BOGOTA—College students and non-governmental groups in Colombia are sending hundreds of letters to FARC guerrilla camps in an effort to encourage the rebels to stick with the country's shaky peace process.
The group started collecting letters for the FARC after Colombians narrowly rejected an historic peace deal between the government and the communist rebels in an Oct. 2 plebiscite.
So far almost 300 letters have been collected through Facebook, email, and even old fashioned snail mail. Organizers of the campaign say the number of letters is growing quickly.
“When the results of the plebiscite came in, we started to think about who was the worst off with the decision to reject the peace deal, and we thought about the guerrillas,” said Juana Oberlaender, one of the organizers of the campaign.
“They voted unanimously for the peace deal (in a conference held in September)…and we wanted them to know that in the cities, there are also people who are ready to begin a national reconciliation process. We wanted them to know that many of us were also stunned with the result” of the plebiscite, Oberlaender told Fusion.
The letter-writing campaign began with a Facebook group that asked people to write “a message of hope to those who want to leave their weapons behind.” Since then people have been writing in from major cities across Colombia, and as far away as Spain.
Campaigners say they plan to hand deliver the letters to the guerrillas, who had been preparing to demobilize prior to the peace deal plebiscite. If security concerns make the trip to the rebel camps impossible, they'll send the letters with the Red Cross.
The rebels and the government are currently holding a —delicate— ceasefire, while President Juan Manuel Santos holds meetings with opposition groups who campaigned against the peace treaty and would like to see it amended.
Here are some things that people have written to the FARC guerrillas as the future of the peace talks remains uncertain:
“Hello, I trust in you guys and I am happy that you opted for peace. I voted with my parents and I am also happy that (eventually) I will not have to live through war.” —Fernanda Castillo, age 8.
“I'd like to you to know that you are not alone. That a person like me, who has only experienced the war through TV and newspapers, is waiting for you with open arms so that we can build the country together,”— Maria, Bogota.
“I think there's much work to do, even beyond the peace accords, for us to have the country that we dream of. But this time, let's do it differently. Let's do it together, without weapons, or hatred, or different sides,” — Maria Clara, Bogota.
Not all the letter-writers voted for the peace deal.
“I was one of those who voted No,” wrote one letter writer who didn't sign his name. "I must be honest with you, I did not agree with some of the conditions that (negotiators) agreed on. But I don't want us to be enemies…This is a negotiation where there is an offer and then a counter offer…I think we still have a chance at peace, it won't be easy to get the government, the opposition and the FARC leaders to agree on something, but you'll see that an accord will be reached.”
“I confess that I am afraid. I fear the power of those who have resisted change…but it's easy to think there is no way out. We have to hold on to our hearts and keep trying. That's how life is, and that is how it works in the search of that better country we are all looking forward to.” —Camila, Medellin.
“You say you love your country. For the love of it, please give future generations the chance to live in a country without war. I wish you the best” —anonymous.
“It's not easy to write this letter, and I don't know if anyone will receive it, but like many things in this peace process that are uncertain we need to have faith to make them happen. There are many of us here who want to turn over a new leaf and give you an opportunity, and even though I am crying while I write this, I am sure that when you return to society there will be many of us who will lend you a hand and help you to construct a new life. I hope this (war) ends soon cause I can't wait to see our country in peace.” —Sylvia, Bogota.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.