Release of Ingrid Betancourt
Ladies and gentlemen, this evening, Ingrid Betancourt is free.
So today is the end of more than six years’ suffering. Ingrid is in good health. She is at a Colombian military base.
My first words will be to tell her how happy we are. Her family will express better than I do the feelings of affection they want to convey. And Ingrid’s mother is already en route to take her in her arms.
Together with Bernard Kouchner, I would first like to thank President Uribe, the Colombian authorities and the Colombian army. They carried out an operation crowned with success. Let President Uribe receive the gratitude of the entire French people and be assured of our gratitude. Let the Columbian people and Colombian army also be congratulated.
I would also like to thank all the other heads of State of South America who helped us: President Chavez, the President of Ecuador, the President of Argentina, all those who at one time or another lent us a helping hand, all those who did not give up.
I would also like to thank all those who mobilized in France: the support committees, the artists, foremost among them the singer Renaud, who campaigned for Ingrid, all those who believed in her return.
And of course, my thoughts also go this evening to Mélanie, Lorenzo, Astrid and Yolanda, to Juan Carlos and Fabrice who showed admirable courage, because there were many disappointments, but who always had confidence. They always believed in her return.
An hour from now, an aircraft of the French Republic will be leaving with Ingrid’s whole family for Colombia, with Bernard Kouchner on board, so that Ingrid can be with them, so that she can tell them how much she loves them and they can tell her how much they missed her.
And I also think of the other hostages, the American hostages, who were released. And I think of the hostages who have not yet been released. I would like to tell the FARC that they should stop this absurd struggle from the Middle Ages. And naturally, French diplomacy, France is ready to welcome all those who renounce armed struggle and give up taking innocent people hostage.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like my final words to be for Corporal Shalit and for his parents. We aren’t forgetting him. France is always ready to mobilize when someone is held unjustly.
I would like to tell Ingrid that we hug her, that we are proud of her courage and that we are very happy for her. There was a glimmer of hope. Today, there is great joy. And the whole of France is delighted to have Ingrid Betancourt back today.
I would also like to thank the diplomats. I would like to thank Switzerland. I would like to thank Spain, and cher Bernard Kouchner, who have all helped us. This is team work. And I also take my hat off to President Uribe.
And believe me that what I say, I say from the bottom of my heart./.