Protest right-wing violence in Colombia

March 14, 2008

NEW YORK--In the face of threats and slander, and with the backdrop of rising regional tensions in the Andes, protesters honored victims of Colombian state and paramilitary violence on March 6 at demonstrations here, in Bogotá and 20 other cities across the world.

This took tremendous courage and was a great step forward for the embattled Colombian left. In New York, as many as 300 protesters turned out. In Bogotá, reportedly 200,000 participated, and in other cities, numbers were in the thousands. These numbers are significant considering that government supporters had done their best to paint the march as a pro-FARC effort in Colombia, and organizers faced death threats, even in New York.

Rather than caving to such pressure, New York organizers--including the Committee for Peace in Colombia, Committee of Colombian Trade Unionists, POLO Democrático Party and International Socialist Organization--persisted in publicizing their message, "No human rights violation is justifiable," and successfully drew people into the streets around their demands.

Pacifist activists, radical left organizations and union staff members from Colombia and elsewhere joined the march. Many people came independently after hearing announcements on the radio or Internet, including Indymedia, the mainstream Colombian press, and many Spanish- and English-language local newspapers.

Slogans included "No to violence, yes to life," "Stop killing trade unionists," and "No more paramilitary" and calls supporting a humanitarian accord. The general mood was that of mutual respect, and all slogans and groups got a hearing.

In the coming days, the main organizers will meet to assess the protest and talk about next steps. One of the March 6 organizers, a union member, summed up the event's success: "History and the future are on the side of progressive forces in Colombia. Today, we have begun to help to construct democracy."

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