Colombians march to end FARC violence

Thousands of people turned up in Bogotá and other cities across Colombia chanting 'no more kidnapping' to denounce the Marxist rebel group. Steven Ambrus reports.


Tens of thousands demonstrated Monday in several Colombian cities and in 125 capitals worldwide against the FARC Marxist guerrilla movement, demanding an end to violence and the release of hostages.

Wearing white shirts saying "No more FARC" and "No more kidnapping," demonstrators flooded the streets of main cities in the largest rallies ever organized against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

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

The government has sought to link the demonstrations to its own anti-FARC policies and in recent days made repeated appeals for a massive public turnout.

The government has used almost blanket television coverage over the past week to try and mobilize the crowds with images of hostages behind barbed wire in FARC camps.

In Bogota, the main demonstration gathered at the central National park, where protesters walked down a main avenue to Bolivar square in the heart of the city.

Similar demonstrations were also held in Spain, the United States, Canada, Japan and Venezuela, organized by Colombian embassies.

"No more kidnappings" and "Yes to life" were among the slogans on display at a rally attended by some 500 people in Madrid including Colombian ambassador Noemi Sanin.

"I condemn violence as a way of doing politics and narco-terrorism," the ambassador told AFP.

Some 200 people, most of them Colombians, turned out in Paris, but the rally was condemned by the family of French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt.

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

Families of the hostages and left-wing groups have refused to back the demonstrations, saying they were a manipulation by Uribe's government.

FARC, accused of drug trafficking and holding some 750 people hostage, is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and the Colombian government.

The group pledged Sunday to release three hostages in poor health after seven years of captivity in the jungle.

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