BOGOTA – Some 5,000 people, most of them Indians, marched Wednesday in downtown Bogota to protest a pact that gives U.S. soldiers greater access to Colombian military bases.
Members of grassroots organizations, Indians, students and unionists took part in the so-called “Patriotic March,” walking from the National University of Colombia to downtown Bolivar Square in a peaceful protest against the official independence bicentennial celebrations the day before.
In addition to rejecting the military accord that gives U.S. troops greater access to at least seven military bases, the demonstrators sought to challenge the notion that Colombia is a sovereign and independent nation 200 years after its declaration of independence from Spain on July 20, 1810.
“The emancipation process that began with the Battle of Boyaca and took greater flight with the project of Simon Bolivar has been frustrated in Colombia, where there have been some political, historical and economic realities indicative of dependence on the United States,” student leader David Florez told reporters.
A group of Indians who had gathered in the capital since Monday participated in the march and denied allegations of infiltration by leftist guerrillas.
“(Those accusations are) a way to deny grassroots groups the chance to express themselves, to tell the country what they really think about the past eight years and the participation of civil society in the bicentennial,” opposition Sen. Piedad Cordoba, who participated in the march, said.
Cordoba, who has successfully mediated the release of hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group, was referring to the two presidential terms of conservative President Alvaro Uribe, who will step down on Aug. 7. EFE