I´m on vacation in Cali, Colombia and as luck would have it, I was also in the middle of the single largest manifestation of public outrage against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). From Berlin to Buenos Aires, and in cities all across Colombia, hundreds of thousands of citizens have taken to the streets to denounce the terrorist acts of the South American rebel group.
As I´ve written on this blog before, the FARC have become the new lords of the drug trade in this country. Ask anyone in this city of 2 million people, from the well-heeled residents of the Granada district to a cab driver, and the disgust for the FARC´s tactics - bombings, civilian kidnappings, drug trafficking - is unanimous.
Also palpable here is the presence of Hugo Chavez in this discourse. Many citizens are weary of his role in the recent hostage negotiations and the fear is that an increasingly armed and rancorous Venezuela will mobilize the FARC into war against Colombia. The stakes are high and the disappointment and frustration have hit their breaking point.
So today my cousin Mayra, an 18-year-old college student with impeccable English, took me to the CAM, the political center of the city, where hundreds of thousands of Caleños were waving flags, singing rock anthems for peace and freedom, and walking along peacefully. No pushing, no shoving, all under the supervision of policemen on the ground and in helicopters above.
The city is at a virtual standstill, as is most of Colombia, to observe this ¨important act of civic duty.¨ Today the city´s leading daily, El Pais, called for all citizens to take part in the march. ¨This is not a political rally, it´s a humanitarian responsibility,¨was the exhortation.
So here are some of my pics from this moving and civil demostation. The most popular t-shirt of today´s movement sums up the mood in this thriving, bustling city where I´ve been having an amazing time thus far: ¨No More Kidnappings, No More Lies, No More Deaths, No More FARC.¨