BOGOTA – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Sunday that his country is so accustomed to war that people have forgotten what it’s like to live in peace, delivering his remarks just hours before the definitive cease-fire with the FARC guerrillas takes effect.
“We’re so accustomed to war that we’ve forgotten what peace feels like, what it feels like to be a normal country,” said the president in Bogota during the inauguration of the 38th Solidarity for Colombia March, a program that for almost the past four decades has been devoted to the public welfare.
Santos added that because of the war, Colombians have lost their compassion and their ability to feel the sadness of others “and that is what we have to recover.”
“More than half a century of war has left us anesthetized, accustomed each day to having countrymen, soldiers, peasants, guerrillas die because of this absurd confrontation. The war became part of the landscape and we’ve forgotten the tremendous human dramas that gave rise to that sadness, that backwardness that created this conflict,” he said.
The president also said that this is the first Solidarity March to be held without ongoing war and without any conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rebels.
“In the 37 earlier marches, we had always had the specter of this war like a dark curtain behind us,” he said.
Santos noted that the bilateral and definitive cease-fire with the FARC will begin on Monday at midnight.
The announcement of the cease-fire was made last Thursday by the president and on Sunday afternoon in Havana, where the peace talks have been held, the top FARC leader, Rodrigo Londońo Echeverry, alias “Timochenko,” will also announce it on behalf of the guerrillas.
“Tomorrow the bilateral and definitive cease-fire and cessation of hostilities begins,” said Santos, issuing a call to his countrymen to maintain their solidarity during this new phase into which the country is moving.
“Let us maintain solidarity with the peasants who deserve to be able to sow, harvest and work in peace; ... with the displaced, who deserve to be able to return to their lands with safety and dignity; ... with the soldiers, with the mothers and fathers of those boys who have no reason to keep dying in that senseless war,” he said.
The president also called for solidarity “with the victims who deserve truth, justice, who deserve reparations and, of course, not to have the atrocities they suffered repeated.”