Friday, August 10, 2007
In an unprecedented public debate in Bogotá’s central Plaza de Bolívar, Colombia’s President Álvaro Uribe was challenged by a schoolteacher who had walked more than 1,200 kilometers across the country to draw attention to the fate of his soldier son, kidnapped by guerrillas for almost ten years.
President Uribe, ... rejected any exchange during a frank and often short-tempered debate on the steps of Colombia’s Congress.
Over the jeers and whistles of thousands of Colombians ... President Uribe refused to ‘give even one millimeter’ in the form of negotiations or concessions to what he called ‘criminals.’
The President demanded that the Farc free, without preconditions, all of the estimated 2,000 hostages it is thought to be holding, and then, and only then, he said, would the government listen to the Farc’s demands for social justice.
‘The families of the kidnapped victims are in the middle of a political game between the Farc and the government,’ Moncayo said
‘Don’t compare the government of a democracy to these terrorists,’ President Uribe retorted.
Meanwhile, President Uribe, ... angrily responded to shouts from the crowd to deny that he was connected to far right paramilitaries and narco-traffickers, saying, ‘I am not a front man for anyone… I don’t have one dollar in a foreign bank.’
The paramilitaries, who had claimed to be patriots fighting the guerillas, are now known to have killed as many as 14,000 Colombians over the last 20 years, including trade union organizers, indigenous activists and campesinos - often in order to steal valuable land to grow cash crops for export and coca for the drug trade.