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Ex-hostage Betancourt's comments on the future

BOGOTA, Colombia — McClatchy interviewed ex-hostage Ingrid Betancourt. Here's a transcript of that conversation.

McClatchy: What's next for you?

Betancourt: I am anxious to re-establish ties with my family. This is very important. I have to evaluate when to return to Colombia. I am concerned about my personal safety. There could be possible reprisals. My family is very worried about that. My family has suffered a lot. I have to listen to them.

McClatchy: Do you see yourself returning to politics?

Betancourt: I have a desire to serve. It can be in many ways. I want to first help (former Sen. Luis Eladio Perez) in his efforts on behalf of freeing other hostages. (Perez was kidnapped by the FARC in 2001 and was held with Betancourt for five years. The FARC unilaterally released him in February with three other former lawmakers.)

You know, the world has changed a lot since I was kidnapped. It's a neurotic world, and there are lots of conflicts. There's a food crisis and an energy crisis. People are very anxious about this. We need to reflect on how we behave. I'll help where I can. Colombia is my place to do that; it's the place where I want to see things changed the most. The first thing we have to do is change hearts. We have to change the vocabulary of hate. When I dreamed of being free, I told myself that I could not engage in hate or rancor.

McClatchy: How should the government treat the FARC?

Betancourt: We can't continue using words that invite hate and revenge. The guerrillas are our enemy. But we shouldn't insult them. We should show them how to seek a dignified exit through peaceful negotiations. If we don't defeat them correctly, we will sow the seeds of hate for the future. They need to move toward dialogue. If they don't want to do this, we have a right to construct our own democracy. The FARC needs to understand that their era is over. We need quick negotiations. Still, we can't allow impunity. Those who have committed crimes must pay for their crimes.

McClatchy: A lot of people have marveled at your lack of bitterness and hate since being freed. Has that been difficult?

Betancourt: Hate is a chain that people wear, as heavy as the chains we had to wear in the jungle. I want to serve Colombia. I don't want to hate. With a few good examples, we can change hearts. We have got to end the practice in Colombia of wanting to cut off the heads of our enemies.

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