Category Archives: Colombian people

Taxi drivers block Bogotá streets in protest [video]

Last Friday (27 July), Bogotá woke up with its main avenues blocked. The powerful taxi drivers’ group did it in protest because 8 of them have been murdered this year, the latest one, Mario Orlando Velásquez, 39, on Thursday night. The above 17-minutes Caracol TV report, broadcast at Friday noon (and co-presented by lovely Silvia Corzo), summarizes the chaos and everything most Bogotans had to go through in order to arrive to their workplaces or their schools or colleges.

It was too late when Bogotá mayor, leftist Luis Eduardo Garzón, himself elected mostly because of the votes of groups as the taxi and bus drivers’, ordered police to dissolve the protest and unblock the streets by force, after the local government and the taxi drivers’ representatives concerted a meeting for talks toward the resolution of their concerns around 10:00. The following video, posted by a left-wing group magazine, shows the police abuses in some points of the city. One taxi driver says they’re fighting for their own lives:

Since the Transmilenio system was blocked (their drivers were caught playing parqués), and some bus drivers joined the protest, people had to walk, ride a bicycle or trucks (even TV crew vans) in order to get to their destinations. Despite most people agree the drivers’ reasons to protest are fair and right, a lot of them don’t endorse the way they chose. The latest location unblocked was Quirigua, a neighbourhood northwest of the city, where the traffic started to flow again after 12:30.

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Colombian senators scorn victims of guerrilla and paramilitary violence [video]

The above Caracol TV news report compares the way Colombian Senate treated pro-Cuban ELN leader Francisco Galán and paramilitary leaders Salvatore Mancuso, Ramón Isaza, and Iván Duque alias Ernesto Báez three years ago, with its scorn and indifference towards 30 victims of the violence by these groups, FARC, and some members of the Colombian Army this week. While Galán and the Mancuso boys were listened and applauded, the relatives of the dead Colombian common people puts to this “40-year low intensity war” weren’t even heard by almost 80 of the 91 Senators (from 102). Most of them were from pro-Uribe parties, even though some of the victims have suffered from attacks, massacres, death threats and murders perpetrated by FARC or ELN guerrillas (Uribe’s enemy number 1), such as El Nogal car-bomb in 2003, or the violence from the drug-dealing cartels, as former police officer Ricardo Gómez. Victims from Machuca and Bojayá massacres, relatives of FARC hostages and people murdered by paramilitaries because they belonged to the Patriotic Union party in the 1980s narrated their tragedy, but around 24 July at 20:00 only 35 of the 91 Senators who signed the attendance list were listening their testimonies. Continue reading

Colombians protest against kidnappings

After the murder of 11 deputies by FARC guerrillas, Colombians decided to go to the streets and yell “No More Kidnappings“. It started as a citizen initiative, but soon the democratic security government, big companies and mainstream media supported it and invited people to join. The huge demonstration took place on Thursday 5 July at noon. Even Second Lifers protested. But leftist Alternative Democratic Pole preferred to convoke its “own march”, because it didn’t want to be supportive of president Uribe, who is also considered [by them] responsible for the death of the local lawmakers.

equinoXio had a big special with some pictures from its “correspondents” in 5 cities (Bogotá, Medellín [twice], Cali, Manizales, and Pasto). Padrino José, writing from Cali, recalls his experience:

They marched today, I was there, but what I felt was the loneliness of the deputies’ families, amidst callings from political caudillos taking advantages from banners, flags and puppets calling for rejection [of kidnappings], I saw the pre-candidates for next elections fishing in Cali river’s troubled waters. But the saddest thing and that what I didn’t want to listen was the way deputy [Carlos] Charry’s daughter [Carolina] was treated while she read a grateful letter in behalf of the families and who was booed by the crowd as she said:

“… Our deads belong to us. Thank you for mobilizing to reject the government’s policies…”

And it’s them, the relatives, who in a unobjectionable mix of pain and loneliness sheltered by a blanket have in my opinion the best version of what happened: unfulfilled promises, cancelled appointments, begs everywhere in a 5-year restless search for their release and nothing could achieve it, the will of the parts in order to help in the right moment was an already earned right and they couldn’t get it, and to their surprise, now, when they clamour for their deads the voices of pain seem to be selfish and strategic and they will surely hold up the path to reach an ending.

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Colombian television nostalgia [videos]

First, I must apologize for the lack of updates on this blog. I’ve been quite busy at work, but I’m back. I’ll bring you a lot of what Colombian blogosphere said about paramilitary chief Salvatore Mancuso’s deposition last week in a post for Global Voices Online on Thursday.

So, I want you to relax and enjoy these classic videos from the old Colombian television. Before 1998, all Colombian free-to-air television was state-run, which granted several hours a week to private companies on two national networks. Two of those companies became television networks in July 1998. Nevertheless, some YouTube users, such as televidentecolombiano, juanrincon3006 and comando670, among others, have digitalized some of their dusty collection of TV recordings in VHS and Betamax tapes. The result is these interesting videos, which bring Colombians a lot of memories of good ol’ television.

Noticiero Promec was a 1980s primetime news show. In this clip, we have some special moments of Colombian history, such as the Palace of Justice siege in 1985 or the murder of Liberal presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán in 1989. Ah, of course, the presenter is the well-known, beloved and hated Jota Mario Valencia, currently in a morning show on pro-Uribe RCN TV.

This is a compilation of some old Colombian TV production and programming companies logos and curtains (the most recent are from around 1990), including quite old Caracol TV (currently a network) logos with a snail (Caracol stands for Cadena Radial Colombiana, “Colombian Radio Network”, but “caracol” is Spanish for “snail”).

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More on Fernando Vallejo nationality issue; VP Santos controversial TV interview

Yesterday I picked up some of the Colombian blogosphere reactions to controversial writer Fernando Vallejo’s renounce to Colombian nationality. Today appeared two more posts about it which are quite worthy. The first one is from DieGoth, a right-winger writing on centre-left digital magazine equinoXio:

If I spoke about a country filled with:

  • Murderer policemen
  • Murderer soldiers
  • Murderer drug dealers
  • Corrupt, murderer politicians
  • Murderer kidnappers
  • Murderer guerrillas
  • Murderer paramilitaries

Vallejo would say it’s about Colombia. But he might also speak about… México. Switch oil for fat? Who gets that? There’s something else in the poison Vallejo spit on Colombia, but I’m not really interested on that. […]

What would you renounce to if they told you you can’t regret of that?

I, without any regrets, would renounce to be a Colombian if an absurd candidate win the election, were re-elected and there were more people supporting him than rejecting him. Something like renouncing to be a Venezuelan, if I’d live in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, or as it will be called for sure shortly, Socialist Republic of Venezuela. Because you don’t renounce because of a president, but because of a whole people you don’t share from the root with the idea of how things should be done.

El Editor reacted this way at a comment there:

What a little convincing is this harangue against Vallejo signed by a guy as Diegoth who, like Jaime Ruiz [a controversial right-wing blogger], has done nothing but blame certain idea of “colombianness” for all of Colombia’s ills.

I thought, Diegoth, that you’d be happy that Vallejo tore his passport up. After all, that would be the most consistent position regarding the discourse you’ve been maintaining so far.

And then in a post:

[I]f they conducted a survey among the [Colombian] young girls signing on foreign wedding agencies, the unemployed who leave for USA and Spain, the people seeking Canadian and Australian citizenship, and the students like me who go the hell away to another country, you would realize we the rats are hurrying for leaving the ship. You have to see, for example, how Colombian women chase foreigners who land in Colombia. […]

Let’s change the subject. On Tuesday night, during an interview in pro-Uribe Fox News-like RCN Televisión network, Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos (whose family owns the only national newspaper) said that if the U. S. Congress didn’t pass the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia, it may “review its relations” with the U. S. No, please, don’t laugh, it’s serious. But the controversial part comes now: he said that as many as 30 Colombian Congresspeople may be jailed for the parapolitics scandal. Reaction was huge. Interior Minister Carlos Holguín Sardi said Wednesday that “everyone is innocent until proven guilty”, Foreign Minister’s office had to clarify U. S. “relevance” and Colombia’s “respect” for the Congressional debate on the FTA, and President Álvaro Uribe ordered Santos to “correct” his remarks. The Vice President sent a letter to Congress and will meet some Congresspeople on Thursday in order to do that. But, what was Santos meaning?

Journalist Felipe Zuleta has an hypothesis:

Pacho [Santos] wants the gringos to argue with Uribe. With it, U. S. government turns its back to the Palace’s mafioso [Uribe] and put him to wander trough the world running away from Americans and Colombian “judiciary”.

His commentators, as Orlando el curioso, support him:

Bogotá’s oligarchy is in frank “rebelliousness” against the Medellín Cartel and it’s not willing to lose its 150-year hegemony because of the drug lords who are now usurping House of Nariño.

What they want is to oust Viceroy Álvaro de Uribe y Vélez (a. k. a. el Patrón [the nickname Pablo Escobar used]) to avoid an eventual presidential victory for [opposition leftist] Democratic Pole in 2010, because of the teflon wear and tear the ‘carriel’ and ‘arriero’ little emperor may suffer.

Pachito [Santos] needs to arrive to the Bolívar’s throne during these last two years of the mafia term in order to design from there the strategy who allows him to put there the candidate supported by the traditional bi-partisanism and stop the Democratic Alternative Pole.

Some even say that candidate would be former president and OAS general secretary César Gaviria Trujillo, currently leader of the centre Liberal Party, who would become an “obstacle” for any leftist political group in Colombia.

Víctor Solano says:

Again, the media are the showcase of the inappropiate remarks made by the high officials of the Colombian government. […] Mr. Santos: everything you say will be used against you and it doesn’t matter how you appear because even if you wear pyjamas or short pants, [Colombian] citizens will see in your face the Vice President, the government.

Controversial writer renounces his Colombian nationality

Writer Fernando Vallejo, also known as the “master of swearing in Spanish language”, announced early this week his renounce to Colombian citizenship. Vallejo, born in Medellín, has criticized outspokenly and with sarcasm Colombia’s endless war, the Catholic Church, president Álvaro Uribe, and has even called Spain “the shame of human kind”. It is said he likes teenage boys and is an animal rights activist. Once he wrote (his novels are written in the first person): “In your dreams! With pleasure I’d hit the Pope on his ass, but even touch a little animal of God?”

In a communique broadcast on Caracol Radio on Monday, Vallejo, author of Our Lady of the Assasins (novel dealing with violence in Medellín which was turned into a movie in 2000), said:

Colombia slammed its doors at me in order to earn a life in a decent way other than government and politics, which I despise, and put me to sleep on the streets covering myself with newspapers along the Carrera Séptima with its ragged homeless and stray dogs, who I consider my brothers since then. […]

One year ago [Colombia] wanted to jail me because of an article I wrote on SoHo magazine pointing at the contradictions and the ridiculous things [found] on the Gospels. That was supposedly an offence against religion and I got sued. Offences against religion in the country of impunity! Where murderers and genocidal killers walk free on the streets, as the paramilitaries, which the blessing of his accomplice, the shameless Álvaro Uribe who they re-elected for presidency. Since I was a child I knew that Colombia was a murderer country, the murderest on Earth, heading year by year, unbeatable, the statistics of infamy. Later, on my own experience, I came to understand that beside being a murderer, it was abusive and miserable. And when they re-elected Uribe I found out it was a stupid country. Then I ran for naturalization in Mexico, which I was granted last week. So let’s make it clear: that bad country of Colombia is not mine anymore and I don’t want to know a thing of it. I want to live the rest of my life in Mexico and I want to die here.

Vallejo’s decision has caused both approval and outrage at the Colombian blogosphere. With anger, Óscar Ortiz says:

What dignity will this man have, because he promotes sexual abuse to underage boys, homosexualism and resentment to the race, this guy who enjoyed to pay children for them to please his sexual fantasies, some of them also devoted to crime and murder, or guess where the inspiration for both the movie and the book “our lady of the assassins” comes from. It was his life, as a young thief in Medellín city.

Carolina, from Con senos y con sesos, slams Vallejo this way:

I don’t care a bit, mister Vallejo, what you think of this land which gave you birth and which precisely, because it’s so “murderer”, gave you the enough material for you to write your controversial stories, I don’t care a bit because, for me, you are a foolish coward who argues, as so many others, that he leaves the country because it’s not offering him anything. If it’s not offering anything to them, wouldn’t it be because people like you has not anything valuable to offer or to do for this country?

Peter P@n, from Cali, expresses:

But to say that Colombia is a stupid country, the murderest on Earth and to say that overseas with its characteristic rhetoric and eloquence, is like to say bad stuff about his ex-girlfriend and disclose with his friends, for example, that she’s “lousy on bed”.

At Piso Tres, Velvet says:

Vallejo is wrong, of course, when he calls all Colombians with those adjectives. It’s also true he can be using the proper noun “Colombia” to give to understand and give it even more strength to the fact that during several generations a lot of Colombians have been killing themselves. Whatever the reasons Vallejo has to generalize that way, the reaction of the big majority of people who have given their opinion is also disproportionate taking his claims as a personal offence, something that doesn’t make much sense anyway.

On the contrary, Juan Buridán praises Vallejo’s “authenticity”:

Among the lame nationalism, so fashionable since Uribe’s arrival in office, this new manifestation of ‘pissing off anyone’ will seem a terrible affront for a lot of people […] It’s offencive that someone renounces his/her nationality, but it’s not offencive that the government, administration after administration, keeps negotiating impotently the State’s autonomy and Colombian citizens before the violent [groups] , in the middle of a happy impunity, or that the Spanish king or royal household keep being honoured as if we were still part of their domains.

Some commentators at journalist Felipe Zuleta’s blog also agree with Vallejo:

  • I also feel very ashamed for “bad-living” in a country which has been kidnapped by the worst criminals, where the narcoparamiltaries torture and kill for thousands and most of the “decent” people (here the murderers call themselves decent people) hide and lie about that. I’d like to live in other country too and not to know anything that happens here, but I’m jailed in a country which has lost its mind and a nationality I reject.
  • It’s worth to say that here the only ones who feel proudly Colombian are the drug lords and all their derivations. Mafia is number one Colombian pride.
  • Vallejo renounced his nationality because of the shame he feels for the ones ruling us: the Medellin Cartel on his new presentation.

Off-topic: First, please check out my recent articles at Global Voices Online. And join us and let’s celebrate equinoXio digital magazine’s (where I contribute once in a while) first anniversary.

We should not be surprised

Una de las imágenes mostradas por Caracol Televisión

A few minutes ago I published a featured article at equinoXio digital magazine, about the dozens of starving children who died in poor Western Chocó department. In short, I said that as Colombians turn their attention, at least for a moment, to this issue, the real responsible people (the “Social Protection” [Labour+Health] minister, the governor, President Uribe, their predecessors, etc.) are passing each other that responsibility.

The issue, though not surprising as I state on the title, was brought by national network Caracol Televisión last weekend, when it showed dramatic pictures of little children with malnutrition, denounced by the Ombudsman office (which usually is never paid heed) and some religious groups working at the zone, strategically located and filled with paramilitaries, guerrilla and transnational african oil palm companies. The Chocó department, which is officially bankrupt, receives a lot of money from central government, which is allegedly stolen by local politicians and bureaucrats. The control instances don’t work either. The governor suspended his Holy Week vacation, as Bogotá weekly newspaper El Espectador reveals that he was put in power by pro-government politicians who just want to keep their power there.

This week President Uribe was there to “take charge” of the situation and install a provisional Army hospital there, as the populist he is, of course. Back in Bogotá, some commentators ask for dissolving the province and share it out among neighbouring Antioquia, Risaralda and Valle del Cauca. As usually happens in Colombia, the issue will be forgotten within two or three weeks, while another tragedy, there or elsewhere, occurs. Meanwhile, Colombians should act instead of getting surprised. The question is how. If they can mobilize to take out a popular but not-so-well behaved television presenter