Colombians march for peace & economic justice, 5 million strong

Tom Boland (
Mon, 25 Oct 1999 14:46:37 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  From: "David Crockett Williams" <>
Subject: Colombians march for peace, 5 million strong

The following Associated Press article appeared in the Bakersfield
Californian newspaper and is seen as an inspiration for the Global Peace
Walk2000 carrying its related survival issue messages from January 15th next
year to Washington DC and to the United Nations.   Whether your "pet issue"
is oppression of indigenous peoples, stopping war and violence including the
drug war, nuclear abolition, industrial hemp or cannabis medicine
relegalization, social justice, or healing the environment, etc., please
offer your help for GPW2000 outreach, networking, and local events in your

OCTOBER 25, 1999

Colombians Mount Anti-War Protests

Associated Press Writer

Colombians march for peace
[photo] AP/Oswaldo Paez [image not copied]

URIBE, Colombia (AP)  Millions joined unprecedented anti-war marches in
Colombia's main cities, and rebel leaders insisted at the inauguration of
peace talks that it will take more than a simple rejection of violence to
end the country's 35-year conflict.

Members of a citizens' peace movement marched Sunday in 15 cities and dozens
of smaller towns for a cease-fire, a rapid settlement and an end to violence
against civilians  the conflict's principal victims.

Waving red, blue and yellow Colombian flags and chanting slogans like ``For
Peace, Not One More Shot. For Peace, Not One More Kidnapping,'' hundreds of
thousands streamed through the main avenues of Bogota, Medellin and Cali,
the country's three biggest cities.

Entire families, from toddlers in strollers to elderly people aided by
canes, joined stiltwalkers, mime artists and folk musicians in a festive
atmosphere with a serious message. The protest's main slogan  printed on
T-Shirts and small flags carried by marchers  was simple: ``No More.''

Rebels leave Uribe after the start of peace talks
[photo] AP/Ricarrdo Mazalan [image not copied]

Organizers said more than 5 million people turned out nationwide, 2 million
of them in the capital.

There was a sense of urgency to the marches. The conflict is worsening, the
economy is in its deepest recession since the 1930s and thousands of upper-
and middle-class Colombians are fleeing abroad.

In Uribe, a southern rebel-controlled town where negotiations with the
leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, were formally
inaugurated on Sunday after months of delays, rebel commanders put their own
spin on the ``No More'' message.

The FARC contends the government has done nothing to address deeply rooted
social inequity or halt death squad activity by right-wing paramilitary
groups who have for decades silenced left-wing politicians with

``We must support a solution to Colombia's social and political crisis, and
say once and for all: No more state terrorism disguised as paramilitarism
... No more illiteracy, no more political corruption, no more homeless
Colombians,'' chief rebel negotiator Raul Reyes said in a speech at the
launch of formal negotiations with the government.

Many of the townspeople watching the ceremony held under a corrugated steel
roof on the town's basketball court sported T-shirts handed out earlier by
rebels that read: ``No More Gringo Military,'' a reference to the stepped-up
U.S. military aid being used by Colombia's government to fight guerrilla
units that protect the illegal drug trade.

On the dusty streets outside, guerrilla banners demanded: ``No More
Unemployment,'' ``No More Massacres,'' ``No More Torture.''

Reyes said the guerrilla slogans were not intended to mock the nascent
citizens' peace movement, but to explain what the FARC feels are the true
causes of Colombia's civil strife.

Organizers of Sunday's marches said they hoped they would establish a trend
in a country where years of violence  and assassinations of peace
activists  have bred indifference and apathy.

Marching in Bogota's morning drizzle with his wife and two children, 38-year
old publicist Nestor Dionisio was one newly-converted protester.

``I've always been indifferent. This is the first time I've marched with my
family,'' he said, pushing his 2-year-old daughter in a stroller with a
white peace balloon attached to it.

After his election last year, President Andres Pastrana raised hopes for an
end to a conflict that has claimed more than 35,000 lives with a daring
visit to the jungle hide-out of FARC chieftain Manuel Marulanda, but that
optimism slumped when talks became bogged down in arguments over ground

Many Colombians were jolted into action by a surge this year in guerrilla
kidnappings and the August assassination of Jaime Garzon, a beloved comic
and prominent peace advocate.

But not everyone has great faith in the negotiations.

Skeptics say the fledgling peace movement still lacks direction and a clear
political vision  and they warn that peace is impossible without an
overhaul of Colombia's traditionally exclusive society.

``The Colombian people haven't assimilated all that a peace process implies:
great changes in all areas of our lives,'' said a leading peace activist,
Maria Teresa Bernal.

Others predict the newfound enthusiasm for peace will simply fade away.

``I think the marches are a good idea, and of course we're all for peace,
but we'll wake up Monday morning and nothing will have changed,'' said
physical therapist Ines Elvira Casas.


Drug Busts in Colombia, Caribbean

CIA World Factbook entry on Colombia

Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved.


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material
is distributed without charge or profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information
for non-profit research and educational purposes only.**

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