Downtown Bogota was a mass of people as Colombians took to the streets to call for the release of hostages held by Marxist rebels. Shouting and blowing whistles was their contribution to a global day of action calling on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia or FARC and other groups to end the kidnappings which have plagued the country for more than 40 years.
An estimated 24,000 people have been taken hostage in Columbia over the past twelve years – and 3000 of them are still being held.
Shakira, Colombia’s Grammy Award-winning singing star, made a direct plea to those who have seized hostages, saying they are just as much prisoners of the situation as those they have taken captive.
Meanwhile, related demonstrations were held around the world, including in Paris. Thousands gathered near the Eiffel Tower to hear French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt urge the rebels to free all their prisoners. She was rescued earlier this month after spending more than six years being held in the jungle by the FARC.
Despite the surge of public sentiment, analysts are not holding out much hope of success. The Colombian people may be more united than ever in their protest, but experts say ending the crisis requires in-depth negotiation. And that is unlikely to happen between the current government of Alvaro Uribe and senior members of the rebel groups.