Monday, February 20, 2012

A Message Marathon for the Kidnapped

A young police officer stands before a banner paying homage to a kidnapping victim. 
Since Saturday, on Plaza Bolivar, they've been reading messages for kidnapping victims who may or may not be able to hear them in captivity in Colombia's jungles and mountains.

Tables set up in front of the
Catedral Mayor de Bogotá.
The 110-hour marathon, which ends Thursday, was organized by Colombian police and military, the Voces del Secuestro (Voices of Kidnapping) radio show and the Colombia Soy Yo NGO.

Kidnapping is a grim part of Colombia's long-running armed conflict. Historically, the nation's leftist guerrilla groups have carried out most of the kidnappings, for both economic and political reasons. Apolitical criminal organizations also kidnap, just to win ransoms.

Reading messages sent in
from all over the world. 
Thankfully, kidnapping has decreased in recent years, and many of the FARC's most prominent hostages have either escaped or been freed by the military. But Colombians were reminded of kidnapping's tragedy last year when the FARC guerrillas murdered three policemen and a soldier whom they'd kidnapped and held in the jungle for as long as 14 years.

The government demands that the guerrillas release their hostages immediately and without preconditions. Some left-leaning organizations - which seem to me to be guerrilla sympathizers - support the guerrillas' proposal that the government exchange kidnappees for imprisoned guerrillas. But the government argues that that would only free the guerrillas to return to violence and encourage more kidnapping.

During the message marathon, they've been reading thousands of messages sent in from countries across Latin America and Europe. You can listen live on Colombia Soy Yo's website.

Voces del Secuestro and other radio programs regularly transmit friends' and relatives' messages to kidnappees in the jungle.

Find information about kidnapping on Pais Libre's Website.

Related posts: Lest They Be Forgotten

The FARC's Countless Unseen Crimes

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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