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Ingrid Betancourt: 1961—: Politician

Became A Politician

In 1994 Betancourt ran as a liberal in the congressional elections, publicizing her anti-corruption stance. She gathered attention by handing out condoms on the street to strangers. "She dubbed corrupt Colombian officials carriers of 'social Aids' and called on the public to don a political condom by supporting her campaign," Lennard commented. Although many disliked her directness, her grass roots campaign received more attention in the press because of her controversial methods. Though many believed that she had little chance of succeeding, Betancourt won her seat, receiving the highest vote totals of any congressional candidate in Bogotá.

As a representative Betancourt ruffled the feathers of many legislators by fighting corruption wherever she found it. She launched a campaign against a government arms contract to purchase outdated weapons, and later, when it was revealed that the newly elected president, Ernesto Samper, had received campaign money from the Cali drug cartel, she worked to expose the affair. She also came face to face with the Rodriguez brothers, the principal leaders of the Cali drug cartel, who informed her that they had contributed to Samper's campaign fund, and that they also provided funds for many other members of Congress. This meeting led her to believe that corruption permeated all levels of the Colombian government.

Betancourt told the Los Angeles Times, "Between the drug traffickers and the guerrillas, we have been made almost ashamed to be Colombian, and a country that is ashamed of itself is a country without a future. We have to reconstruct our hopes and dreams." Although the Samper affair, and a book she wrote about it, raised Betancourt's profile, her fight against corruption also led to threats against her and her family. Because of these threats, she sent both of her children to live with Delloye in New Zealand in 1996.

The following year Betancourt launched a new political party, the Liberal Oxygen Party, in an effort to offer a choice outside of the traditional Liberal and Conservative parties. She told Time International, "Our goal is to increase access to power and to curb the influence of an exclusive political class." She also decided to run for a seat in the upper house. As with her previous campaign, Betancourt garnered votes through nonstop campaigning and atypical methods that included handing out anti-pollution masks. She won the election with the highest vote total ever achieved for a Colombian senate seat, but her attempts to push forward environmental, housing, and media ownership legislation ran into fierce opposition. Betancourt's most radical piece of legislation recommended replacing Colombia's Congress with a new legislative body. When the legislation failed, she resigned her seat and announced her plans to run for the presidency in 2002.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Shennen Bersani (1961-) Biography - Personal to Mark Burgess Biography - PersonalIngrid Betancourt: 1961—: Politician Biography - Born Into Privilege, Returned To Colombia, Became A Politician, Launched Presidential Campaign