BOGOTA: Some of Colombia’s most famous artists, athletes and writers, from singer Shakira to soccer star Falcao, are lending their support to the peace accord with Marxist rebels that aims to end a half-century of war.
Shakira, along with Juanes and Carlos Vives – two Colombian musicians popular across the Spanish-speaking world – sang stirring messages of reconciliation, forgiveness and love after President Juan Manuel Santos signed the peace pact Monday with the head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Rodrigo Londono.
“As Colombians, our most important mission now is to pardon,” Juanes wrote on Twitter.
Colombians on Sunday will cast ballots in a national referendum to approve the accord, which if approved would put a final end to a fratricidal war that has left more than 300,000 people dead or missing.
“My Colombia, we have much to do; taking care of our children and educating them will pave the path of peace,” Shakira said.
A video from Carlos Vives spoke of the importance of signing the peace pact, but cautioned that there was still a “long road ahead before we can reach a durable peace.”
In 2014, two years after peace talks were launched in Havana between the Colombian government and FARC, Vives composed the song “A Step Toward Peace,” which he recorded along with some 30 other Colombian artists.
A country that can forgive
Two Colombian soccer stars, Falcao and Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama, added their own words of support.
“I imagine a country capable of forgiving,” Falcao – whose full name is Radamel Falcao Garcia Zarate – wrote in the national daily El Tiempo.
“What do I want?” Valderrama asked in an interview in early September in Bogota.
“For my children and grandchildren to live in peace, and me as well in the years I have left,” he answered.
Nairo Quintana, a winner of the Vuelta de Espana, Spain’s most important cycling race, also urged his fellow countrymen to vote “Yes” on Sunday.
So have writers and poets like Hector Abad Faciolince, Santiago Gamboa, Piedad Bonnett, and Juan Gabriel Vasquez.
Also supporting a “Yes” vote is the Colombian-American actor John Leguizamo.
Some ‘No’ votes as well
However, a minority of Colombian celebrities have publicly opposed the peace deal.
Novelist and filmmaker Fernando Vallejo has denounced president Santos as a “low-life” for negotiating peace terms with “the most harmful and criminal group Colombia has ever known: the bandits of FARC.”
Writer Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza claims that the pact could transform Colombia into a 21st-century socialist country.
And John Jairo Velasquez, a former enforcer for drug lord Pablo Escobar who has admitted to killing at least 250 people but who now presents himself as a deeply remorseful truth-teller, has called for Colombians to embrace the far right and “stand together in ffavourof the ‘No’.”
The most prominent opponent is the Alvaro Uribe, the popular hard-line former president (2002-2010). Uribe, now a senator, claims that the peace deal gives impunity to atrocities and opens the doors to “Castro-Chavismo,” a reference to the leftist regimes in Cuba and Venezuela.