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Former Colombian Hostage Betancourt To Run For President

One of Colombia's most recognizable faces abroad. How popular is she at home?
One of Colombia's most recognizable faces abroad. How popular is she at home?
Alidad Vassigh

BOGOTA — Ingrid Betancourt, the Colombian politician held hostage by FARC guerrillas for six years in the jungle, may return from self-imposed exile and become a candidate in the 2014 presidential election, Colombia’s El Pais newspaper reported.

The country’s Green Alliance began to gauge her interest in returning to Colombian politics in recent weeks, and it was confirmed late Thursday that she would take part in a poll the party would hold to find out which candidate would prove most popular with voters ahead of the May 2014 vote.

Betancourt and her aide were kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2002 while she campaigned in southern Colombia for the presidency. She remained a hostage, kept in increasingly draconian conditions and at times chained to trees, until rescued by the Army in 2008.

She left Colombia after her bid to sue the State for failing to protect her in 2002 provoked a public outcry, and it is unclear how much that might weigh on her current candidacy.

Other people who have agreed to be in the Green Alliance’s electoral poll are former Marxist guerrilla Antonio Navarro Wolff and former Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa. The pre-candidate with the most votes would presumably become the Green candidate to face off against incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos and the very conservative Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who represents supporters of the former conservative president Álvaro Uribe.

Betancourt, a parliamentarian and senator throughout the 1990s who was campaigning for the presidency when she was kidnapped, remains one of Colombia’s most familiar political faces — as prominent if not as popular as Uribe, the president at the time of her rescue in 2008.

Green Party member Antonio Sanguino described her as someone “with a track record of fighting corruption.” She created a Green party in Colombia for the first time, but is also a symbol of the pain of the victims of the civil conflict with the FARC, the daily Vanguardia Liberal reports.

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Economy

How Fleeing Russians (And Their Rubles) Are Shaking Up Neighboring Economies

Russians fled the war to neighboring countries, bringing with them billions of dollars worth of wealth. The influx of money is both a windfall and a problem.

How Fleeing Russians (And Their Rubles) Are Shaking Up Neighboring Economies

January 2023, Saint Petersburg, Russia. Sberbank logo seen on a residential building during the sanctions against Russian banks

Maksim Konstantinov / SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire
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Posting a comment on a Kazakhstani real estate listing and sales website this past fall, one user couldn't contain his enthusiasm: "It's unbelievable, hasn't happened since 2013 — the market has exploded! ... Yippee! I don't know who to kiss!"

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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The boom of demand — and dollars — in Kazakhstan, and other countries in the region, is traced directly to the incoming Russians and their wealth who have arrived since the war in Ukraine began.

The ongoing wave of fleeing Russians is likely the largest emigration from the country in 100 years. There are no accurate estimates of how many Russians have left the country, much less where they will settle or how many of them will eventually return home. But between March and October, up to 1.5 million people left Russia. A conservative estimate suggests half a million haven't returned.

The main flow passed through Georgia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan (which has the longest land border with Russia). In these countries, the Russian language is widespread and visas are unnecessary. Russians can even enter Kazakhstan and Armenia without a passport.

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