Colombians re-mobilize for peace

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced Oct. 9 that he will donate the money from his Nobel Peace prize to assist the victims of the 52-year civil war in his country. He was awarded the prize for reaching a peace agreement with the FARC rebels, despite the accord being rejected by Colombian voters in a plebiscite last week. Some 260,000 have been killed and more than six million internally displaced in Colombia. (BBC News, Oct. 9) Medellin, which voted "No" to the peace accord only five days earlier, saw a massive march to demand peace on Oct. 7, the day the peace prize was announced. Several such marches were held around the country, but the one in Medellín was especially significant; the city is one of the main electoral bastions of former president Alvaro Uribe, who led the "No" campaign. Marchers chanted "Antioquia is not Uribe." (Colombia Reports, Oct. 8)

Signs are also mounting that other armed groups may join the peace process. Colombia's largest paramilitary "successor group," the Urabeños, issued a statement regretting the failure of the accord, and requesting to be included in the process. The Urabeños, or Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC), constitute the country's largest armed group after the FARC. The AGC "political team" said on its website: "We didn’t make public manifestations ahead of the vote so that it wouldn't be said that illegal armed groups had interfered one way or another in the electoral result. But that does not mean we are indifferent of what has happened, or we do not regret the outcome… This is the time…to act constructively and think of the nation's most important interests." (Colombia Reports, Oct. 9)

Colombian media reports indicate that formal talks are about to be announced between the government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country's second leftist guerilla group. In a conversation with Caracol Radio, the archbishop of Cali, Darío de Jesús Monsalve, said that the beginning of the talks will coincide with the release of hostages by the guerillas.  (Colombia Reports, Oct. 9)