There is a growing sensation in Colombia that the peace talks with the FARC guerrillas are “about to come to an end” – in success or failure, according to the government’s chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle.
"There is no development without peace. It should be understood that, for there to be development in a country, there must be an internal peace process,” says Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The Colombian army killed Marta Díaz’s son Douglas in 2006, dressed him in combat fatigues and reported him as a FARC guerrilla killed in a shootout. Díaz searched for him everywhere, in prisons, hospitals and morgues, until she finally managed to track down his remains in 2008.
"Out of love for the river, we reforest, recycle, and make this place beautiful," says a sign welcoming visitors to the Floragaita school, where a balsa (Ochroma pyramidale) tree with enormous white flowers guards the entrance to the lush green grounds on a hill in the heart of Colombia’s Andes mountains.
Romeo Langlois, a French reporter in Colombia, removed his helmet and bullet-proof vest and ran towards the guerrillas during fighting between them and Colombian army troops on Saturday, Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón reported.
"What matters at this summit is not what is on the official agenda," said Uruguayan analyst Laura Gil, echoing the conventional wisdom in this Colombian port city, where the Sixth Summit of the Americas ended Sunday without a final declaration.
During the closing session of the Social Forum of the Sixth Summit of the Americas, the broadcast signal was cut off, triggering protests from participating indigenous leaders. But that did not stop the voice of Abya Yala - the ancestral name of the continent - from being heard.
In preparation for the Sixth Summit of the Americas, the gathering’s Social Forum has held 25 meetings since September, as well as dozens of online working sessions, with the participation of some 7,000 people.
Analysts in Colombia have varied in their degree of optimism, but they generally agree that the release of the last 10 police and military hostages held by the FARC guerrillas, some since 1998, was a peace signal.
A thick fog flows over the eastern range of the Colombian Andes. Here and there, the constant wind lifts the clouds to reveal lagoons, cloud forests, and páramo, an Andean alpine ecosystem known as a "mountaintop sponge" for its massive water-holding capacity.
Illegal spying on human rights activists and journalists is still happening in Colombia, according to a new report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The dismissal of charges in Colombia against Swiss mediator Jean-Pierre Gontard, who helped negotiate the release of numerous hostages held by guerrillas in this country between 1998 and 2008, is "magnificent news, for bilateral relations as well as at a purely human level," Colombia’s ambassador to Switzerland, Claudia Turbay, told IPS.
"In the Andes, and all over the world, mining on mountains should be banned. Distinguished scientists and papers in the most prestigious journals are saying this," a regional planning expert in Colombia told IPS.