The protest against the FARC February 4 was impressive, no doubt. Considering the fact that the government gave public employees the day off and cut the school schedule in half, it is not surprising that so many people were able to make their "no more FARC" voices heard. Days before the protest, human rights organizations in Colombia issued comuniques to their networks encouraging them not to participate in any kind of counter-protest; some held a mass instead.
Here in San Francisco about 300 people mobilized: many wore the official t-shirt, held Colombian flags and roses were distributed to all. The protesters listened to speakers and marched around Civic Center square a number of times. Those of us with an alternative message showed up as well: we also had t-shirts (Stop US Terrorism in Colombia) and signs with messages that said: "No Farc, No AUC, No State-sponsored Violence, No War!" and "22,500 Kidnapped, 35,000 dead, 3 million displaced. All of them are Victims." Although we shared the sentiment that the violence carried out by the FARC is deplorable, we insisted that this message must be heard by guerrillas, paramilitaries and government forces alike. For many years the paramilitaries were responsible for 75% of all human rights abuses in Colombia. In the past two years, the Colombian military committed more extrajudicial executions (meaning killed more civilians) than the FARC, according to statistics compiled by the Europe United States Coordination. While there is a lot of press and government spokespeople to propagate the view that the FARC is responsible for all of Colombia's woes, a closer look shows that the paramilitaries and Colombian government have been the worst violators, not to mention the US that has spent $5 billion since 2000 to fund and train the Colombian military. It is they who are most responsible to the Colombian people to change their war-mongering ways. Yesterday we were there to remind them of it.