Colombian Opposition Protests Peace Process In Bogota’s ’March of Dignity’ – 13 Photos

Pro-Uribe protester in Bogota's Boliver Plaza

Above is who I presume to be an ex-soldier leading a crowd of demonstrators in the Colombian national anthem earlier this afternoon at Bogota’s central Plaza Bolivar. It was the end point of the so-called “March of Dignity”, a demonstration organized by supporters of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and his right-wing Democratic Center party to voice their strong opposition to the ongoing peace negotiations between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels.

According to info distributed via Democratic Center’s social media channels, the event was a show of “respect for life, liberty and dignity of soldiers and policemen”, with marches and rallies taking place simultaneously in several Colombian cities.

Many signs carried by the marchers were of the “support the troops” variety, but most clearly indicated a disdain for Santos and the peace negotiations. Since he left office in 2010, Uribe has been Santos’ biggest critic, accusing his former defense minister of surrendering the country to the rebels who’ve been fighting successive Colombian governments for 51 years in what is Latin America’s longest civil conflict.

Anti-government protesters march by a mural in Bogota A mural by Colombian street artist Guache in Bogota

Unemployment, crime and general dissatisfaction over the lack of progress to bring an end to the half-century old conflict have forced Santos’ approval ratings to plummet to a record low of 22% in late April. They’ve improved slightly since but still hover at just about 30%.

Polls also indicate that few have faith that the peace process will lead to a signed agreement between the government and the FARC. According to a Datexco survey in early July, 75% of Colombians “were convinced there is no chance that a peace deal will eventually be signed”. That was the peace process’s lowest level of confidence since the talks began in late 2012.

Uribe, meanwhile, who rode approval ratings pushing 80% at the peak of his popularity in the waning years of the last decade, has watched his Teflon lose its luster. With links to right wing paramilitaries, relatives who’ve been implicated in drug trafficking and his name increasingly tied to old or newly-emerging scandals, Uribe has seen his approval numbers dip to just over 40%. He’s hardly the beacon of trust Colombians imagined half a decade ago.

Which is probably why the crowd here in Bogota today wasn’t particularly large; I estimated it to number no more than two thousand. The three police officers I asked agreed.

“Less than two thousand,” one said.

“One thousand, six hundred and twenty,” another guessed, smiling. That forced a third to chime in.

“No, no,” he said. “One thousand five hundred and sixty-six.”

“I hope you’re not counting the llamas,” I told estimator No. 2. With that, all three burst into laughter, insisted on shaking my hand and wished me a pleasant stay.

A few more images from the march are below. For editorial licensing and use, please check out the 13 images I filed for Corbis / Demotix.

A protester and a policeman at the 'March of Dignity' protest in Bogota Pro-Uribe protesters in Bogota

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And for the record, the lead photo at top serves as today’s Pic du Jour, the blog’s 581st (!!) straight.

 

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  1. Suzanne Fluhr says

    I studied in Bogotá in 1974 (doing a semester at the Universidad de los Andes) and then the country spiraled into death and chaos. Now, my son, a travel blogger, has chosen to do location independent, digital nomad thing from Bogotá for awhile. I’m hoping to return for the first time next year. I so hope that Colombia can manage to keep going in the right direction. Her people deserve peace.

    1. Bob R says

      I hope you do make it. It would be interesting to see your impressions on how things have changed –and not changed– in those 40 years. I’ve found Bogota to be a very good digital nomad base; cost of living is quite affordable and as a major city there is always lots going on. What is your son’s blog?

      1. Suzanne Fluhr says
  2. Shellie Troy Anderson says

    I’m unfamiliar with this. What do the rebels want and what have they been fighting for for 50 years?

    1. Bob R says

      Hi Shellie — It’s impossible to condense the country’s recent history into a few short paragraphs, but happy to give it a try. 🙂

      The FARC began like many similar revolutionary groups in Latin America, fighting against the massive inequality that existed —and still does exist— in the country. They don’t enjoy wide popularity; over the years elements of the group became involved in drug running, kidnapping and extortion to help finance their operations and have committed numerous human rights abuses. Elements of the armed forces and paramilitary groups, loosely aligned with the government, have also been involved in and guilty of the same things. It’s a complex situation with many players, both national and international, and is hardly black and white.

      The current round of peace negotiations, which began in November 2012, have made tremendous progress, with agreements reached on four of six main points. The key component now is granting amnesty — to the rebels, to elements of the armed forced and the paramilitaries. Some find it more difficult to forgive than others.

      1. Shellie Troy Anderson says

        Hi Bob, thanks so much for your take on this, it helps disentangle the complexity. I googled FARC and read a Wiki blurb. Whenever I hear the word “rebels” I know it’s not what it seems, the word is used by dominating powers to demonize and dismiss the people who fight back against injustice and oppression. Too bad the FARC resistance movement, just like so many others, has become just as ugly as the politics they opposed in the first place. We humans are such a messy, fallible species. Thank the gods we can at least forgive.

        1. Bob R says

          Indeed. And I’m glad you mentioned the process of demonization, to which I need to add:

          The US, which has pumped more than $6 billion into Colombia over the past 15 or so years, most of it earmarked for the military and security forces, re-designated the FARC as an international terrorist group in the early Bush II years. You can call the FARC many things, but they are not an international terrorist organization, they’re not Al Qaeda or ISIS etc. They’re not planning attacks against targets in the US, the EU or its neighbors. They have always been a domestic insurgency whose foundation, in principle, was built on the oppression and inequalities that Colombian society faced, and, to varying degrees, still faces today.

          1. Shellie Troy Anderson says

            Using labels such as terrorist and rebels is an old political tactic. I remember traveling in Guatemala in the early 90s and the Mayans who were trying to hang onto their rights and their land were labeled as Marxist rebels. That phrase was repeated in the media so often people stopped thinking about what the truth really was.

          2. Bob R says

            Yup, somethings never change. Guatemala is another country with a very tragic history.

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