Yolanda Pulecio: committed citizen and mother

Yolanda Pulecio has spent most of her adult life serving Colombia. Since 1958 she has helped street children through her NGO, the Bogotá Children's Shelter, which received the United Nations Vienna Civil Society Award this year. She also served for many years as a Member of Congress and diplomat. Now retired from politics, Ms. Pulecio has been forced to return to campaigning, this time for the release of her daughter, Ingrid Betancourt, a former senator and presidential candidate who was kidnapped by Colombian guerrillas in 2002.

Yolanda Pulecio What motivated your daughter to go into politics?

My daughter Ingrid was aware of Colombia's political and social difficulties from a very early age, because both her father and I were concerned about social injustice. She grew up practically side by side with the children from the Shelter and accompanied me on campaigns for Congress. She decided to study political science in Paris and return to Colombia to press for reforms to prevent corruption and achieve greater justice for all Colombians. Ingrid has a real vocation for service.

Almost four years after her abduction, how do you and your family cope on a daily basis without Ingrid?

Ingrid's abduction has been the most painful and difficult situation imaginable. There are no words to describe it! We have been fighting every day for almost four years to get President ءlvaro Uribe to commit to seeking talks with the guerrillas that would lead to a humanitarian agreement, which is the only way to secure her release. Despite all the pressure from within Colombia and from outside, we feel powerless in the face of the lack of interest and humanity shown by the Colombian President.

Many people in Colombia and abroad are supporting the campaign for her release, but what results have been achieved?

Because of the constant support, I feel sure she's still alive. The guerrillas regard her as someone very valuable and I hope they are taking reasonably good care of her. The support we've received has also prevented the Government from insisting on rescuing her by force, which would mean certain death for her.

President Chirac said recently that France was determined to secure Ingrid's release. How do you interpret his words?

President Chirac's words give us the hope we need to carry on. Fortunately, my daughter has French citizenship-we know that, in Europe, values like the right to life and to freedom transcend political considerations.