Colombian campesinos crash Bogotá bicentennial bash

Some 5,000 indigenous campesinos from across Colombia marched in downtown Bogotá July 21 to protest a pact that gives US forces greater access to Colombian military bases. The “Patriotic March” on Plaza Bolívar came the same day as 30,000-strong celebrations in the capital city’s central square marking the nation’s bicentennial. President Alvaro Uribe presided over the official rally. The campesinos marched on the plaza from the National University campus, which has served as a staging ground for the protest, and where classes are suspended.

The nucleus of the march is a large group of Guambia indigenous people from Cauca department. Protesters challenged the notion that Colombia is a sovereign and independent nation. Student leader David Flórez told reporters: “The emancipation process that began with the Battle of Boyaca and took greater flight with the project of Simon Bolívar has been frustrated in Colombia, where there have been political, historical and economic realities indicative of dependence on the United States.”

Protesters also refuted charges of links to the FARC guerillas. Sen. Piedad Córdoba, who participated in the march, called the accusations “a way to deny grassroots groups the chance to express themselves, to tell the country what they really think about the past eight years [of President Uribe’s rule] and the participation of civil society in the bicentennial.” (AFP via El Tiempo, Bogotá, EFE, Colombia Reports, Prensa Latina, July 21; El Tiempo, July 20)

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