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Colombia: Protests Against Kidnappings

After the murder of 11 deputies by FARC guerrillas, Colombians decided to go to the streets and yell “No More Kidnappings“. It started as a citizen initiative, but soon the democratic security government, big companies and mainstream media supported it and invited people to join. The huge demonstration took place on Thursday 5 July at noon. Even Second Lifers protested. But leftist Alternative Democratic Pole preferred to call its “own march”, because it didn’t want to be supportive of President Uribe, who is also considered [by them] to be responsible for the death of the local lawmakers.

equinoXio [ES] had a big special with some pictures from its “correspondents” in 5 cities (Bogotá, Medellín [twice], Cali, Manizales, and Pasto). Padrino José, writing from Cali, recalls his experience [ES]:

Hoy marcharon, estuve allí, pero lo que sentía era la soledad en que estaban las familias de los diputados, en medio de convocatorias de caudillos políticos aprovechando pancartas, banderas y muñecos llamando al rechazo, observaba la pesca en “río Cali revuelto” de algunos precandidatos en puja por las próximas elecciones. Pero lo más triste y lo que no quería escuchar era la forma en que fue tratada la hija del diputado Charry mientras leía el comunicado de agradecimiento en nombre de las familias y que fue abucheada por la turba mientras decía:

“… Nuestros muertos nos pertenecen. Gracias por movilizarse para rechazar las políticas del gobierno …”

Y son ellos, los familiares, quienes en una mezcla de dolor y soledad cobijada por una manta a la cual no se le puede objetar, tienen a mi parecer la mejor versión de los hechos: Promesas incumplidas, citas canceladas, ruegos aquí y allá en una búsqueda incansable de 5 años para su liberación y nada lo consiguió, la voluntad por parte de las partes por ayudar en el momento indicado era un derecho ya ganado y no lo recibieron, y para su sorpresa ahora cuando claman por sus muertos las voces de dolor parecieran ser interesadas y estratégicas y de seguro entorpecerán más el camino para llegar a un final.

They marched today, I was there, but what I felt was the loneliness of the deputies’ families, amidst the call from political caudillos that took advantage of banners, flags and puppets calling for rejection [of kidnappings], I saw the pre-candidates for next elections fishing in Cali river’s troubled waters. But the saddest thing and what I didn’t want to hear was the way deputy [Carlos] Charry’s daughter [Carolina] was treated while she read a grateful letter in behalf of the families and who was booed by the crowd as she said:
“… Our dead belong to us. Thank you for mobilizing to reject the government’s policies…”
And it’s them, the relatives, who in an unobjectionable mix of pain and loneliness, are sheltered by a blanket. They have, in my opinion, the best version of what happened: unfulfilled promises, cancelled appointments, pleas everywhere during a 5-year restless search for their release and nothing could be achieved. The will of the parts to help at the right moment was an already earned right and they couldn’t get it, and to their surprise, now, when they clamour for their dead, the voices of pain seem to be selfish and strategic and they will surely hold up the path to reach an ending.

In Bogotá, Marsares says [ES] that there wasn’t a big march since there were several meeting points, so there were smaller marchs all over the city. According to him, there wasn’t a big “human chain” from downtown as announced, but there were some clashes among the ones standing for a safe haven for 45 days for FARC in order for the release of the hostages and the others who claimed for a tougher policy against the terrorists. He also noticed the way some government officials were “instructing” pro-Uribe demonstrators.

Thilo Hanisch Luque posts a video and writes [ES]:

Quizás los terroristas de turno hagan oídos sordos al clamor nacional, como es la costumbre de la guerrilla. Pero al menos las familias de las víctimas se sintieron acompañadas en su dolor el día de hoy. Son más de 3000 secuestrados, aproximadamente.

Maybe the terrorists don’t hear the national clamour, as is usual with guerrillas. But at least the victims’ relatives felt [Colombians joined in] their pain today. There are approximately more than 3,000 kidnapped.

Atrabilioso’s [ES] Jaime Restrepo interrupted his vacation to celebrate and say “At last!”. A few months ago he started a campaign against kidnapping and asking for the -now unconditional- freedom of all hostages: “This is a beginning, but hope awakens amidst pain”.

Doppiafila [IT] writes in Italian “Good-bye apathy?” and analyzes three aspects of the demonstration: the intensity of the country’s reaction to the deputies’ murder, the position of the government and the role played by the two main television networks.

In questo caso è facile da riassumere: RCN e Caracol hanno promosso la marcia, ne hanno garantito il successo, l'hanno seguita minuto a minuto e l'hanno interpretata nei suoi significati a beneficio dell'85% dei colombiani che non leggono i giornali (pardon: il giornale).

È ridondante affermare che senza il lancio televisivo che hanno avuto, le marce non avrebbero avuto questo successo; superfluo anche dire che senza la diretta, l'impatto sociale sarebbe stato di molto inferiore – magari un servizio di due minuti la sera, nulla in confronto ai continui speciali dalle città più importanti. Importante però sottolineare questo lavoro di interpretazione, di premasticatura; facciamolo con un esempio banale – i cori.
Immaginiamo che due frange minoritarie intonino ciascuna uno slogan: una, filo governativa, “Uribe – Amigo – El pueblo está contigo” (Uribe Amico il popolo è con te); l'altra, d'idee contrarie, “Uribe – Paraco – El pueblo está berraco” (Uribe Paramilitare il popolo è incazzato).

Il buon giornalismo le mostrerebbe entrambe, contestualizzandole con equilibrio. Il cattivo giornalismo (quello di parte, per intenderci), si concentrerebbe su di una di esse (a seconda della parte), minimizzando l'altra. Il pessimo giornalismo farebbe dell'espressione più conveniente il centro della sua copertura, dandogli ad esempio il titolo a caratteri cubitali.

Da quello che ho potuto vedere, RCN e Caracol hanno evitato gli eccessi del “pessimo” ma sono stati ben lontani dal “buon”, facendo cosí un immenso favore ad Uribe – il quale gliene sarà riconoscente, come e quando potrà.

In this case it’s easy to summarize: RCN and Caracol have promoted the march, have guaranteed its success, have followed it minute by minute and have interpreted its meaning on behalf of the 85% of Colombians who don’t read the newspapers (sorry: the newspaper). It’s redundant to say that without the television push that they had, the march wouldn’t have had that success; it’s also superfluous to say that without the live broadcast, the social impact would be quite inferior… maybe a two minute report at night, nothing to compare with the continuous specials from the most important cities. It’s important though to comment on this work of interpretation; let’s make it with a banal example: the choruses. Let’s pretend two groups singing a slogan each: one, supportive to the government, “Uribe – Amigo – El pueblo está contigo” (”Uribe, our friend, the people is with you”); the other one, on the contrary yells, “Uribe – Paraco – El pueblo está berraco” (”Uribe, you paramilitary, the people is angry”). Good journalism would show them both, contextualized with balance. Bad journalism (the partisan one, so we understand each other) would concentrate on one of them (the second part) and minimizing the other one. Awful journalism would made the most convenient expression the centre of its coverage, giving that example the headline in red letters. Based on what I could watch, RCN and Caracol have avoided the “awful” one’s excesses, but they’ve been quite far from the “good” one, making this way a huge favour for Uribe, which will be acknowledged, sometime and somehow.

Finally, with his usual sarcasm, Bilioso slams the pretended “pacifism” of Colombians and the alleged “success” of the demonstrations, as FARC won’t return the bodies of the murdered deputies to their families and won’t stop kidnapping:

Dicen los medios masivos de enajenación que la marcha fue un éxito. Y no, no es cierto: es al revés, la marcha fue un fracaso. Si la marcha buscaba la liberación de los secuestrados entonces fue un fracaso ya que los secuestrados siguen en el monte y si la marcha buscaba la paz entonces es innecesario recalcar que fue un fracaso demoledor, otro, pues. […] Los marchantes, muy eufóricos ellos, salieron a pedir la entrega de los cadáveres de los 11 diputados del Valle asesinados por las FARC, ejército terrorista. Muy conmovedor ver a estos solidarios bogotanos pedir la entrega de los fiambres pero no recuerdo haberlos visto en el 2001 marchando en protesta por la muerte de 30 campesinos en el corregimiento de Chengue. Debe ser que se les olvidó. ¡Y eso que 30 es más que 11! Tampoco recuerdo haberlos visto en 1997 marchando en respuesta a la masacre de 49 personas en Mapiripán, masacre que duro 5 días. Es que en el mundo al revés 11 políticos son más importantes que 49 campesinos y eso que los primeros sólo tienen 22 riñones y los segundos 98. Y si de muertes espectaculares se trata tampoco recuerdo haber visto marchantes en el año 2000 cuando 15 campesinos fueron asesinados a garrote en Macayepo. ¡Qué olvidadizos! Ahora, que si de números se trata, la masacre de El Salado en el año 2000 se habría hecho merecedora de una nutrida marcha pues allí fueron asesinados a garrote y a cuchillo más de 100 personas. ¿O no? Claro que no, Bilioso güevón, ¿no ve que 100 campesinos no alcanzan a valer ni medio diputado? ¡Zoquete! Entiendo, es que 100 cultivadores que producen comida para el bogotano marchante no valen medio politiquero. Cosas de la democracia… Cositas raras como para believe it or not como que un presidente guerrerista salga a marchar por la paz. ¿Tiene sentido? Madrecita linda, ¿por qué no me pariste en Venezuela donde hay petróleo y reforma agraria?

“Mainstream” media say the march was successful. And it’s not true: it’s otherwise, the march was a failure. If the march asked for the release of the kidnapped then it was a failure because the kidnapped are still at the mountains and if the march asked for peace then it’s unnecessary to remark it was a devastating failure, another one. […] The demonstrators, quite euphoric, went to the streets to ask for the return of the corpses of the 11 Valle del Cauca deputies murdered by the FARC terrorist army. It was very moving to see these supportive Bogotans to ask for the delivery of the bodies, but I don’t remember seeing them in 2001 protesting on the death of 30 peasants in Chengue small village. They just forgot it for sure. No matter what, 30 is more than 11! I also don’t remember them marching against the massacre of 49 in Mapiripán, a 5-day massacre. In this upside down world 11 politicians are more important than 49 peasants, though the former only have 22 kidneys and the latter 98. And if we’re recalling “notable” deaths I also don’t remember seeing demonstrators in 2000 when 15 peasants were beaten to death with clubs in Macayepo. They’re so forgetful! Now, if we talk about numbers, El Salado massacre in 2000 would have deserved a huge march because more than 100 persons were killed with clubs and knives. Didn’t they? Of course not, you stupid Bilioso, don’t you see 100 peasants aren’t worth even half deputy? Jerk! I get it, 100 peasants who grow food for the demonstrators in Bogotá aren’t worth even half politico. Democracy stuff… Strange things for [Ripley’s] believe it or not such a war president going out and marching for peace. Does it make any sense? Mother of mine, why didn’t you give birth to me in Venezuela where there’s oil and land reform?

Bilioso also transcribes a bloodcurdling testimony of a survivor of a massacre perpetrated by paramilitaries.

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