Agent: Richard McColl
Where to find him: @ColombiaCalling (Twitter)
Author(s): Ingrid Betancourt
Report Published: 11th October 2016
Quake Magnitude: 7.5
I guess my review is particularly relevant this week as we, in Colombia, have just had a referendum on the final peace agreement between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas. This process is so fundamental for the stability of the country, if not the region generally, that President Juan Manuel Santos has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
This book, whether you are Colombian or not, is important because it will help you understand the context on which the peace process was established. It is Colombian ex-presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt’s autobiographical account of her kidnapping by FARC. She was held by them for six and a half years, starting in 2002. As one might imagine she was kept in unthinkable conditions.
In Even Silence Has An End Betancourt relates the minutiae of her existence in captivity at the hands of brutal captors. Her story goes a long way to reminding us of man’s ability and capabilities for cruelty towards his fellow man. Considering that many of the same conditions which caused the long-running conflict in Colombia, dating back to 1964, are still present today, this book is a compelling insight into the day to day routines and life of the “Marxist” guerrillas and indeed their captives. By reading this book, we may be able to understand and prepare ourselves better for the post agreement and post conflict stage, which will demand reconciliation at a nation-wide scale.
Anyone who mistakenly believes FARC to be a misunderstood Marxist group would do well to read this book and pay special attention to the way that Betancourt was humiliated on a daily basis and chained up – at times by the neck – to prevent her from escaping. Turning the pages and reading about her experiences gives you an insight into the strength required in order to survive an ordeal of this nature.
“I was discovering that the most precious gift someone can give us is time, because what gives time its value is death.”
“I already knew that I had the ability to free myself from hatred, and I viewed this as my most significant conquest.”
“I explained to Arnoldo that coffee was too strong a substance and not suitable for a baby, that he must try above all to get some milk. He looked at me, offended, and said. “That’s just bourgeois bullshit. We were all brought up like that, and we’re doing fine.””
As a new parent learning the ropes of fatherhood you know implicitly how much your child depends on you. There’s nothing like the gut-wrenching moments when Betancourt’s fellow hostage, Clara Rojas, has her baby in the jungle, presumably with a guerrilla and is only permitted to spend a few short hours a day with the infant. There are descriptions of how Emmanuel, her baby, will cry at night needing his mother who is in chains wailing despairingly from afar, in a pen no better than that built for animals. I cannot even begin to understand what Clara Rojas must have suffered.
As the conflict with FARC comes to an end here in Colombia, we need to progress with reconciliation and reintegration. To do this it is worth remembering where the guerrillas came from, their backgrounds, their upbringing and their education which, unfortunately, has led them to be in this situation.