Colombian Coordination of Alternative Media-CCMA
March 6th, 2008
New York, NY – Close to 200 people gathered in front of the Colombian Mission to the United Nations at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan today, holding banners and raising their voices in solidarity with the thousands of victims of state – as well as state-sponsored paramilitary – violence.
Initiated by the Colombian peace group Movement of Victims of State Crimes, the call to mobilize was heeded by thousands of citizens in Colombia and more than 50 countries around the world. In the U.S., rallies were also held in Chicago, Boston, Miami, San Francisco, Madison and Minneapolis.
Today’s demonstration came after rallies were held on February 4th against the FARC guerrilla. Those rallies – according to organizers, initiated on the website Facebook – were seen as a strong support for Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s strong-arm “Democratic Security” policies, which sees the insurgency as a “terrorist” group that can only be defeated through militarization and force. The two rallies, and their messages, are seen by many as a sign of the increasing polarization of Colombian society.
In addition to asking for “justice, truth and reparations” for victims of the state and an end to paramilitarism, organizers of today’s New York rally denounced U.S. “imperialist” intervention in Latin America as a continued threat to stability.
“We are demanding an end to historical state terrorism in Colombia” that has produced “thousands of mass graves with over 15,000 bodies found, four million internally-displaced people, and the annihilation of social movements”, affirmed one organizer with the New York chapter of the Colombian Coordination of Alternative Media, a sponsor of today’s rally. “And as a Colombian, I feel that US citizens must hold their government accountable for funding state terrorism in my country.”
The diverse crowd chanted slogans decrying Colombia’s president as a “terrorist” and “paramilitary”, and called for peace through negotiation with the rebels. Mirroring the march in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, many held pictures of murdered family members and politicians.
The march comes in the midst of growing tension in the Andean region. On March 1st, the Colombian government attacked a makeshift rebel camp inside Ecuadorian territory, killing the FARC’s second-in-command, alias “Raúl Reyes”, and at least 24 others. The killings and intrusion into Ecuador provoked the biggest diplomatic crisis yet in the region, with that country, along with Venezuela and Nicaragua, freezing diplomatic ties with Colombia. The Organization of American States Wednesday issued a declaration denoucing the violation of Ecuador’s sovereignty, but stopped short of condemning Colombia.
Though the Marxist FARC insist on continuing negotiations, the death of their leading negotiator may prove a difficult obstacle in the search for peace.
However, the protestors today vowed to continue paying homage to the victims of state terrorism, and to demand a peaceful resolution to the internal conflict. Maria Torres, 51, said she still had hope for peace in Colombia. “The Colombian state continues to support the ‘para-militarization’ of society, so we must continue to demand peace. It’s an upward struggle.”