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Freed Colombia Hostage Ingrid Betancourt's New Battle Is In Divorce Court

Freed Colombia Hostage Ingrid Betancourt's New Battle Is In Divorce Court

Judge freezes assets of former Presidential candidate, in divorce proceedings. The marriage never recovered from her six years in captivity.

Ingrid Betancourt (Fabiogis50)

EYES INSIDE - LATIN AMERICA

When Íngrid Betancourt was brought to Bogota, Colombia in July 2008 following a daring rescue operation, she was greeted at an air base by her family, including her husband Juan Carlos Lecompte. The photographs of the homecoming -- after more than six years of captivity by guerrillas -- show Betancourt offering a decidely cool gesture of affection toward her husband. Months later, she announced her plans to divorce from Lecompte on the grounds of "breach of marital duties."

It was a move that came as a surprise for many. Lecompte had been one of her ardent supporters throughout her captivity, having pressed the governments of Colombia and France to negotiate her release with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Betancourt is also a citizen of France, where she had earlier been married to a Frenchmen with whom she had two children.

This week, a family judge in Bogota ordered a freeze on all of Betancourt's properties and bank accounts in Colombia, the United States , Panama and France until the divorce is complete. Lecompte's lawyer Helí Abel Torrado asked the court in September to divide the couple's assets, including homes and bank accounts they both acquired and opened from the time they were married on October 17, 1997.

Betancourt, a former presidential candidate, charged that she found out by listening to radio broadcasts in the jungle that Lecompte had been seeing a Mexican woman. The husband is also using charges of infidelity in his defense. A book written in 2009 by three American contractors -- Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell – who were held in the jungle with Betancourt and other hostages paint an unflattering picture of her. In "Out of Captivity," Gonsalves also admits that he had a romantic relationship with Betancourt.

Last year, Sansell said that the two continue to see each other. The RCN Colombia radio network reports that the judge in the divorce proceedings has also ordered that the testimonies of the three US contractors also be taken.

Betancourt came out with her own book last year "Even Silence has its own End," in which she claims she was sexually abused and alleged that her former vice presidential running mate, Clara Rojas, who was taken along with her in 2002, demanded to have a baby in captivity. The account has also strained her relationship with Rojas, who did have a baby reportedly fathered by a guerrilla rebel but claims she did it on her own terms.

Betancourt divides her time between New York and Paris . Many Colombians have lost sympathy for her, especially after she announced last year that she was considering a lawsuit against the government in Bogota for $6.8 million for allowing her to travel to the perilous San Vicente del Caguán, Caquetá department, where she and Rojas were captured while on the campaign trail. She immediately took back her threat after a backlash of criticism.


Martin Delfín

Worldcrunch


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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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