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Colombia: More Reactions to the March Against FARC

Photo by Pattoncito and used under a Creative Commons license.

On February 4, hundreds of thousands of Colombians around the world demonstrated against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, for its initials in Spanish), an event which started as a Facebook group, taking advantage of the popularity of this social network in the country (Colombia is the 9th country in active users), and soon endorsed by the media and the government. It was the main topic on the Colombian blogosphere during most of January and, of course, after the march almost everyone reacted, in addition to posting their pictures and videos.

Journalist Jaime Restrepo in Atrabilioso [es] says:

Las FARC perdieron su apellido de ejército del pueblo. Simple y contundente. Millones de personas en Colombia y el mundo le enviaron un mensaje tajante al grupo terrorista sobre sus pretendidas justificaciones de propaganda nacional e internacional en el sentido de representar a los colombianos. Que les quede claro: No representan al pueblo. Pero las FARC ganaron un apellido: ejército del Polo. Así de fácil. (…) Quedó claro: las FARC representan a múltiples sectores del Polo y ahora lo que resultará difícil será determinar a cuales si, y a cuales no….Y los ciudadanos, esos millones de colombianos y extranjeros que decidieron, POR PRIMERA VEZ EN LA HISTORIA RECIENTE DEL PAÍS, salir a las calles a emitir una rotunda condena contra los terroristas de las FARC… Quedó claro que son demasiados millones de “oligarcas” los que están contra las FARC. Si la tan cacareada oligarquía fuera tan numerosa, Colombia sería más próspera que la mayoría de países desarrollados.

FARC lost their last name of “People's Army.” Simply and bluntly. Millions of people in Colombia and around the world sent a sharp message to the terrorist group on their domestic and international propaganda-intended justifications of representing Colombians. It should be clear: they don't represent the people. But FARC have earned a last name: [Opposition leftist party Alternative Democratic] Pole's Army. Just that easy. (…) It's clear: the FARC represents several sectors within the Pole and what will turn out difficult will be to figure out which ones do they represent and which ones they do not….And the citizens, those millions of Colombians and foreigners who decided, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE COUNTRY'S RECENT HISTORY, to go out to the streets in order to condemn outrightly the FARC terrorists… It's clear there are way too many “oligarchs” who stand against FARC. If there were so many members of the “oligarchy”, then Colombia would be more prosperous than most of the developed countries.

Julián Rosero, at equinoXio [es], also criticizes the opposition party (PDA for its initials in Spanish):

La posición del PDA debió ser contundente, rápida y consecuente. Debió decir NO a la marcha del 4 de febrero hasta que los organizadores le cambien el fin, o en su defecto, organizar paralelamente, con el mismo despliegue y con un gran ahínco, una marcha con la consigna NO A TODAS LAS FORMAS DE TERRORISMO, en cuyo eslogan estén presentes las conjeturas: No a las FARC, No al Paramilitarismo y No al Terrorismo de Estado. De hecho, debió imprimir carteles en donde la conjetura que encabezara el eslogan fuera “No a las FARC”, encima de las otras dos mencionadas, para impedir que los críticos del PDA relacionen a este partido político con esta agrupación terrorista.

PDA's position should have been blunt, quick, and consistent. It should have said NO to the February 4th march, until their organizers changed its objective, or otherwise, to organize, separately, eagerly and with the same display of enthusiasm, a march with the slogan NO TO ANY FORM OF TERRORISM, including No FARC, no paramilitaries, and no State terrorism. In fact, it should have printed posters where the heading was “No to the FARC” over the other two mentioned, in order to prevent PDA critics to link this political party with that terrorist group.

Cartoonist Vladdo claims [es] that the march doesn't own its success to Facebook, but to the hate most Colombians feel toward the FARC is:

El mismo odio que ha elegido dos veces a Álvaro Uribe. Y el mismo que llevó a las emisoras de radio, canales de televisión, periódicos y revistas a dedicarse con un empeño sin precedentes a la causa del 4-F; proceso en el cual quedó claro que la crispación que producen las FARC es un tema que conquista lectores y capta audiencia. (Lástima que ese fenómeno nunca se vea con las víctimas de las AUC y sus masacres y desaparecidos; ni con los desplazados; ni con los perjudicados por los falsos positivos).

The same hate which has twice elected Álvaro Uribe. And the same who lead radio stations, television networks, newspapers and magazines to devote an unprecedented effort to the F-4 cause (February 4th march date); a process which made clear that the anger FARC produces and is an issue that attracts readers and gains an audience. (It's a shame that phenomenon can't be seen with the victims of AUC, their massacres and their disappeared; nor with the displaced people, not those affected with the false positives).

Vladdo also criticizes the ambiguous attitude of the Democratic Pole toward the demonstration, which “confused a lot of their militants, who in this kind of circumstances need a lot their leaders to instruct them”.

Colombians abroad also chimed in with their thoughts. From Los Angeles, Alexillopillo, besides wondering about the real usefulness of the demonstration and how the magnitude of the march had moved him, makes a reflection [es]:

Hace 13 años, una de mis primeras noches pagando servicio militar en Neiva escuché a un capitan decir ante todo el pelotón formado, momentos antes de enviarnos a dormir, que el ejército Colombiano era tan bueno pero tan bueno, que la guerrilla no habia podido acabar con él en mas de 40 años. Todo mundo pareció estar de acuerdo, pero yo por dentro solo pensaba “No será mas bien al revés? Que el ejército Colombiano es tan, pero tan abominablemente inepto, que no ha podido acabar con la guerrilla en mas de 40 años?” Con esa mentalidad, no es una sorpresa que la guerrilla nos desangre lentamente a su gusto.

Thirteen years ago, on one of my first nights of my military service in Neiva, I heard a captain say in front of the entire squad, moments before he sent us to bed, that Colombian army was so good that guerrilla had proved to be unable to destroy it for more than 40 years. Everyone seemed to agree, but I thought inside “Shouldn't it be the opposite way? That Colombian army was so abominably terrible that it has proven to be unable to destroy guerrilla for more than 40 years?” With that mentality, it's not a surprise that guerrilla slowly bleeds us at their will.

Though she didn't marched, Ana María Arango remarks [es]:

[L]a marcha del 4 de febrero fue una ruptura con los antecedentes de aletargamiento, apatía y negligencia en la clase media y alta colombiana frente a problemáticas políticas. Independientemente de la polarización que generó, esta marcha es un logro sin precedentes y un hecho del que nos debemos alegrar; porque además de que puso en evidencia el rechazo tan fuerte a las FARC, nos mostró que también miles de personas salieron de su comodidad y de su entorno inmediato a protestar por la violencia y el secuestro más allá de sus inclinaciones políticas.

The February 4th march was a breakthrough against the lethargy, apathy and negligence fromColombia's upper and middle-classes, in regards to political issues. Regardless the polarization it caused, this march is an unprecedented achievement and a fact we should be happy for; because, besides making clear such a strong contempt for FARC, it also showed us thousands of people who left their comfortable and their immediate environment to protest violence and kidnapping regardless of their political tendencies.

Minoría desinformada [es] slammed the politicians of the ruling party who took advantage of the march to propose Uribe's second re-election [es]:

Muchos sabíamos que eso iba a pasar -así los organizadores digan que no tenían ningún interés político- y por eso fue que decidimos de manera autónoma y consciente, no marchar. No salimos a unirnos a la multitudinaria manifestación, que sin duda marcó un hito en nuestra historia patria, no porque eso signifique que estemos de acuerdo ni remotamente con algún crimen de lesa humanidad cometido por las FARC. En muchas oportunidades en esta bitácora, la Minoría desinformada ha expresado claramente y sin dubitaciones su rechazo contundente contra esta organización armada, que nos atrevemos incluso a definir como “cartel”, porque en eso se han convertido (…) Entonces, no necesitábamos marchar para expresar nuestro repudio tantas veces mencionado. En ese sentido, respaldamos todavía a quienes ese histórico día se manifestaron en contra de la violencia en Colombia, y uno de sus causantes, sin duda, es la guerrilla de las FARC.
Pero no marchamos porque sabíamos que eso se iba a utilizar para hacer política y de la forma más oportunista y repulsiva, porque ahora el significado de esa concentración es “el respaldo a Álvaro Uribe”. No hay derecho. Cuando sabemos que esa marcha se dio porque todavía hay gente secuestrada, que no ha visto la libertad en más de 5 años y ninguna de las partes ha querido bajar su arrogancia para solucionar el conflicto de forma negociada.

A lot of us knew this was going to happen -even the organizers say they had no political interests- and that's why we decided autonomously and consciously not to march. We didn't go out to join that multitudinary demonstration, which without a doubt set a milestone in our country's history, not because that means that we remotely agree with any of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by FARC. We've expressed in several occassions on this blog our contempt for that armed organization, which we dare to define as a “cartel”, because that's what they've become. (…) Then, we didn't need to march in order to express our rejection so many times mentioned. In that sense, we still support those who demonstrated that historic day against violence in Colombia, and one of its causes, without a doubt, are the FARC guerrillas. But we didn't march because we already knew that was going to be used for campaigning so repulsively and opportunistly, because right now the meaning of that demonstration is to “support Álvaro Uribe”. They have no right. When we know that march happened because there's still people kidnapped, who haven't seen freedom for more than 5 years and no one of the parts involved want to forget their arrogance to solve the conflict in a negotiated way.

Mateo Echeverry [es] writes about the media coverage:

El cubrimiento que le dieron los medios a la marcha fue masivo, pero paradójicamente, un poco superficial. La emotividad y dimensión de la manifestación la hacían más apropiada para el deleite estético (muy apropiadamente RCN tuvo a su servicio un helicóptero que daba vueltas por todo Bogotá trasmitiendo las imágenes en vivo). Más allá de las imágenes, la información de los medios se limitó a interpretar la marcha como una señal de “unión entre los colombianos”. Lo que no hicieron fue matizar el significado que para cada marchante tenía. La imagen de la gran masa blanca desplazándose opacó las particularidades de la jornada.
Analizando los medios no resulta tan interesante la cobertura de la marcha en sí, sino, la fuerte decisión de los medios de apoyar esta marcha particular creada por un ciudadano cualquiera.

The media coverage on the march was massive but paradoxically a little shallow. The emotivity and the dimension of the demonstration made it more appropriate for the aesthetic joy ([Pro-Uribe] RCN used a helicopter which toured the Bogotá sky broadcasting live pictures). Beyond the pictures, media information limited interpretation of the march as a sign of the “unity among Colombians”. What they didn't do was to clarify the meaning it has for every one of the demonstrators. The picture of the big white mass moving hides the particularities of the day. Analyzing the media is not as interesting as the coverage on the march itself, but the strong decision by the media to endorse this particular march created by an anonymous citizen.

Marsares summarizes in a post some lessons and consequences from the march. Besides agreeing with some of the other views posted here (the critics towards PDA, the unity of Colombians expressed through their hate towards FARC, the role of the mass media in the demonstration's success), equinoXio's chief-editor remarks [es]:

Los problemas de Colombia involucran sólo a los colombianos que viven en Colombia. Los que residen en el exterior sólo participan en las fiestas patrias o en situaciones coyunturales como ésta. Es natural. Tienen sus propios problemas de supervivencia y sólo sienten al país en las noticias, la música o los recuerdos. No les queda tiempo para más. (…) La verdad, incluso para Estados Unidos, es que somos apenas un país de Latinoamérica que poco le interesa al mundo como hace poco lo resaltaba Andrés Oppenheimer. De ahí la importancia de la marcha. Por lo menos estamos unidos para enfrentar a la guerrilla y eso ya es mucho.

The problems of Colombia only involve Colombians living in Colombia. The ex-patriates only participate during the national holidays or situations like this one. It's natural. They have their own survival issues and they just feel the country on the news, the music or their memories. They have no time for anything else. (…) Actually, even for the United States, we're just a Latin American country the world is only a little interested in, as Andrés Oppenhaimer remarked. That's the importance of the march. At least we're united to confront guerrilla and that means a lot.

He is also concerned about Uribe's upcoming possible re-election:

En 2010, salvo un hecho extraordinario, se le renovará el mandato a la Seguridad Democrática (a Uribe o a un uribista), erosionándose los principios fundamentales del Estado Social de Derecho, que se fundamenta en la pluralidad, regresándose al unanimismo del pasado y a la concentración del poder, con un PDA que ingresará a la lista de proyectos fallidos de la izquierda. La Seguridad Democrática, como las telenovelas de mayor audiencia, se alarga para conservar el rating de la derecha recalcitrante y excluyente que hoy gobierna a Colombia.

In 2010, unless something extraordinary occurs, the Democratic Security's mandate will be renewed (to Uribe or one of his supporters), eroding the fundamental principles of the pluralism-based Social State of Right, and returning to the unanimity from the past and the concentration of power, with a PDA which will become part of the list of the Colombian left's failed projects. The Democratic Security, as prime time telenovelas, extends to keep the rating of the diehard, excluding right-wing that currently rules Colombia.

Finally, “Utopian chronicler” Daniel Ramos believes [es] Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez did gain something with the march:

[L]o que Hugo quiere es darle una salida política a las FARC, enseñarles principios revolucionarios (“Se puede sin secuestro, aunque un golpe de Estado es una opción válida también”), pedagogía humanitaria (“Suelten otros 3 secuestrados por favor, ahí vamos poco a poco volviéndonos una alternativa social y política”) y bases democráticas (“Compañeros, estamos jodidos en apoyo popular, ¡miren esa foto! Chamos: así no se puede seguir. Tenemos que hacer méritos a ver si algún día podemos abrir nuestro propio grupo en Facebook”). Claro, la reeducación de las FARC le tomará bastante tiempo, pero hoy en día parece que no hay nadie más capaz de hacerlo.

What Hugo wants is to give FARC a political option, to teach them revolutionary principles (“It's possible with no kidnappings, though a coup d'état is a valid option too”), humanitarian pedagogy (“Please, release another 3 hostages, we're gradually becoming a social and political alternative”), and democratic grassroots (“Comrades, we're screwed without popular support, look that picture! Chamos: we can't continue like this. We must gain recognition to see if one day we can open our own Facebook group”). Of course, FARC's re-education will take a lot of time for him, but nowadays it seems there's nobody else who can do it.

  • Jill Hansen

    This post is amazing. I never realized exactly what was going on with the FARC. It’s shocking and gives me hope that the internet/Facebook site was used so affectively to organize this demonstration. What really interesting is checking out this ManagedQ cross search I put together here: http://managedq.com/search.php?q=FARC+facebook

  • Aaron Aarons

    The march against the FARC was organized by the Colombian ruling class with support from large sections of the middle class. Given their class position, the fact that they targeted the FARC as “terrorist”, and not the A.U.C. and the U.S.-backed Colombian army, is not surprising. The anti-civilian violence of the latter forces makes that of the FARC seem like a minor annoyance by comparison, unless you’re part of the privileged classes and therefore more likely to suffer kidnapping by the FARC than having your head used as a football by the A.U.C. while the government troops nearby keep lookout.

  • http://www.colombiasoyyo.org Don Matias

    Dawn! If the privileged class were the only ones that marched, then Colombia have a lot of privileged people! You better start acepting that people in Colombia hate farv and everything that such terrorist group represent: Death, kidnaping, extortion and lies.

    The title of terrorist is very suitable to farc, they have earned with a lot of blood!

  • http://www.colombiasoyyo.org Don Matias

    I put farv because the v is from Venezuela, that group expent more time in Venezuela than in Colombia, is your work to find why!

  • juan

    Dear Aaron, by your name i suppose you are from jewish origin. Its like what has happened to jews throughout history, not as bad, only for 50 years, FARC has targetted civilians in order to pressure the goverment. From any social class, even the poorest. Look for the bomb necklace in google. The poor lady that blew up was not from the high or middle class. Look for bombing and attack to poor peoples small towns, where they do not even have internet or telephone. Please get yourself informed. Its the least you could do!

  • Aaron Aarons

    Do any of you who support this focus on the FARC have reliable figures on the number of unarmed people killed by the FARC compared to the number killed by the right-wing paramilitaries and the imperialist-backed official military? In particular, since Colombia is reputed to be the deadliest place in the world for labor activists, how many of these union folks have been killed by the FARC?

    Also, what is the extent of economic inequality in FARC-held areas compared to that in government-held areas?

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