Colombia’s Marcha Patriotica

On April 21st to 23rd 2012, I attended the inaugural conference of the Marcha Patriotica (MP) in Bogota Colombia as a representative of the INSSP (International Network in Solidarity with Colombian Political Prisoners).  The Marcha Patriotica is a country-wide attempt to pull all the progressive left-wing, peasant, union, student, grassroots activists and politicians into one political party.  A similar attempt to unite the left in the mid 80’s, was called the Patriotic Union party (UP). That resulted in government supported, right-wing paramilitary death squads, murdering three UP presidential candidates and 4000 other UP candidates, leaders and supporters in a massive bloody massacre.   Those death squads are still very active, as a group called the Black Eagles has already publically threatened anyone connected to the Marcha Patriotica.  So far, after only three weeks, four Marcha activists have been murdered.  As well, many of the complaints raised during the conference, were related directly to Canadian mining and oil companies oppressing peasant farmers and workers.  Our Canadian pension funds and stock holders directly support and profit from these companies actions.  It would appear that the human and labour rights, supposedly protected in the Canada/Colombia Free Trade agreement, are not worth the paper they are written  on.

This new movement is lead by former Colombian Senator Ms. Piedad Cordoba with the support of a broad range of other activists and political leaders.  The conference hall was packed to overflowing with over 4000 brave activists and the march itself had over 100,000 people attending from all over the country.  President Santos brought in over 20,000 soldiers to intimidate and threaten the march.  Fortunately, thanks to the discipline of the activists, everything went smoothly and peacefully.

Lets hope the Colombian government listens to this democratic grassroots movement and doesn’t just violently cut it down once again.

Below are a few photos from the Marcha Patriotica conference and march.

Enthusiastic and brave delegates

Ms. Piedad Cordoba, in red, leading the Marcha

Of course Che was there

Some of the 20,000 soldiers watching the Marcha

and yet more soldiers

and water cannons waitng on side streets

soldiers shoulder to shoulder for many blocks

Our “security” was just students linking arms

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