June 2012        


Colombians march for peace and justice

More than 100,000 people marched in Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, on 24 April to demand peace, democratic rights and a second independence for Colombia. Many people’s organisations had joined together to organise the march, “La Marcha Patriótica”: social movements, trade unions, peasants’ organisations, indigenous people, the left wing of the Liberal Party, and the Communist Party.
     From its inception the march was faced with persecution from the state and the right-wing paramilitary forces; inevitably the participants were called agents of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and “terrorists.” Already the new organisation has its martyrs: three of its militants have disappeared.
     This great gathering presented a new challenge to President Santos and the government, which is trying to present a new face as a change from the total intransigence of his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe. The Marcha Patriótica is demanding a real change of direction.
     In response to the need for international solidarity, Justice for Colombia organised a visit to Ireland by the Colombian peace activists Ivan Cepeda, a member of congress, Carlos Lozana, editor of La Voz, and Marleny Orjuela of the Association of Family Members of Police and Military Kidnapped by Guerrillas.
     The group met Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness in Belfast and Joe Costello in Dublin. All expressed support for their efforts to achieve peace in Colombia. The group also met the ICTU in Dublin and Belfast.
     Carlos García Marulanda represented La Marcha Patriótica at a seminar on the geopolitics of peace and conflict in Trinity College, which addressed the conflicts in Colombia, Kurdistan, Sri Lanka, and Northern Ireland. The seminar was opened by Joe Costello TD and Paul Murphy MEP (Socialist Party) and addressed by speakers from these areas of conflict.
     The ambassador of Colombia also attended and addressed the seminar, showing that at least lines of communication can be opened. The participants, over two days, discussed the problems involved in resolving these conflicts, the internal and external obstacles to their resolution, and the prospects of reaching a peaceful solution.
     The seminar passed a resolution of solidarity with La Marcha Patriótica.
     The conflict in Colombia has its origin in the struggle for the land, which continues, and the terror unleashed on the peasants by the state and unofficial paramilitary forces hired by the landed oligarchy. The FARC was founded in 1964 to resist this onslaught.
     The United States has exploited the war to establish a base for itself. It has armed the state and brought in its latest weaponry and military technology. Every attempt so far to resolve the conflict has been frustrated by the United States and by the military and paramilitary forces.
     The efforts of La Marcha Patriótica will need international support and solidarity.

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