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Betancourt Is Back, Again! Former Hostage Can Set Colombian Politics Free

With a personal history of suffering and a humane discourse, the liberal Ingrid Betancourt's return to Colombian politics, even if not a presidential candidate next year, may prompt voters to shun the extremes.

Colombian former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt

Colombian former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt

Gonzalo Mallarino Flórez


BOGOTÁ — I am glad Ingrid Betancourt — once a disruptor of political corruption in Colombia who aspired to be president in 2002, only to end up for six years a hostage in the jungle — has returned to politics ahead of the 2022 presidential elections.

When I think of her, I see the image many have seen, which show her despondent and emaciated after years of unjust confinement at the hands of the communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). But the famous image also reveals her enduring resolve.

She is seated with her head inclined, her long hair that retains its sheen, and a perfectly oval face as she had in her youth as a fiery politician who fought against corruption.

 She knows violence

It was the nadir of her fortunes and she looked intensely spiritual. She was a picture of resignation, reminiscent of a grieving Virgin from the Renaissance. Many years had to pass before she could appease the hurt, anxiety and despair she must have felt in captivity, and find the strength in her heart and body to once more defend certain political ideals in her country. It could not have happened overnight. She even felt the need to exile herself abroad, in her "other" homeland, France.

She seeks no personal glory

That is why I believe in her so much as a voice in our political scenario. She has suffered — personally and physically — the horror of our violence, as her book testifies in detail. But she has returned with serenity and a conciliatory, almost loving, vision of Colombia and its future. No more shouting, histrionics, nor preaching and curses.

The first and most intelligent thing she has done was to avoid another run for the presidency. She seeks no personal glory in this. No. That is not her ambition. She has a certain idea of Colombia — a possible, hypothetical Colombia — which she shares with so many of her fellow citizens. It is a noble vision that merits a struggle, because it encompasses peace, justice and decency.

INGRID BETANCOURT (2nd R), who was captured as hostage in February 2002 during a presidential campaign, speaks beside her mother (1st L),

Ingrid Betancourt speaks beside her mother, the Commander of Colombia's armed forces General, and Defense Minister


Compassion from the center

And as she is not a pre-candidate, she has managed to unite and complement those who are in that sector of politics we call the center. It is the middle ground, a promising, libertarian, honest point in the political spectrum that does not conceal or disguise what it says, nor hungers or thirsts for secretive, shameful desires. No.

Will we be able to stand another four, wasted years?

It has none of the rancor of the extreme left nor the meanness of the extreme right. These are the infernal extremes one must escape, and she is clear on that. At least that is my impression. I may sound an idealist or naive here, but that is how I feel and am holding onto the feeling for dear life. Will we be able to stand another four, wasted years like these ones? Four more years of bland complacency, indolence, of deceit and pretense on the side of the government? For the country, it might prove to be a calamity.

I believe that ultimately the elections will be what they've always been: a showdown between conservative and reactionary thought on one side, and liberal, progressive thought on the other. Without artificial distractions or a noisy sideshow, we may see that liberals outnumber conservatives.

The possibility that this can being tested and asserted in the next elections, no less, is what Ingrid has achieved with her return to national politics.

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food / travel

Pasta v. Fascists: How Italy's Staple Dish Became A Symbol Of Resistance

Pasta may not be considered controversial today, but it played an important role during Italy's fascist years, particularly in one family's celebration of community and liberation.

Photo of the Cervi family.

Photo of the Cervi family, whose seven children were shot by the Fascists on December 28, 1943, at the Reggio Emilia shooting range.

@comunisti_alla_ribalta via Instagram
Jacopo Fontaneto

ROME — Eighty years ago — on July 25, 1943 — the vote of no confidence by the Grand Council of Fascism, leading to Benito Mussolini's arrest, set off widespread celebrations. In Campegine, a small village in the Emilian province, the Cervi family celebrated in their own way: they brought 380 kilograms of pasta in milk cans to the town square and offered it to all the inhabitants of the village.

The pasta was strictly plain: macaroni dressed with butter and cheese, seen as more of a "festive dish" in that period of deprivation. As soon as the Cervi brothers learned about the arrest of Mussolini, they procured flour, borrowed butter and cheese from the dairy, and prepared kilos and kilos of pasta. They then loaded it onto a cart to distribute it to their fellow villagers. Pastasciutta (dry pasta) specifically regards dishes with noodles that are plated "dry", not in broth. That would disqualify soup, risotto, ravioli...

Even though pastasciutta is the most stereotypical type of pasta today, it had a complicated relationship with the government during Italy's fascist years.

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