Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | September 23, 2010

Oprah brought out the human in Ingrid Betancourt

I gave in and watched it, my eyes fixed on a show featuring Ingrid Betancourt (no secret that I am not a fan of Ingrid)—but only because Oprah, really, truly, is the queen of talk TV. Oprah brought out the human in Ingrid Betancourt. Admirable how Oprah does that. Connecting viewers with the heart of human emotions, which, if you at all have any feelings, will end up going through half a box of tissues. This time, Oprah bonded viewers to Ingrid through motherhood and freedom, both experiences which are universal. Of course you cry if you see a mother reunited with her children after a kidnapping.

The show was to promote Ingrid’s new book, Even Silence Has An End, and there were plenty of “Ingridisms.” You know those, the kind that make her type disliked, the-Look- at-me-I-am-Ingrid, I-am-the-most-famous-hostage-in-the-world. Incidentally, that is what the Oprah Show called her, “the most famous hostage in the world,” which is an illustration of why Ingrid grinds Colombians’ nerves: there are still 79 people in captivity as of February 2010, according to Fondelibertad, an arm of the defence ministry responsible for co-ordinating anti-kidnapping efforts. There are 614 cases whose files are marked “unclear” if they are still kidnapped. Let’s bring attention to those cases and bring those people home too.

For instance, the world should know about Sergeant Pablo Emilio Moncayo who was kidnapped when he was 19 years old and was held in captivity for twelve years. His father, then 55 years old, walked across Colombia in chains so we would not forget his son.

The show’s teasers refer to Ingrid as “the bravest mother in the world.” Ingrid is a defiant woman, but there are braver mothers in Colombia—namely, Ingrid’s former best-friend, Clara Rojas, who was kidnapped alongside Ingrid and who gave birth to baby Emmanuel by caesarean in the jungle. Without anesthesia, one of Clara’s captors slit open her abdomen with a dirty knife. Clara awoke to the captor sewing her up. “Be quiet, don’t move. You’ve got a boy and he’s doing well,” she was told. Clara’s story depicts the story of hundreds of thousands of women living in poverty, specially in isolated jungle regions: no birth control, little prenatal care, and midwives are the only “doctors” present at birth.

(Incidentally, in her book, Ingrid claims Clara asked permission of the FARC to conceive her baby. Clara, of course, was offended and feels her rights were violated, and is considering launching a law-suit against Ingrid. Whowwww, ladies! A review of Ingrid’s book notes, “Even at two years’ distance, a note of pettiness creeps into the passages about Rojas.”)

Oprah showed a video of jungle creatures, of hairy black anacondas, tarantulas, jaguars, and of the jungle’s damp environment which leads to leishmaniasis, yellow fever, malaria, and allergies, amongst others. Ingrid’s comment was that she missed her lotions and creams. Ingrid also said she was fed only rice and beans. In such examples, one thinks Ingrid herself may have missed the poverty that explains why rebel/terrorist groups surge in Colombia. In jungle areas, there are few hospitals, even if at all equipped with adequate resources. In jungle areas, children rarely receive vaccinations. There are entire villages of Colombians who will live their entire lives coping with yellow fever, malaria and leishmaniasis, and their diet will consist, day-in, day-out, of rice and beans.

Oh, Oprah, you are good though: you got us to understand that Ingrid Betancourt is as human as any one of us. Gotta watch your show more often to learn how you connect with the humanity in any one of us.


  1. You indicate that Clara Rojas underwent a caesarean without anesthesia, then indicate she awoke to their sewing her up. In her book, Rojas says nothing about a “rusty” knife and indicates that she was, in fact, given anesthesia, awoke while they were sewing her up, then fell back asleep. It was a male, not a female, who performed the caesarean.

    Betancourt’s book was far better written and more insightful as to the personality clashes between the prisoners. Unlike Rojas, she acknowledges her own personality traits which led to clashes with other captives. Both women were incredibly brave and deserve respect for enduring their captivity with strength and courage.

  2. Actually, if Rojas had had a real midwife with her, she would have been better off. Most likely, the midwife could have used the forceps or used what are called the ‘sharp hooks’ to remove the fetus if the head was stuck.

  3. Thank you for this great post

  4. Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article

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