Today’s nationwide protests are the fourth this year aimed at pressuring the FARC, as the drug-funded group is known, to free as many as 700 hostages before Christmas. Helicopters hovered over Bogota and car horns sounded as the marchers gathered. There are also marches organized for Madrid, New York and Caracas.
The FARC lost most of its valuable hostages in the July 2 rescue of 15 kidnap victims, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt (Greens) and three U.S. citizens, by Colombian military forces. On Oct. 26, former lawmaker Oscar Tulio Lizcano escaped through the jungle after eight years in captivity.
The ranks of the rebel army, founded in 1964 as a peasant- based, Marxist group, have been halved since Colombian President Alvaro Uribe took office in 2002 and pledged to attack the guerrillas in their jungle camps. As many as 11,200 FARC fighters have deserting, cutting their numbers down to about 8,000, according to government figures.
Kidnapping in Colombia has fallen 82 percent since 2002 and homicides are down 40 percent, according to the government. Attacks classified as terrorist in nature by the government are down 81 percent.
About 40,000 paramilitary and guerrilla fighters have handed in their weapons in return for reduced jail sentences and job training, according to the government.
Betancourt leads Colombia kidnappings protest
BOGOTA: Thousands marched on Friday in Colombia's main cities to protest kidnappings carried out by FARC rebels holding hundreds of hostages in secret jungle camps as part of their 44-year-old insurgency.
Colombians also demonstrated in other countries, gathering in cities as far apart as Paris and Beijing, where one group held a candle-light vigil.
Ingrid Betancourt, who was freed in a military rescue mission in July after years held by the rebels, led the demonstrations from Madrid, urging Colombians to demand that the outlawed guerrilla army free its hostages.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish initials FARC, kidnaps for ransom and political leverage as it tries to bring down the Colombian state.
"Free them now! Free them now!" shouted marchers in Bogota, clad in white T-shirts and waving the white flags that have come to represent Colombia's anti-kidnap movement.
Colombian employers let their workers out to join marches that filled town squares and main streets around the country.
French-Colombian politician Betancourt was snatched in 2002 while running for president on an anti-corruption platform. She left Colombia soon after her rescue due to security concerns.
Betancourt and three long-held American defence contractors were freed in a daring operation in which state security forces posed as members of a leftist humanitarian organisation.
"The world should remember that all human beings have the same importance as Ingrid Betancourt and the three Americans," said Marleny Orjuela, leader of a group that represents the families of kidnapped soldiers and police officers.
For more informations about Ingrid Betancourt: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingrid_Betancourt