Colombians mobilize.

February 1, 2008

Millions of Colombians are expected to take to the streets on Monday in a protest march organized by several young Colombians on Facebook. The country’s main squares and thoroughfares will be filled with marchers dressed in white by midday.
Joining Colombians, the march organizers say they have over 200,000 people signed up to simultaneously march in 131 cities around the world.
Official march banners declare “no more kidnappings, no more lies, no more deaths, no more Farc.” The message on government billboards in Bogotá is “No more terrorism”.

But the event has already become politicized and attracted criticism. Some say that it should not just be against the Farc but should be a mass protest against violence in general and include all of the country’s illegally armed groups, such as the ELN guerrillas and paramilitary groups too.
For some, it will be a chance to show their support for President Alvaro Uribe and his tough stance against the Farc (he currently enjoys a record high 81% approval rating).

While other Colombians will be marching to express their solidarity for the some 750 hostages held in Farc hands and to put pressure on the guerrillas and government to agree to a humanitarian exchange that would involve swapping some 44 political Farc hostages for hundreds of imprisoned rebels.
In the past, Colombians have tended to be apathetic to the plight of its thousands of hostages. Increasing international pressure and the recent release of two female captives held by the guerrillas has put the country’s tragic hostage crisis on the political agenda and in the public spotlight.
Whatever the different reasons why people will take to the streets on 4 February, the event will be a big one.