Peace in Colombia


Last night before the circus of the Clinton Trump debate happened, something incredible occurred. An event I’m sure wasn’t mentioned in many parts of the world. The Colombian government and the FARC signed a peace agreement after more than 70 years of violence and war. 

People think Colombia is a dangerous country for the mafia. This isn’t true. They more or less keep to themselves. The guerillas were the problem. About 70 years ago, the government took away land from farmers and poor people. There was a lot of violence and hurt involved in this process. The victims eventually created their own army and started fighting with the government. 

I don’t know the details, but I know there were many horrific acts of kidnapping, torture and murder. People lost their entire families, homes and some lost limbs. Many have been left with deep psychological scars. 

Captain Cool is proud to be Colombian and is proud that after two failed attempts, the chief of the FARC and the president of Colombia have managed to reach an agreement of peace. The signing of the treaty happened here in Cartagena, a 15 minute walk from the marina. We decided to take a walk to see how close we could get. 

The security was very tight. They closed off traffic for miles. I can understand why. There were politicians from all over the world who came to observe the signing. Even walking was difficult. We were stopped within half mile in each direction as we didn’t have an invitation. 

The centre of Cartagena which is normally full of cars, taxis, motorcycles, people, music and horns honking was absolutely dead. It was so eerie. The only cars were police or official cars. There were police on all corners. CC commented that they weren’t carrying their long rifles as they normally do in these instances. He took it as a sign his country is achieving peace. A huge act of peace was about to happen, yet there was no one on the streets preparing for it. 

As we got closer to the convention centre where it was all happening, we started seeing small groups of people, people walking in pairs or on their own. Many were tourists wondering what was happening. We were again stopped from entering a street and as we were talking about what to do, a group of maybe 40 people started shouting, “Queremos entrar!” which means, we want to enter. The police officer guarding where we wanted to go, moved closer to the group. A street cleaner signalled a break in the security gate and with a cheeky smile motioned for us to come through. The police officer holding his gun gave us a huge friendly smiled and waved us through. We joined the group, but there was no luck. Security was tight. 

We went to a hostel we work with to ask if we could watch the signing on their TV. It was quite a moving ceremony and I was grateful that my level of Spanish was such that I could understand the gist of the stories and the gaps were filled by CC. Both the president of Colombia and the chief of the FARC were so proud and so happy that finally after all this time, they could be at peace. The last country in the Americas to achieve peace. What a proud moment!

As is customary in the countries where I’ve attended historic or patriotic events, military planes flew over trailing smoke of the colours of the Colombian flag. We could see it on tv and then heard it as they flew over the hostel. CC and I smiled at each other at the significance of the event. 

The president of the United Nations gave the first speech, followed by the chief of the FARC. He had almost finished his speech when we heard live a loud “phhhsswwww!!!!!!!” All of us in the hostel panicked, people came out of their rooms with their hands covering their heads with looks of sheer terror. CC and I grabbed onto each other waiting for the bomb to explode. 

I glanced at the TV and the Chief was looking at the sky in fear and then a smile. CC said, “Super sonic planes.” I said, “Bad timing!!!” I still question the appropriateness of the planes as the sound is so much like a bomb! The Chief started laughing and carried on with his speech. The president started his speech and said the planes were supposed to be a symbol of peace. 

We left the hostel and walked to the convention centre where everyone was leaving. Classical music was playing and I was still shocked at the silence of the streets. CC said the final part of the process is next Sunday, the 2nd of October, when the people of Colombia will vote. I know there were big celebrations in Bogota and other parts of the country. Perhaps Cartagena hasn’t been affected so gravely by the guerillas or maybe many are against the signing of the peace treaty and so there isn’t reason to celebrate. 

As I watched a group of indigenous women sing about how their village was affected by this war, I was deeply moved. Their eyes showed sorrow, pain and hurt. As they sang the song and the crowd gave them applause, there was courage, pride and a sense that although they lost so much, they weren’t going to lose more or let it stop their lives. They are true warriors. 

I feel very fortunate to be here at this time. It is a time of change and restoration. The damage can never be repaired or the losses repaid. I know the Colombians will rise to show the world their wonderful, positive, upbeat and genuinely kind hearts. Colombians are truly beautiful people and now they can show their potential. Congratulations Colombia!

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