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Yolanda Pulecio

Yolanda Pulecio Velez also known as "Mama Yolanda" is a Colombian former beauty queen and Miss Colombia turned politician, former member of the Congress of Colombia and diplomat. Pulecio married former minister of finance and diplomat Gabriel Betancourt. Pulecio is the mother of Astrid Betancourt and French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt who spent six and a half years in captivity after being kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia until July 2 when she was rescued by the Colombian Armed Forces in Operation Jaque, 2008.

Miss Colombia

In 1955 Pulecio participated in the Miss Colombia pageant in representation of the Department of Cundinamarca. She then founded the Hogares Infantiles de Bogota (Bogota Children's Shelter) a foundation to help the poor children of Bogota which has been functioning since 1958.

Life between France and Colombia

In 1961, her husband Gabriel Betancourt, whom she had married in 1959 was appointed as Adjutant Director of the UNESCO of Colombia in France. The family went to live in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris. They lived in France for 5 years until 1966.

In 1966 then President of Colombia Carlos Lleras appointed her husband as Minister of Education and returned to Colombia. Back in Colombia, Pulecio was appointed by the then Mayor of Bogota, Virgilio Barco as Director of the Social Welfare Department of Bogota. In 1969 her husband Gabriel was appointed as Ambassador of Colombia to the UNESCO and the family returned to live in Paris, France. Their daughters, Astrid and Ingrid, studied at the Institut de lAssomption, as well as a boarding school in England.

Divorce and return to Colombia

Pulecio felt nostalgia for the children of her foundation and decided to return to Colombia. In Colombia she developed an interest to participate in politics and decided to definitely divorce from her husband. She was widely criticized in Colombia for this. Her daughter Ingrid later wrote about this: "She separated from her husband to recover her active role in society, but she found herself judged, in defamation, criticized and condemned by the Colombian society of the time."

Kidnapping of Ingrid

Her daughter Ingrid was kidnapped after being warned by the Colombian Police not to go into the recently dissolved "distension zone" created during the failed peace talks between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Since the kidnapping of her daughter Ingrid by the violent guerrilla group while campaigning for the presidency of Colombia, Pulecio has been advocating for her release and the hundreds of others held as "hostages".

Pulecio has criticized both Presidents Andres Pastrana and Alvaro Uribe for not doing enough for the release of the hostages, as well as not collaborating on achieving a possible humanitarian exchange of prisoners for hostages between the government and the FARC guerrilla. When senator of Colombia, Piedad Cordoba and President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez were named as facilitators by the government of Alvaro Uribe, Pulecio supported their initiatives alleging that they had achieved in a few months what had not been done in 5 years of the kidnapping of her daughter.

After the release of her daughter in "Operacion Jaque" Pulecio left Colombia and moved to France. She has received some criticism

from several Colombian organizations for "forgetting the rest of the kidnapped people once Ingrid was rescued".

See also

Humanitarian exchange

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