Friday, October 7, 2016

Colombians defend troubled peace process

The vote on Oct. 2 may have narrowly rejected the government's peace agreement with the FARC but the Colombians who voted in its favor do not intend to sit idle and let a chance to end 52 years of conflict dwindle.

On Wednesday night, a march wound its way to Bogota's central Plaza Bolivar, stretching across four blocks. At least 30,000 people turned out, determined that a narrow margin of just over 60,000 votes should not scuttle a peace process that has taken four years to develop.

This time, however, the march did not come accompanied with the shouts that both sides have made common in the streets of Bogota. The student organizers of the march asked participants to remain silent in order to show their indignation at the 62 percent of absenteeism in the vote and at the new panorama threatening a hard-won peace.


On the same day, President Juan Manuel Santos met two of his predecessor, who have led the No campaign, Alvaro Uribe and Andres Pastrana in order to discuss the next steps.

  • The meeting with Pastrana was seen as satisfactory but did not appear to turn up any major conclusions. Santos' meeting with Uribe, however, lasted for over four hours and led to more expectations.

Speaking to the press afterwards, Uribe said that his proposals had been well received by Santos.

"We reiterated the need for the FARC to cease all their crimes and for its members to enjoy efficient protection. We expressed to the government judiciary and economic solutions, linked to the end of drug trafficking, which could be immediate for all guerrilla members not linked to crimes against humanity," outlined Uribe.

According to Uribe, he also told Santos about his supporters' preoccupations with "total immunity, political eligibility for those guilty of crimes against humanity...for the thousands of recruited children who have not returned home...and for family values."

These proposals will be studied by a joint commission made up of envoys from both sides. However, this implies a new and winding path of negotiations which the protesters in Bogota are not willing to undergo.


Jorge Eduardo Barajas began a journey of over 500km on September 14, from the city of Cali to Bogota. As he travelled, he taught the value of peace to towns along the way. He finished his journey on Oct. 2, when he voted Yes in the plebiscite.

  • After this trip, Barajas told Xinhua that many Colombians feel indignant at the amount of people who stayed at home and opted vote.

"A thinker once said, we are responsible of what we do and what we allow to be done. A criminal is not only the person who holds the gun and pulls the trigger. A criminal is also the person who allows the political, economic and social conditions that make others hold the gun and pull the trigger," said the activist.

Katerine Miranda, a veteran activist for peace, told Xinhua that she felt Uribe should not be part of the negotiations.

"I honestly think that a better agreement than the one we had cannot be reached," said Miranda, adding that she felt the No campaign had spread lies in order to sow fear.

"It is unfair to Colombians and to the victims of the conflict that they based their campaign on that people would not approve the agreement," concluded Miranda.

The activists said they would continue with such actions as the silent march in order to break the wall of indifference they feel many of their countrymen have toward the peace process.

After singing the national anthem of Colombia in an emotional yet solemn atmosphere, the thousands of protesters broke their silence, leaving behind the feeling described by one of the their own: "no protest comes too late."

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