Colombians are taking to the streets in 50 cities Tuesday to demand an end to violence and the immediate release of hostages held by illegal armed groups. Organizers are hoping millions will respond to calls by social organizations, media and politicians to protest.
The march was initially called for by civilian organizations to protest the killing of four hostages by leftist guerrilla group the FARC on November 26, but the march has grown to into a call for hostage release worldwide, the organizers say.
“We hope that 10 million Colombians in more or less 80 cities around the world come out” Carlos Andres Santiago, founder of Colombia Soy Yo – part of the Youth Movement Alliance – told Colombia Reports.
Santiago said that he expects people to take to the streets in more than the 34 cities that officially registered. “There are municipalities where the mayor are calling to march, where the church is calling to march, We are certain that there will be marches in 90% of the country’s municipalities Colombian society will mobilize.”
“There will also be meeting points abroad,” said the organizer. “In the United States we will be at the main office of CNN and at the Organization of American States in Washington.”
Gerber Rodriguez Cristanchor of Colombia Soy Yo said the marches are a way to express the outrage that “Colombians feel about the barbarity of war and kidnapping.”
“The main message we want to send today is that Colombian society demands of all illegal armed groups, especially the FARC, to immediately and unconditionally release all people who are held hostage,” Santiago added.
“The important thing to keep in mind is that the call comes from the families of the hostages. It is they who ask us to mobilize to demand the release of their loved ones. It is they who have spent years suffering the scourge first hand. Some have received [their family member] alive, but others received them dead,” the march organizer stressed.
According to Santiago, Colombia owes it to these families to protest. “We marched in 2008, but in our opinion we have not done enough. We have abandoned the hostages, we have abandoned their families. This is the moment to take the streets, speak out and say they have to released immediately.”
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has also backed the march saying, “No one should stay at home, no one should stay in their offices, because we are going to march with a single purpose, a purpose that unites us all: to say ‘yes’ to liberty and ‘no’ to kidnapping.”
The 50 Colombian cities marching will be joined by others cities in Latin America including Buenos Aires, Europe including Madrid, the U.S. including Washington D.C. and Canada.
The organizers of the march succeeded in demanding worldwide attention in March 2008 when they succeeded in mobilizing millions of people in Colombia and around the world to protest the ongoing conflict and kidnapping practices by illegal armed groups.