Laughing for Peace: Colombian Army soldiers perform in traveling circus
By Dialogo April 09, 2014
When they are not fighting the FARC or other transnational criminal organizations, the Army soldiers who comprise the Colombia Circus bring fun and joy to people in remote communities throughout the country.
The mission of the circus, which is also known as Laughing for Peace, is to strengthen ties with civilian communities by entertaining them.
Laughing for Peace staged a show in mid-March, 2014, in Tibiritá, Cundinamarca. The town of 3,000 residents is near the place where drug trafficker José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha, who is known as “El Mexicano,” was born.
El Mexicano was a member of the Medellín Cartel, one of the most dangerous and feared drug trafficking organizations in Colombia in the 1980s and early 1990s. The cartel was led by kingpin Pablo Escobar. Security forces killed El Mexicano in 1992, and Escobar in 1993.
Reaching out to the civilian population
The soldiers of Laughing for Peace are part of the 13th Brigade, which assigned to the National Army’s Fifth Division. Laughing for Peace performs in remote villages every week. For their performances, the soldiers trade their camouflage uniforms and dress in bright costumes. The bright costumes help bring their characters to life and make some villagers laugh.
There are 17 soldiers in Laughing for Peace. The Army formed the circus in 1996, with the goal of using entertainment to improve ties with the improving ties with the civilian population.
Many villagers who attend the free performances are astonished at first, but are ultimately delighted.
“At first, (the people) get scared when watching it, of course. Colombian soldiers and a circus, what’s the relationship?” said Army Sgt. Oscar Francisco Yela, one of the circus performers, according to published reports.
“Having fun is important to human beings,” the sergeant said.
A comprehensive strategy
Laughing for Peace is part of a comprehensive military strategy that calls for the Armed Forces to battle the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the National Liberation Army (ELN), Los Rastrojos, Los Urabenos, and other organized crime groups while also forging closer ties with the civilian population, said María Victoria Llorente of the Ideas for Peace Foundation.
“It is important for the Army to show another side to their actions. The Colombia Circus is part of a relationship-building approach with communities involved in conflicts and illegal markets,” Llorente said.
Wherever they go, the soldiers who are in the circus go door-to-door to invite residents to enjoy the show. In Tibiritá, the mayor sent a bus to remote areas to bring people into the village to watch the show.
Each performance lasts about two hours.
The Tibiritá show started around seven in the evening, as twilight gave way to nightfall. Some soldiers performed as clowns, others juggled or engaged in acrobatics. One breathed fire.
One soldier walked across a rope suspended above the ground. In previous year, the performance included a goat who walked across the tightrope.
The spectators enjoyed the show, and the soldiers had a good time performing.
“The moment a soldier transforms himself into a clown, he can feel the humanity and is ready to offer something to our children, to our families,” Euclides Quintana, a soldier who is known as “Botoncito” in the military circus, said in a television news interview.
Following the performance, Tibiritá government officials honored the circus in the town’s main park. Many of the soldiers in the circus have patrolled areas where the FARC, the ELN, Los Rastrojos and other transnational criminal organizations operate.
“The Colombia Circus leaves a great message and wonderful memories in the minds and hearts of residents and officials in this town,” Tibiritá Mayor Gonzalo Rojas Calderón said.
For the next several months, Laughing for Peace will continue to perform in different villages and towns in the department of Cundinamarca, “bringing a message of peace to Colombians, and in this way, building scenarios of reconciliation and love for our country,” the National Army said in a statement.
A positive message
Since the circus was formed, it has performed in remote areas in the departments of Boyacá, Cesar, Norte de Santander, Bolívar, and Santander.
Soldiers convey the message that all Colombians can contribute to the battle against transnational criinal organizations.
During each performance, soldiers advise spectators to avoid drugs, violence, and excessive alcohol consumption.
In late February 2014, the Colombia Circus performed in the town of Chocontá, where every show had an audience of at least 800 people. Gen. Félix Iván Muñoz Salcedo, the Army’s chief of recruiting, and Brigadier Gen. Jorge Humberto Jerez Cuellar, the commander of the 13th Brigade, watched some of the performances with town officials.
The traveling circus is a good way for the Army to build trust in remote communities, Llorente said.
“The most important task is to build a state presence in the outlying regions,” Llorente said. “The Colombian experience systematically demonstrates that in order to control the territory and combat criminal organizations, government institutions need to carry out more initiatives and actions to pacify these areas despite the difficulties.”
I love both articles, we all realized that the first one was a fraud because several people had barely began serving as voting witnesses to count the votes and they already had the final winning number of votes registered in favor of Santos. Few people voted in Barranquilla. Maybe the suffering spirits voted, because the living were nowhere to be seen. Since there are no longer any newspapers or news reporters that are free-thinkers, I'd like to pay for the subscription. Phone is 1 6431932 Institutions should approach the community in a way that inspires trust and awakens solidarity, so that they can constitute a single team and fight organized crime efficiently.
I admire the work of the soldiers and officials that courageously fight terrorists.
There are a lot of good Colombians that are ready to support the National army, which we are proud of.
Congratulations to the army. Congratulations to our soldiers, they are the pillars of democracy. Spectacular. Thank you for bringing so many smiles to the whole world