BOGOTA – The Colombian left’s latest bid to organize a nationwide pro-peace rally went largely unheeded, in keeping with the population’s mostly lukewarm and passive response to the government’s efforts to end a decades-old conflict with the FARC guerrilla group.
Contrary to expectations, small crowds turned out for Friday’s march in Bogota, although young children, teenagers and adults took part in cultural activities at several “stations” set up at several points along the capital’s Carrera Septima thoroughfare.
President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration made no pronouncements about the planned rallies and did not actively participate in the day’s events.
Organizers were looking to promote support for a “yes” vote in an eventual referendum on a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla organization, which has been holding talks with government representatives in Havana for more than three years.
Despite the optimism of organizers in the southwestern city of Cali, where representatives of different grassroots, indigenous, cultural, LGBT and conflict victims’ organizations had gathered, the turnout was far below expectations.
In the northwestern city of Medellin, Colombia’s second city, several hundred people marched through downtown holding flags of the Colombian Communist Youth and other left-wing political organizations.
Hundreds of people marched for peace in Popayan, capital of the southwestern province of Cauca, and other cities.
The Citizen Power movement issued the nationwide call to rally with the backing of several left-wing parties, mostly notably the Broad Front for Peace, whose spokeswoman, former Sen. Piedad Cordoba, urged Colombians to take to the streets.
Friday’s response was typical for the Andean nation, where scarcely any rallies were held after the government and the FARC signed a historic bilateral and definitive cease-fire agreement on June 23.
That deal requires the FARC rebels to lay down all of their weapons within 180 days of the conclusion of a final peace accord.
Prior to concluding the cease-fire, the government and the FARC reached agreements on land reform, political participation, drugs and drug crop, and redress for the victims of the strife.
The Colombian government maintains that the final peace accord should be put to a vote in a referendum.