Colombians Protest FARC Executions, Call for Peace

By Dialogo
December 08, 2011

Outraged by the execution of four captives by FARC rebels, thousands of Colombians protested across the country, demanding an end to 50 years of guerrilla violence and kidnapping.

As helicopters hovered over Bogota and car horns sounded on December 6, Colombians dressed in white marched toward the capital’s main square, holding images of the murdered men and chanting “No more war! Yes to life, yes to peace.”

The victims – members of the armed forces held in jungle camps for more than a decade – were shot at point blank range by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia as troops attacked the rebels’ hideout. Their bodies were found alongside the metal chains used to tie their necks to trees.

“We have tolerated the FARC enough,” said Ruben Castaño, an engineer, who took the day off work to participate. “Santos, it’s time to end this.”

President Juan Manuel Santos, who backed the march, is facing increased pressure from Colombians to seek an end to the conflict that has killed tens of thousands over the decades.

Responsible for some of the harshest blows against the FARC, including killing the group’s leader Alfonso Cano in November, Santos has expressed willingness to hold peace talks if the Marxist rebels stop kidnapping, lay down their weapons and cease attacks on civilians and the military.

While the FARC has refused, Cano had hinted before his death that dialogue was the only way forward.

“It’s not just the government calling for peace, it’s all of Colombia,” Santos said at the start of the demonstration. “The people are sick of violence.”

More than a decade of U.S.-backed strikes against the FARC has severely weakened the rebels and limited their ability to launch attacks on the nation’s economic infrastructure, attracting billions of dollars in foreign investment.

But the group remains a big part of the conflict, which strips as much as 1 percent from the economy each year.

Once considered almost invincible – none of its seven-member secretariat was killed or captured in more than four decades – five have died since 2008.