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Colombia: Moncayo's Walk for Hostage Release

Pablo Emilio Moncayo was 18 years old when FARC guerrillas kidnapped him in December of 1997. He's was a corporal in the Colombian Army. His father, schoolteacher Gustavo Moncayo, decided to walk with his daughter from his town, Sandoná (Nariño, southwestern Colombia), to Bogotá to seek a “humanitarian exchange”, or a prisoner swap for the freedom of around 50 kidnapped politicians, policemen and military, including his son. After 46 days and more than 1,000 kilometers walked, along with a huge media coverage (including a blog established by Medellín conservative newspaper El Colombiano) and popular support, Moncayo entered Bogotá on Wednesday, August 1. Around 16:00 he reached Bogotá's central square, Plaza de Bolívar, where he decided to remain until the prisoner swap took place. President Alvaro Uribe, who was resting at his estate, agreed to meet Moncayo on Thursday morning.

After the Uribe-Moncayo meeting in the tent in Plaza de Bolívar, where the latter is remaining, Colombian president decided to speak in front of the approximately 1,000 people who went to support Moncayo. It became another of his usual “town hall meetings”. As Uribe faced the insults of some of the attendees, who started to call him “paramilitary,” “fascist,” and “liar” (he even invited a shouting young political science student to the stage), he said if FARC releases their hostages, the Colombian government would create a safe-haven for 90 days for peace talks. But Mr. Moncayo was skeptical, telling Uribe he didn't “own the lives” of the hostages and also claiming that Uribe and the FARC were playing politics with them [the hostages' relatives] in the middle of that game. The unusual debate was broadcast live, during the midday newscasts on the main television networks. While the quarrel between Uribe and the crown continued, Moncayo “leaned on his wife and wiped away tears, then limped away on his cane.”

The whole country started to debate the issue, showing a huge division between the ones seeking for a prisoner swap (a point where most agree) with or without a safe-haven (a condition which divides Colombians). The Colombian blogosphere reflects that polarization, which became more evident since Uribe took office 5 years ago.

Giovanny Acuña praises President Uribe [ES]:

Nuestro Presidente es un verdadero PATRIOTA, él lo única que desea es salvar nuestra nación y lo va logrando poco a poco, prueba de ello es la seguridad que tenemos hoy en día al viajar por nuestro país y a toda la inversión extranjera, que algunos confunden con la venta de nuestras empresas a otros países como lo hizo la señorita que intervino ayer en el debate.

El profesor Moncayo ha sido un verdadero héroe en estos 46 días y espero siga defendiendo esos nobles ideales, porqué ayer por encontrarse desesperado me dío lástima a pesar de su buen gesto de paz, al no aprovechar ese momento histórico que tuvo para estar del lado del Gobierno y no ponerse a cuestionar a la política profesada por nuestro Sr.Presidente Álvaro Uribe, persona digna de admiración y respeto. No comparto para nada el irrespeto de una parte de los manifestantes que se encontraban en la plaza y entiendo que todo fue por la rabia que algunos llevan dentro por la inoperancia de otros gobiernos, ya que debieron presentar alternativas y escuchar las propuestas que se estaban presentando.

Our President is a true PATRIOT, he only wants to save our nation and he's achieving it gradually. Proof of that is the security we have today when we travel around our country and with all the foreign investment, which some people confuse with the sale of our companies to other countries, such as the lady who took part in the debate.

Professor Moncayo has been a true hero during these 46 days and I hope he keeps defending those noble ideals, because yesterday, when he appeared desperate, I felt sorry for him despite his nice peace gesture, because he didn't seize the historical moment, when he had the chance to be close to the government side, where he did not question the policy carried by our Mr. President Álvaro Uribe, a person worthy of admiration and respect. I don't endorse the lack of respect by one side of the demonstrators who were in the square and I understand everything was caused by the anger at the ineffectiveness of the former administrations. They should show alternatives and listen the proposals being presented.

Valentina, from Realidades Colombianas [ES], has her own point of view about “the political event of the year” and the “healthy politics” Moncayo taught:

El debate verbal del jefe de la nación y el profesor y padre de familia, fue la confrontación del discurso hueco y autoritario, respaldado por centenares de guardaespaldas armados hasta los dientes y el discurrir humanitario y sencillo con al respaldo de gritos del populacho reunido en el lugar. La presión popular volvió a tener valor real y práctico.

Los comentaristas políticos coincidieron en asegurar que sucedieron cosas que nadie se habría imaginado. Que el presidente bajó, gracias a la popularidad que despertó Moncayo entre el pueblo colombiano, de su séptimo cielo a las lozas de un parque en Bogotá. Que el presidente Uribe tuvo que esperar al educador y caminante, con sus ministros y guardaespaldas, casi una hora, porque Moncayo estaba en Misa. Primero Dios y luego el presidente. Luego de unas horas y en un debate sesgado, Moncayo se fue antes de que terminara Uribe sus múltiples y agresivas intervenciones, porque estaba muy cansado y quería reposar.

[...]

La entonación conciliatoria y didáctica del educador contrastó con los rugidos intimidatorios del presidente. Como los colombianos somos muy dados a establecer ganadores y perdedores, dan como el franco ganador al Caminante y educador Gustavo Moncayo. Uribe aceptó lo que parecía imposible, está dispuesto a autorizar una zona de encuentro para negociar la paz. Vuelve y se demuestra que el pueblo es y sigue siendo suprior a sus dirigentes, como decía Gaitán.

The verbal debate between the chief of the nation and the professor and father was a confrontation between the hollow and authoritarian discourse, backed by hundreds of armed to the teeth bodyguards, and the humanitarian, and simple, who had the support of the shouting populace gathered at the place. Again, popular pressure had a real and practical value.
Political commentators agreed that things that no one would have ever imagined happened. The president backed down, thanks to the popularity Moncayo earned among Colombian people, from his seventh heaven to the crockery of a park in Bogotá. President Uribe had to wait for the walking educator, with his Cabinet and bodyguards, almost one hour, because Moncayo was attending a Mass. First God, then the President. After a few hours and in a biased debate,
Moncayo left before Uribe finished his multiple and aggressive interventions, because he was too tired and wanted to rest.
[...]
The teacher's reconciling and didactic intonation contrasted with the president's intimidating roars. As Colombians tend to set winners and losers, they concede the victory to the walker and teacher Gustavo Moncayo. Uribe accepted what it seemed impossible, he's willing to authorize a meeting zone to negotiate peace. It's proven again that the people are and continue to be superior to its leading class, as [Jorge Eliécer] Gaitán used to say.

But Hi6uera, on the contrary, praises Uribe's charisma [ES] (and Moncayo's courage and bravery):

Es gracioso observar un discurso presidencial como el de hoy. Escuchar a tantos fanáticos desgarrándose sus cuerdas vocales para gritar insultos o elogios al mandatario parece difícil de creer. Cuando veo gente descalificando al presidente de frente pienso: ¿Acaso esta gente es miope, o tal vez un poco lunática? No darse cuenta que cuando se le grita al presidente en la plaza pública lo que se está haciendo es abriéndole caminos para que él brille, para que se luzca con sus contraataques y con su plástico y eficaz discurso político; es estar ciego.

It's funny to watch a presidential speech as one today. Listening to so many fanatics with their vocal chords torn by the insults or with praises to the Colombian leader makes it hard to believe. When I see people discrediting the president to his face, I think: Are these people short-sighted or maybe a little lunatic? Not to realize that when the president is yelled at on the public square opens the way for him to shine, to show off with his counterattacks and with his plastic and efficient political discourse, this is to be blind.

On Náufrago en la sombra [ES], El Hombre del Viento wants us to listen Moncayo:

Mientras el citadino ve en la televisión a un Moncayo como la forma criolla de Gandhi, el campesino ve en él su propio retrato de dolor. Mientras que el citadino comenta sobre el profe en una cena en el parque de la 93 diciendo que eso no va a servir de nada y que le parece el colmo que invada la Plaza de Bolivar, mientras traga como cerdo platos de 50 dolares per cápita, el hombre del campo ve en él a alguien que se identifica y conmisera con las noches de zozobra de pillaje de uno y otro bando. Con las madres de muchachos que deben ir a los frentes de una batalla que nunca eligieron abanderar. Con los hijos huerfanos de facto ante la ausencia prolongada del secuestro. Con los sueños truncados de familias nacientes…

As the urban citizen sees on the TV a Moncayo as the local version of Gandhi, the peasant sees in him the portrait of his own pain. As the urban citizen comments on the ‘profe’ as s/he dinners at the 93rd Street Park saying that will be useless and that his “invasion” of the Plaza de Bolívar is the last straw, the rural man sees in him someone who identifies and feels compassion with the uneasy nights of looting by both bands. With the mothers of the boys who must go to the fronts of a battle they never chose to lead. With the de facto orphans because of the extended absence of the kidnapping. With the shattered dreams of new families…

Finally, equinoXio [ES] became the scenario of an interesting debate. In his post, Marsares slams Uribe and the FARC, and defends Moncayo, who according to him got caught between arrogance and cynicism.

[E]n un irrespeto a la comunidad internacional, al país y a los familiares de los secuestrados, lanza una propuesta imposible de realizar. Una “zona de encuentro” con duración de 90 días, lugar y tiempo durante el cual se pactará la paz con las FARC. Es decir, medio siglo de conflicto se resolverá en tres meses de diálogo. Lo irrazonable de la propuesta es un indicativo de la nula intención de diálogo que le asiste al Presidente. Y para rematar le dijo a Moncayo que podía ir a Cuba a hablar con Granda, el llamado “canciller de las FARC”, pese a que el grupo guerrillero ha dicho que no los representa.
[...]Entre la soberbia y el cinismo no hay espacio para la paz. La mentira es el nombre del juego y los secuestrados… apenas una carta de la baraja, descartable, por cierto.

In a disrespectful attitude toward international community, this country, and the kidnapped's relatives, [Uribe] throws a proposal impossible to fulfill. A 90-day “meeting zone”, time and place to reach a peace agreement with the FARC. That is, a half-century conflict will be resolved in a 3-month dialogue. The insensitive proposal indicates the president has no intention to dialogue. And in order to round off it, he told Moncayo he could go to Cuba to talk with [Rodrigo] Granda, the so-called “FARC foreign minister”, even though the guerrilla group has said that he's not their representative.
[...]
Between the arrogance and cynicism there's no room for peace. Lying is the name of the game and the hostages… are only a card in the pack, a disposable one, by the way.

gerente [ES] says:

esa tristeza de Moncayo es un gran triunfo de las farc y de sus alcahuetes, porque la imagen que quedó es la de el Culebrero de palacio destruyendo con sus palabras las ilusiones del profe y de los familiares de los secuestrados.

Moncayo's sadness is a great victory for the FARC and its puppets, because the picture that remains was the Palace ‘culebrero’ shattering with his words the illusions of the teacher and the hostages’ relatives.

Dragón Negro [ES] defends Moncayo:

“…el presidente no es el DIOS de la vida…” esa frase…lo dijo todo.

En efecto eramos muchos los colombianos que estabamos esperando decir : “por fin” pero se ahogo en el fango de las lagrimas de estos esposos de Sandoná la ilusión . El llanto de las demás victimas jamás sera callado.

El profe tiene una caracteristica, es autentico, no lleva un libreto como el que utilizó para humillar el majestuoso.

“…the president is not the GOD of life…”, that sentence… said it all.
Indeed there were so many Colombians hoping to say “at last”, but the illusion got drowned in the tears and mud of the Sandoná spouses. The cry of the other victims will never be silenced.
The ‘profe’ has a characteristic, he's authentic, he doesn't carry a script as the one used by his majesty to humiliate him.

But DieGoth slams Marsares [ES]:

Todos sabemos y no podemos autoengañarnos, que Uribe aceptó la propuesta de Europa. Las FARC NO LA ACEPTARON. Recordamos también que es mucho más lo que ha cedido Uribe que lo que han cedido las FARC hasta ahora desde el primer día en que se habló del asunto. ¿Por qué es a Uribe a quien le tienen que exigir que “empiece a ceder”?

Entonces sólo queda ceder ante la propuesta de las FARC. Ahí es donde viene lo grave de la actitud de Moncayo: desprecia la propuesta de Uribe. Hace caso omiso a la propuesta de los europeos, y en cambio le exige a Uribe que ceda… ¿a qué? Pues ni más ni menos que a la propuesta de las FARC. Es decir, que Moncayo dijo algo así como “Uribe, no haga propuestas y limítese en cambio a ceder a lo que las FARC exigen”.

Por eso la mayoría de la gente, para guayabo de Marsares, se desencantó con Moncayo ayer.

We all know, and we can't deceive ourselves, that Uribe accepted the European [French, Swiss, Spanish] proposal. THE FARC DIDN'T ACCEPT IT. We also remember that's a lot more that Uribe has given than FARC since the first day this issue is discussed about. Why do they have to demand Uribe that “starts to give in”?

Then we have no choice but give in to the FARC's proposal. That's the serious thing about Moncayo's attitude: he despises Uribe's proposal. He ignores the European proposal, and he demands Uribe to give in instead… to what? None other than the FARC's proposal. That is, Moncayo said something like “Uribe, don't make any proposals and just give in what the FARC is demanding instead”.

Pirata Subterráneo asks for a sacrifice [ES]:

El profe Moncayo pertenece a la sociedad civil que a fin de cuentas somos nosotros, los colombianos que no cargamos armas ni promocionamos a que otros la carguen. Ni la guerrilla ni los paracos nos representan. En el caso del profesor Moncayo y los secuestrados, antes que Uribe, el enemigo son las farc, por cinicos, sofistas, indolentes, mentirosos, acomodados.

‘Profe’ Moncayo belongs to the civil society, which in the end means all of us, Colombians who don't carry guns nor encourage others to carry them. Neither guerrilla nor paramilitaries represent us. As for Moncayo and the hostages, before Uribe, the enemy is the FARC, because they're cynical, sophists, indolent, liars, and comfortable.

Was Moncayo's trek a wasted chance to achieve, if not peace, at least the freedom of the people kidnapped by FARC terrorists [including the three Americans]? Is that illusion, which should have united Colombians moved by the love of a father, fading out because Moncayo mixed ideology and pro- and anti-Uribe feelings? Will FARC say no to the little responde Uribe gave to Moncayo's plea? The debate continues, but these questions likely won't have answers quite soon.

  • Pablo Ordonez

    Colombia’s president is complacent with narco-paramilitary forces but intransigent with the victims of this conflict such as Gustavo Moncayo. This duality spoke by itself about the qualities of Alvaro Urive Velez who has polarized the people from Colombia. This obstination is the product of the death of his father by the criminals of the Guerrilla. However; Colombia should not be governed by hates, o passions.We need a soon solution for kidnapped people in the jungle.

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