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

Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

More Americas News

Venezuela Tells US to Downsize Embassy Staff

President Nicolas Maduro claimed Saturday that Venezuela has detained American spies
More

Fidel Castro Finally Meets 'Cuban Five,' Spies Turned Heroes

Spies returned home as heroes after serving long prison terms in US, 73 days after last of them were freed in prisoner swap
More

Vazquez Sworn in as Uruguay President

Oncologist, 75, previously held presidency from 2005-2010; he takes leadership role from highly popular Jose Mujica, also of Broad Front Coalition
More

Venezuela: Arrested US Pilot Was Spying

Nicolas Maduro says American was caught with 'documentation'; US Embassy offers no comment
More

Video US, Cuba Make Progress in Restoring Diplomatic Ties

Friday's session focuses solely on opening embassies in Washington and Havana as quickly as possible
More

Mexico Arrests Drug Lord 'La Tuta'

Mexican federal police captured Knights Templar drug cartel leader Servando 'La Tuta' Gomez, one of the country's most wanted fugitives
More