by Lisa Taylor, Colombia International Team
Chanting “The people united will never be divided!”, thousands of Colombians in major cities throughout the country mobilized for peace today, April 9. Declared a civic holiday and the National Day of Memory and Solidarity with Victims, the date commemorates the April 9, 1948 assassination of populist politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán and the ensuing ten years of brutal political violence known as La Violencia that began the modern armed conflict. Taking to the streets, participants in the March for Peace demonstrated their support for the ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the largest guerrilla insurgency, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), while also seeking to vocalize victims’ demands for truth, justice, and reparations.
Since the official peace talks began in October 2012, the Colombian government and the FARC have met with unprecedented success, reaching partial accords on land reform, drug policy, and political participation. Although the accords will not be finalized until agreements on the remaining points of victims’ reparations and implementation mechanisms have been reached, both sides have begun to take concrete steps toward peace and have received support from the international community. The U.S. government recently appointed Bernard Aronson as Special Envoy to the peace process, and last week Pope Francis announced a 2016 visit to Colombia. Peace is trending in Colombia, with hashtags of #MeMuevoporlaPaz(#IMoveforPeace) flooding Twitter and peace-themed graffiti filling public spaces.
Stopping during the march, one women’s activist said she supports the peace process “because women don’t want to birth more children for the war, because we believe it is necessary for our communities to be in peace, that our communities have the opportunity to work, to have opportunities necessary for our children’s futures.” Victims further demand an end to militarization, investigation into state crimes, reparations for victims, an end to impunity (currently above 90 percent for most crimes), and the right to know the truth about who ordered and carried out human rights violations. This last demand for a comprehensive truth commission would shed light on state, paramilitary, and multinational actors who together account for far more human rights violations than guerrilla groups.