News / Americas

Colombians March in Polarizing Bid to Bring Peace with FARC

Colombians walk down a central avenue in Bogota during a nationwide march for the country's peace and for victims of war, April 9, 2013.
Colombians walk down a central avenue in Bogota during a nationwide march for the country's peace and for victims of war, April 9, 2013.
Reuters
Waving balloons and dressed in white, tens of thousands of Colombians marched in Bogota and across the nation on Tuesday in a polarizing gathering for peace that critics slam as a show of support for Marxist FARC rebels.

Throngs of people chanting "we want peace" advanced toward the capital's main square, Plaza Bolivar, a few blocks from where former presidential candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitan was assassinated on April 9, 65 years ago.

"The nation is expressing its rejection of violence, violence that has caused so many wounds and so much pain," President Juan Manuel Santos said as he joined the mass.

Colombians walk down a central avenue in Bogota during a march for peace, Bogota, April 9, 2013.Colombians walk down a central avenue in Bogota during a march for peace, Bogota, April 9, 2013.
x
Colombians walk down a central avenue in Bogota during a march for peace, Bogota, April 9, 2013.
Colombians walk down a central avenue in Bogota during a march for peace, Bogota, April 9, 2013.
The march, organized by leftist politicians Ivan Cepeda and Piedad Cordoba, aims to show a united front against violence and in favor of peace. But it has divided the nation as many believe the movement is a launchpad for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to enter politics.

Santos late on Monday called on the nation to reject what he called "enemies of peace" and join the march to show support for his historic bid to bring an end to five decades of bloodshed with the rebels.

"Peace is the sublime objective of any society," Santos said.

Negotiations

Colombia, at war with the FARC since 1964, in November launched a controversial bid to negotiate peace with the rebels during talks in Havana, Cuba.

Critics say Santos is negotiating behind the nation's back and handing the FARC whatever they want.

Former President Alvaro Uribe, once a Santos ally, charges that the FARC, mostly funded by extortion and drug trafficking, will trick the nation as it has in previous peace talks and get away with crimes without being punished.

Government and rebel negotiators are seeking common ground on a five-point agenda, beginning with the thorniest issue of rural development and land reform. Social inequality in Colombia's vast rural territory is considered the root of the conflict - with land ownership concentrated in very few hands.

"This movement shows the people of Colombia are completely decided in favor of peace," organizer Cepeda said on Tuesday. "We are negotiating peace in Havana but today shows the process is backed by multitudes."

The march is being held on the anniversary of the murder of Gaitan, a leftist politician gunned down as it became clear he would win the 1948 presidential election and fight for the rights of the poor.

His death unleashed a wave of violence and paved the way for the founding of the FARC.

Latin America's longest-running insurgency has left tens of thousands dead, seeded vast rural and mountainous areas with landmines and left scores of villages and towns economically isolated.

While a 10-year military offensive against the FARC has pushed the rebels deep into inhospitable territory and helped rejuvenate the economy, the FARC is still a formidable presence and able to sow fear and cause damage to the nation's economic infrastructure.

The FARC is considered a terrorist group by the United States and Europe.

"We were born into violence, my children were born into violence," said Gustavo Rodriguez, 54, a farmer from Tolima province as he walked toward Bogota's historic center. "I believe this process will bring peace. It's not that we support Santos, it's not that we support the FARC, it's that we live in the middle of gunfire."

Numerous peace efforts in Colombia since the 1980s have brought mixed success, with some smaller armed groups demobilizing. But the FARC, Latin America's biggest rebel group, has pressed on, funded in large part by drug trafficking.

At the last peace talks in 1999-2002, former President Andres Pastrana ceded the FARC a safe haven the size of Switzerland to promote talks.

But the rebels took advantage of the breathing space to train fighters, build more than 25 airstrips to fly drug shipments and set up prison camps to hold hostages.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Colombian Peace Talks' Sponsors Worry About War Escalation

Statement by Norway, Cuba, Chile and Venezuela says it's essential that parties tone down conflict, step up confidence-building measures
More

Brazil's Rousseff Tells Newspaper She Rejects Opposition Calls to Quit

President says she plans to finish term, continue with efforts to narrow budget deficit
More

Carnival Aims to Launch Miami-Cuba Cruises in May 2016

Pending Cuban approval, Carnival would become first American cruise company to visit island since 1960 trade embargo
More

Pope Urges Latin America to Find Unity Through Common Faith

Pope Francis said Mass for nearly one million Catholics in the Quito, Ecuador Tuesday, leaves Wednesday for Bolivia, then heads to Paraguay on Friday
More

Venezuela Recalls Ambassador to Guyana Amid Territory Dispute

OPEC nation in June demanded Guyana halt exploration off coast of region known as the Essequibo, weeks after ExxonMobil said it had found oil
More

CONCACAF Details Rebuilding Plans After FIFA Scandal

North and Central American and Caribbean soccer body publishes anti-corruption proposals Monday after its two of its officials were implicated in racketeering
More