whose parents were kidnapped and killed by the FARC in 2000.

He criticized the work of the search unit created by the peace accord to find disappeared people, but said the FARC have made efforts to find his parents' bodies.

Luz Marina Monzon, the head of the unit, said she recognized the pain and frustration of those still seeking remains and hoped to help Angulo.

Ex-fighters have also asked for forgiveness in private meetings with victims and turned over information which may help locate remains of dozens of hostages.

Angela Cordon, who was 14 when her father and uncle were kidnapped in 2003, is still seeking their remains. She said she wants to heal.

"We came to flower, not to disappear."

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Richard Chang)

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