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Thousands of Colombians march for peace


Bogota, Apr 9 (EFE).- Thousands of Colombians filled the streets of this capital and other cities Tuesday to support the peace process being negotiated by the government and FARC rebels, in the most pluralistic rally that anyone here remembers, with President Juan Manuel Santos and leftist groups marching together.

The only sectors missing were the most extreme conservatives, for whom military action is the only way to end Colombia's decades-long armed conflict, and some members of the opposition, who see the march as nothing but a ploy by Santos to win votes in the next election.

Police, soldiers, victims of the conflict, defenders of human rights and politicians buried their years of differences and united their voices on a sunny day in Bogota.

Rivers of white-shirted people poured through the streets brandishing signs calling for peace and expressing support for the negotiations that the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, began last November in Havana.

On one stretch of El Dorado Avenue, Santos, first lady Maria Clemencia Rodriguez and members of the ruling party marched just a few meters (yards) away from young leftists led by former Sen. Piedad Cordoba.

Thousands of Indians, Afro-Colombians and peasants, who every day risk being caught in the crossfire of soldiers and rebels, traveled in hundreds of buses from different regions and, after spending the night in the capital's El Campin Stadium, went into the streets to march.

Even retired soccer star Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama and the singer Fonseca had their white shirts on and joined in the marches, which started from different points around the capital and converged at the downtown Plaza de Bolivar.

Colombia has "the chance to change" its history of violence, Santos said in an interview with Efe.