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The National Peace Talks took place in a packed auditorium at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, in Bogota prior to a new day of mobilization in the city as the closing event of the Peace Congress that took place from April 19 to 22.
Todd Howland of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, Joaquin Camelo of the Peace Committee of the House of Representatives of Colombia, Marylen Serna of the organizing group of the Peoples’ Congress (which organized the Peace Congress) and the insurgent groups participated in the talks. The People’s Liberation Army (EPL) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) expressed their position in writing, while the National Liberation Army (ELN) did it through a video of commander Nicolas Bautista, aka Gabino, played at the auditorium before thousands of people. The national government did not participate.
Real World Radio’s correspondent in Colombia, Danilo Urrea, was at the Universidad Nacional, where he interviewed Eduardo Leon, a member of the team of the Peoples’ Congress, who was the general moderator of the Big Talk.
Juan Manuel Santos’s administration did not answer to the calls of the grassroots initiatives to talk about the most urgent issues of the national conflict “We do not agree with the government’s position of not discussing the development model caused by the social, political and armed conflict, because in that case we would not be talking about peace. Ultimately, the government continues to prevent the participation of the civil society and of the popular sectors. They conceal this through fora called from Havana, Cuba, and the regional tables”, said Leon as part of his assessment of the day. Havana is the place where the Colombian government is holding peace talks with FARC. The fora called by the government “are important, but they are not the appropriate peace-building mechanism in this country, which is the Colombian people”, said Leon.
Meanwhile, as to the position expressed by the different insurgent groups (ELN, EPL and FARC), Leon highlighted the agreement between them and the recognition of not aiming to replace the social movements in their demands. Also, the guerrillas, in their own terms, agree between each other and with the Peace Congress that the main subject of the negotiation is civil society, in particular those who have suffered the war, the social and popular sectors. “We believe that our participation (of the organized civil society) should be direct, autonomous, independent and decisive, the key mandate in terms of participation is to create a multilateral space that includes all the country’s social and political voices”, said Leon.
The organizers of the Peace Congress expressed their satisfaction with the events, the discussions and the Peace Talks. “In spite of the emergencies we had to deal with, the workshops worked well, people started little by little to overcome the impact of the logistic and climate difficulties, in order to define a social agenda and a framework for political action. We were able to do that”, said Leon.
About the media attention of the Peace Congress and its national and international impact “the alternative media reported a huge turnout. We were surprise to have nearly 3,000 people at some point”. “We believe that we have somehow broken the media barrier and the alternative media continue to be our main allies. We hope that this big turnout will force the mass media to cover these processes”, he concluded.
* Danilo Urrea is a member of CENSAT Agua Viva – Friends of the Earth Colombia.
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