Monday, October 25, 1999 Published at 03:14 GMT 04:14 UK
Millions march for Colombia peace
Colombians unite to protest at the continued fighting
Organisers estimate that up to 13 million Colombians marched on Sunday to call for an immediate ceasefire in that country's 35-year-old civil conflict.
Protesters waved Colombian flags and small paper flags bearing the simple slogan "No Mas".
The anti-war protest took place as long-awaited peace negotiations began in a rebel-held southern town.
"We're fed up with all this violence. ... we want all the men of violence to cease armed actions against unarmed citizens," said Francisco Santos, one of the main organisers of the demonstrations.
Social worker Matilde Abril said she had to flee Casanare province because guerrillas, right-wing militias and common criminals had made life there too dangerous.
"We don't even go back there anymore ... not even on vacation."
Peace talks began
As protesters took to the streets, government and guerrilla negotiators from the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) convened in Uribe - a small mountain town in the heart of the demilitarised zone - for their first talks since mid-July.
While both sides boast that peace prospects are more promising than ever, they are also cautioning strongly against expectations of a quick resolution to the conflict.
Many Colombians are hoping the antiwar movement - unparalleled in the South American nation where peace activists have been systematically killed by extremists - will light a fire under the negotiators' feet.
The protests come amid an escalation in violence that dampened much of the optimism generated by recent moves to forge peace.
Many Colombians were jolted out of apathy by a surge this year in guerrilla ransom kidnappings and the August assassination of comic and peace advocate Jaime Garzon.
Not all Colombians were moved.
"To end the violence, you need jobs and education. You can't change everything with a march," said car-wash employee Henry Pineda, working as the marchers passed by.