Thousands of people took to Bogota‘s streets Monday to celebrate the birth of Colombia’s new leftist political party, the National Patriotic Council.
Estimates of the total attendance varied greatly, with newspaper El Espectador reporting “at least 35 thousand” while RCN Radio put the figure at about 20,000.
Buses carrying hundreds of indigenous and Afro-Caribbean people arrived in the capital city after long journeys from across the country, said RCN. An estimated 3,500 farmers traveled from Catatumbo, an area on the Colombia-Venezuela border.
Despite worries the FARC would attempt to infiltrate the “Patriotic March,” it passed peacefully with the political message taking center stage.
According to news magazine Semana, the point of Monday’s gathering was to let the public know know how the National Patriotic Council (CPN) — the party’s official name — was formed and what its goals are when it stands for election in 2014.
Congressman Hernando Hernandez Tabasco said the party’s aspiration was to achieve “vindication for the ancient and popular struggles that have taken place in our America and that the only way to end the war in Colombia is the political solution to the social, economic and armed conflict.”
Andres Gil, PM spokesman and member of the Peasant Organization of the Cimitarra Valley, said the party was “a political movement made up of over 1700 social organizations that seeks to propose a new way to build power in the country [because] no space has been made for social organizations in traditional politics.”
Prominent leftist politicians like former Senator Piedad Cordoba and Congressman Ivan Cepeda have offered their support for the political party.
However, Piedad Cordoba — now the director of NGO Colombians for Peace — warned Monday that “rehabilitated” guerrillas could try to infiltrate and disrupt the march.
Promoters have expressed worries the peaceful protest could end in violence due to the presence of police tanks, horses and riot police.
The commander of Colombia‘s armed forces, General Alejandro Navas, has mooted a possible infiltration of the FARC into the political party. According to Navas, the organization was mentioned in seized emails between FARC commanders “Ivan Marquez” and “Mono Jojoy,” who was killed in 2010.
The PM has rejected Navas’ statements, saying the armed forces “want to corner the political development with unfounded accusations.”