María Fernanda Gualdrón normally works in the Costa Rican tourism industry, but on Monday she led demonstrators in San José in denouncing the political violence in her native Colombia.
Her march was one of 165 others around the globe, launched over Facebook, the popular online social-networking Web site.
“I’ve never even met the (Colombia) organizers,” said Gualdrón, her eyes swelling from emotion after giving a speech in Parque de las Garantías Sociales in central San José.
“The surprise is that now more than 45 countries and more than 165 cities are doing the same around the world,” she said.
About 2,000 people attended the protest here, according to organizers, though police put the number near 600.
The 1,000 T-shirts saying “Colombia Soy Yo” (I am Colombia) sold out, spokeswoman Gina López said. On the back, the shirts read: “No more hostages, no more lies, no more deaths, no more FARC.”
FARC is the Spanish acronym for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a leftist rebel group that has waged war for more than 40 years. Among its tactics is hostage taking. More than 40 people are being held by FARC, including Franco-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.
For Gualdrón, the message of the “Million Voices” march was clear. “We want the immediate liberation of the hostages.We want to live in peace.”
Colombian Ambassador to Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Fernández, present at the march, said his government supports the protests.
In an interview with news agency EFE, Fernández said there are 40,000 Colombians in Costa Rica, 10,000 of whom are here as refugees. He also noted that FARC, which also traffics narcotics, is an international concern.
Costa Rican Teresa Agüero, 76, denounced FARC and the violence in Colombia, saying, “I’m supporting them because it’s my duty, and the duty of all Ticos.”
Before the protest, FARC said it would free three ailing politicians it has held for more than six years.
Following speeches, the crowd marched two blocks to La Soledad Church for Mass.