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Former rebel hostage asks for $7M from Colombian government

By the CNN Wire Staff
Ingrid Betancourt attends a wreath-laying ceremony at a monument to military members in Bogota, July 2, 2010.
Ingrid Betancourt attends a wreath-laying ceremony at a monument to military members in Bogota, July 2, 2010.
  • Betancourt asks for damages, says government did not protect her
  • Colombia's defense ministry expresses "surprise and sorrow" at request
  • Former presidential candidate was part of group rescued by helicopter in 2008
  • Marxist rebels had held her hostage since 2002

Bogota, Colombia (CNN) -- Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt is asking for about $7 million from the country's government for the years she spent as a hostage of leftist rebels.

In documents submitted to the Colombian government last month, Betancourt and her family members say the government did not do enough to protect her.

Colombia's defense ministry publicized Betancourt's request Friday, declaring its "surprise and sorrow" at the news.

"If you ask me, it seems in very bad taste, very badly done. One does not do this. She has no case," Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos said.

Betancourt and her family did not return requests for comment Friday.

Betancourt, who had been held hostage by Marxist guerrillas since 2002, was one of 15 people freed in a high-profile helicopter rescue mission in July 2008. Colombian commandos posed as humanitarian aid workers to free the group, which included three U.S. military contractors and 11 Colombian police and military members.

The defense ministry's statement Friday said Betancourt "did not heed the insistent recommendations of security forces and other authorities" not to travel to the part of the country where the Revolutionary Armed Forces Columbia, known as FARC, kidnapped her.

"They told her that she could not enter the area, and she didn't pay attention," former Peace Commissioner Camilo Gomez said.

Defense ministry spokesman Luis Manuel Neira said members of Colombia's military risked their lives to free Betancourt in an operation that she herself had "described as 'perfect.'"

Last week, Betancourt was in Colombia for a military ceremony honoring her and the other rescued hostages.

In a memoir published last year, the U.S. military contractors rescued along with Betancourt painted an unflattering portrait of the dual citizen of France and Colombia, describing her as someone who hoarded belongings and let her temper flare during their time in the rebel camp.

Betancourt's memoirs are expected to be published in September.

CNN's Fernando Ramos contributed to this report.