Colombia stages anti-Farc protest

Rallies held across nation to condemn leftist group holding several people captive.

    Similar demonstrations were held in other countries, including Guatemala [AFP]

    Tens of thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets across the country in a massive protest against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, which has abducted a number of people and held them for years in jungle camps.

    The protests took place in many of Colombia's cities on Monday, in some of the largest rallies ever organised in the country.

    In Bogota, the country's capital, protesters rallied in the city's main plaza.

    'No more kidnapping'

    Many waved flags and some wore T-shirts that read: "No more kidnapping, No more lies, No more killing, No more Farc".

    Alvaro Uribe, the Colombian president, declared on the private television station Caracol: "Today the citizens have more faith in the state, they have more faith in the army."

    Over the last few days the government has made a number of appeals to encourage a massive public turnout, seeking to equate the demonstrations with support for its policies to bring down Farc.

    The protests were also heavily promoted through the social-networking website Facebook.

    "No more Farc, we don't want any more Farc, young people have to say no to the Farc, and tell them to stop their violence," said Jaime Martinez, a student wrapped in a Colombian flag and with "Peace" painted on his face.

    Decade in captivity

    Recent videos of hostages held by Farc showed the men and women chained up and despondent after as long as a decade in captivity.

    Some condemned Monday's demonstration
    as Colombian government propaganda [AFP]
    The videos have fuelled outrage against Farc, which the US and Europe have branded as "terrorists" funded by Colombia's cocaine trade.

    Similar demonstrations were also held in Madrid, the US, Canada, Japan and Venezuela organised by the Colombian  embassies in the cities.

    In Paris, some 200 people mostly Colombians turned out, but the  rally received sharp condemnation from family of Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian politician held hostage by Farc.

    "We condemn this manipulation. It's propaganda, which while pretending to be against the Farc is completely organised by the government," said Astrid Betancourt, sister to Ingrid.

    Farc fighters pledged on Sunday to release three of the hostages who are in poor health after seven years of captivity in the jungle.

    But attempts to reach a hostage deal are deadlocked over a rebel demand that Uribe demilitarise an area the size of New York City in southern Colombia.

    He has refused, saying that would allow the Farc to regroup, but has offered a smaller zone under international observation.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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