Uribe exploits mobilization against FARC

Hundreds of thousands of Colombians marched Feb. 4 against kidnappings and other violence by the FARC guerillas in cities across the country. In Bogotá, marchers wore matching white T-shirts reading: “Yo Soy Colombia” (I am Colombia), with the kicker: “Stop the kidnappings, the lies, the murders… No more FARC.” The protest, dubbed “A Million Voices Against the FARC,” was ostensibly the fruit of a campaign launched last month by three young people on Facebook, the social-networking website. But the campaign clearly had official sanction. Throughout the country, schools canceled classes for the day or let students out early. In a public square in the northeastern city of Valledupar, President Álvaro Uribe voiced his support for the mobilization. Many marchers openly supported Uribe and chanted slogans against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. (CSM, Feb. 6) In Paris, Astrid Betancourt, sister of FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt, called the mobilization a “grotesque manipulation.” (Milenio, Mexico, Feb. 5)

In reaction to the spectacle, human rights groups have called for a March 6 national mobilization in homage to victims of paramilitary and state violence. Under the slogan “No more common graves, no more forced displacement,” their statement said 4 million have been displaced at the hands of right-wing paramilitaries and state security forces in Colombia, that 3,500 massacres were carried out by paramilitaries between 1982 and 2005, with 6 million hectares of land stolen from peasant communities, and that the paramilitaries have not been demobilized. (Movimiento Nacional de Victimas de Crimenes de Estado en Colombia, Feb. 5)

See our last posts on Colombia, the FARC and the paramilitaries.