Alex Wallace

Ann Curry sat down with former hostage Ingrid Betancourt in France in her first U.S. TV interview since her rescue

Portions of the Interview Aired Tonight, July 9, on «NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams» and More of the Interview Will Air Tomorrow, July 10, on «Today» Transcript Below

NEW YORK – July 9, 2008 – – NBC News’ Ann Curry sat down with former hostage Ingrid Betancourt in France in her first television interview since her rescue from captivity last week. Betancourt, the Colombian-French politician who was running for president when she was captured in 2002, was held hostage for six years in the Colombian jungle.

Portions of the interview aired tonight, July 9, on «NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams» and more of the interview will air tomorrow, July 10, on «Today.»

Below are portions of the transcript of the interview. If used, please credit NBC News’ Ann Curry with note of «Today» airdate (Thursday, June 10).

Jim Bell is the executive producer of «Today» (Mon. – Fri, 7-11 a.m.), and Alex Wallace is the executive producer of «NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams» (Mon. – Fri., 6:30 p.m.).

ANN CURRY: What did they do to you? The truth. Were you tortured?

INGRID BETANCOURT: I think I need time. I’m not ready to talk about that. I’m sorry.

ANN CURRY: You don’t have to apologize.

INGRID BETANCOURT: When you talk about, when you feel that it’s worse than leaving, I mean, it’s like– it’s like– you need to clean yourself. You have to clean yourself from things that you should talk about, from the thing that– the– the– it will– I don’t feel comfortable about–

ANN CURRY: You said already, these people were very cruel and humiliated you. Why not vengeance?

INGRID BETANCOURT: Because vengeance is a chain. I don’t want to be chained to that jungle.

ANN CURRY: When you see the video, when you watch yourself in those moments, realizing you’re free.

INGRID BETANCOURT: It was incredible. I– I– I remember I had just scream, and– and the sound of my voice. It went from my– my stomach. It was like an– an explosion. And then we– we hugged, and we kissed. All we had wanted and dreamed (snaps fingers) and it was like — we were free.

*******

INGRID BETANCOURT: Everything that has happened is like a dream. There’s no room for– for– for hate or for revenge.

ANN CURRY: Even against the people who treated you poorly.

INGRID BETANCOURT: Especially for the people that treated me poorly. Because I think that– that I had a better– fate than they have. At the end, I constructed myself, and I’m stronger. I think that they have a lot to go through, still, because– when you– when you do what they did– I don’t think you can feel like– I mean, I– I don’t think you can feel good about yourself.

ANN CURRY: You have compassion?

INGRID BETANCOURT: Of course.

ANN CURRY: For the people, the rebels who treated you so poorly?

INGRID BETANCOURT: Of course.

ANN CURRY: Who made you suffer.

INGRID BETANCOURT: Of course.

ANN CURRY: For six years. Who did unspeakable things to you. Can’t even speak about them. INGRID BETANCOURT: Yes.

ANN CURRY: Do you feel compassion towards them?

INGRID BETANCOURT: Yes. Yes. Because I think there are– well, because I– I feel that I have my life back. And that they– that they were, I mean, they were wrong. And– what they did is perhaps, what they did for me was worse because what they– what it implies for them.

ANN CURRY: It sounds like you’re saying they have to deal with the guilt of what they did. INGRID BETANCOURT: Yes.

ANN CURRY: And their suffering–

INGRID BETANCOURT: Yes.

ANN CURRY: And– your compassionate, really, with their suffering.

INGRID BETANCOURT: Yes. Yes. I don’t want– I– I hope that they will find a way to– to change whatever has to be changed. And to just– understand what happened in all those years. And I hope that they will find peace. I found peace. I’m in– I’m in peace. I don’t think they have been able to find peace. So, anyway, I– I– for me, it’s thankful and to forgive. I think it’s something that makes you more human. Makes you better person.

ANN CURRY: And, after years of being treated, as you say, like an animal, you want to be– INGRID BETANCOURT: I don’t want to be like them. I don’t want to be like them. I– I– I want to be a better person, so it’s just the opposite of what they are.

ANN CURRY: You want them tried. Prosecuted.

INGRID BETANCOURT: Yes. Probably. I– I don’t know, I mean, it’s not something that’s important for me, anymore. What is important for me, the only thing important for me, right now, is to– to help those who are suffering in the jungle. That’s the only thing that really matters.

ANN CURRY: Are you afraid to go back to Colombia?

INGRID BETANCOURT: I think I have to be prudent.

ANN CURRY: Which means? Not now? Not ever? Is it possible you will never go back to Colombia?

INGRID BETANCOURT: Oh no. I love my country. I am Colombian from the bottom of my heart. And I adore my country. And I– I want to serve my country.

*****

ANN CURRY: You are feeling for those who remain.

INGRID BETANCOURT: Yes.

ANN CURRY: People you knew, who you were hostage alongside.

INGRID BETANCOURT: Yes.

ANN CURRY: And you’re afraid for them because of your release, along with your fellow hostages. So you are feeling survivor’s guilt. A feeling of worry-ness.

INGRID BETANCOURT: Yes. Deeply. Deeply. A thing of– that we have to find a way to– to bring them to– to– to freedom. I think that something that– when– when I left– Colombia, I had the– opportunity of hiding their families. They were so distressed. They said that perhaps because we were freed, it– I think they had the impression that the light was off for them.

ANN CURRY: You’re afraid, they’re afraid, they will be forgotten. Because you were the number one–

INGRID BETANCOURT: Exactly.

ANN CURRY: –the biggest name, the one who brought attention to the issue… So what are you going to do about that? Because you seem to be talking about doing things.

INGRID BETANCOURT: Well, I’ll do everything I can, because I am with them every minute, day and night, with them.

ANN CURRY: You’re saying you’re thinking of them day and night.

INGRID BETANCOURT: Yes.

ANN CURRY: You’ve said that you’re going to not cut your hair until the very last one is released.

INGRID BETANCOURT: Yes.

ANN CURRY: You’re going to let it grow.

INGRID BETANCOURT: Yes.

INGRID BETANCOURT: Well, that’s just– a detail. I mean, it’s just like– I– I just want to– tell them that my time is their time. And that the same way I didn’t cut my hair for all these years of suffering– well, the suffering continues for them. So my hair will be growing until they– they stop suffering. But that’s just something like– it’s like– how do you say this?

ANN CURRY: It’s a symbol.

INGRID BETANCOURT: Yes, it’s a symbol. It’s a biological clock too.