Today, Colombia celebrates its National Day, and thousands, perhaps millions, of people are expected to join mass rallies calling for the liberation of hostages held by FARC guerrillas. The group’s kidnapping policy has sparked renewed revulsion among ordinary Colombians. Flags and T-shirts saying “No! to violence” are everywhere, ahead of the marches for peace.
The FARC is thought to hold about 700 hostages, but no-one really knows for sure. That number includes people seized in the mid-1990s, many of whom have never been heard of again.
Similar popular protests are taking place all over the world. More than 30,000 people marched in Madrid, echoing Colombia’s call for an end to kidnapping and violence. A march in Paris will be led by Ingrid Betancourt, the French-Colombian politician recently freed in a dramatic military operation which infiltrated the FARC chain of command. She has been re-united with her children who live in France, and she has said it is too dangerous for her to return to Colombia for the time being.