EspañolTens of thousands of Colombians dressed in white T-shirts took the streets nationwide on Sunday, March 8, in the “March for Life” — a demonstration organized by former Mayor of Bogotá Antanas Mockus.
Organizers emphasized the apolitical nature of the march, designed to show solidarity with the victims of Colombia’s 50-year guerrilla conflict. However, former President Álvaro Uribe branded it a political act to drum up support for ongoing talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
“This is not a political demonstration; it’s against no one, and for a good cause. We are all here for a cause: life,” President Juan Manuel Santos told crowds in the capital.
La marcha por la Vida en Bogotá pic.twitter.com/MpJJCNrEwM
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) March 8, 2015
“The March for Life in Bogotá.”
The conservative Democratic Center opposition party led by Uribe didn’t send representatives to the march. Uribe has been one of the most prominent critics of negotiations in Havana, raising fears that former FARC fighters will demobilize to take part in formal politics without being punished for crimes.
— Gestores De Paz (@GestoresPaz) March 8, 2015
“Life is Sacred!” It is heard in downtown Bogotá.”
Uribe also accused Mockus of receiving government funds to organize the demonstration, an allegation denied by both the former mayor and Santos.
Smaller demonstrations also took place in Canada, New York, Beijing, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, London, Mexico City, and Buenos Aires, among other cities home to substantial Colombian populations.
The March for Life demonstration followed a day after the Colombian government announced a significant step forward in talks: both sides agreed to work together to clear the country of land mines. Overseas NGO Norwegian People’s Aid is to oversee operations to decommission the explosive devices.
“Our main objective in these conversations is to put an end to the conflict and avoid future victims in our country. And that’s why the demining proposal is a first but giant step toward peace,” said former Colombian Vice President and lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle.
Since the beginning of the conflict over 50 years ago, 220,000 people have been killed and millions displaced. Since 1990, landmines and other explosives have killed and wounded roughly 11,000 Colombians, including 1,101 children, according to Colombian government statistics.
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines has ranked Colombia as the country with the second highest number of child casualties from landmines in 2013, with 57 children killed or wounded, only behind Afghanistan.