Wonder what those red, yellow and blue flags are doing in the Frist North Lawn? They represent the flag of Colombia, and are a tiny part of a worldwide protest against a terrorist organization that is gravely harming that country.
For the past forty years, Colombia has suffered an intense and protracted armed conflict. Paramilitary and guerilla groups have simultaneously challenged the country’s sovereignty, weakening its democracy and harming its civil society. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are at the core of this conflict. This Monday, Colombians in 175 cities around the globe will unite to reject the FARC’s criminal deeds and claim for the humanization of the conflict. It is important that the international community understands that this group’s attempts to legitimize their criminal actions are just a facade to continue with their drug trafficking business.
Founded in 1964, the FARC is a self-proclaimed communist and revolutionary guerrilla organization. They claim to represent the poor in their struggle against the country’s wealthier classes, striving to seize power through armed revolution. These declarations notwithstanding, however, the group has largely abandoned its political agenda, and the FARC are now merely a drug trafficking and terrorist group with complete disregard for human rights and international humanitarian law. Since the late 1980s, the Colombian government has repeatedly attempted to negotiate a solution and peace settlement, without success. Directly or indirectly, all Colombians, including those of us here in Princeton, have been affected by their inhumane actions. In 1999, the FARC fitted a woman named Elvira Alvarez with a pipe-tube collar filled with dynamite, simply because she refused to pay an extortion fee. The collar was detonated at a distance, killing both her and the policeman who was trying to save her. In 2002, they kidnapped Ingrid Betancourt, a presidential candidate. She has still not been released, along with more than 700 people held against their will. In 2003, the FARC bombed a social club in Bogota, killing 36 people and wounding 76 more. Furthermore, in 2005, they massacred 192 people from an indigenous population in Toribio, Valle del Cauca. During the 1990s, about 35,000 civilians were victims of the armed conflict in Colombia. About 4 million people, 10 percent of the total Colombian population, have been forcefully displaced from their hometowns due to the armed conflict. These are but a few examples of the FARC’s treachery.
As Colombian students at Princeton University, regardless of our individual political views, we think it is time to set the record straight. Despite the FARC’s attempts to portray themselves as the people’s army, the international community should become aware of the pervasive and harmful effects that the group’s violent and criminal deeds have had on the economy, development and international image of Colombia. Drug trafficking represents about 80 percent of the FARC’s funding. Every sniff of cocaine links people around the world to the killing and kidnapping of hundreds of our fellow countrymen.
Despite its flaws, Colombia enjoys a stable democracy in which human rights stand at the core of its institutional design. The regime’s shortcomings can only be corrected through institutional and democratic means, through debate and ideas, through dialogue and tolerance. Thus, we emphatically reject any form of violence as a way to gain political agency, and believe that the rejection of kidnappings, landmines, mass killings and any other action against civil society should be unanimous.
This Monday, we will join a series of worldwide initiatives to protest the FARC. Demonstrations are planned in 51 Colombian cities and 125 other cities around the world, including 40 cities in the US. We want to invite the Princeton community to visit us in Frist, where we will have a display with background information on Colombia and on the FARC’s violent crimes over the past years. To declare that Colombians value peace and freedom, while remaining dedicated to democracy in the face of threats from guerilla groups. This is part of a series of activities that we are planning for the near future to raise our community’s awareness of Colombia’s complex political and social reality. “No more FARC!” is the battle cry for today.
Felipe Cala GS, Camilo Hernandez-Castellanos GS, and Margarita Ramos GS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to become a ‘Prince’ columnist? E-mail email@example.com by Feb. 15 for an application.