Where does Bogota go from here?

I was out paying the rent. A banal and hardly soul satisfying event in my life.

Queues and Colombian banks.

The call from Alba came through onto my cellphone. Over the sound of fire engines, police cars and military sirens I missed it. It was 1102 on Tuesday morning.

More pressing on my mind has been my inability to buy my wife a birthday present for tomorrow. This thought was all too present in the elevator up to our apartment on the 4th floor of the building on Calle 64.

“When did you get in?”

“Just now.”

“I called. I heard an explosion and knew you were out in the street. I was worried.”

I checked my cell. Lo and behold, one missed call.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “It’ll be heavy police presence around the Universidad Pedagogica for the inevitable protests regarding the Free Trade Agreement with the US.”

Really, lights, sirens and noise are no strangers to our barrio. Living close to this university with its legions of militant students has always made life colourful, if not only for the politically charged graffiti emblazoned all over the faculty walls.

We turned on the news and there it was.

One car bomb diffused in downtown Bogota this morning and then another exploded at 1102 several blocks from where we live.

We lament the tragic loss of life that at this moment in time numbers 5. The target this morning was Fernando Londono, a former Minister in President Uribe’s government. They very nearly succeeded. He is currently in hospital being operated on to remove the shards of glass from the windscreen of his car that are lodged dangerously close to his heart, in his trachea, face and lungs. His ear drums are destroyed.

Sickening.

It appears that at the traffic lights on the Calle 74 an individual walked around the side of his car and tossed a bomb up onto the windscreen where it meets the bonnet. No vehicle, armoured or not is going to survive this.

Tragically his driver and another bodyguard were killed. The bus driver in the lane alongside along with other innocent bystanders lost their lives. It remains a miracle that more people did not perish at such a busy intersection.

I know it well.

Bogota is suffering.

The murderer (for me it is too early to point the finger of blame although government sources have already declared this to be the work of the FARC guerrilla group) turned and ran across the Avenida Caracas before hopping on an idling motorbike in the South to North lane.

Where does Bogota go from here?

People are saying that the violence in the country is escalating as the FARC push for peace talks with the government. By heinous acts of violence and atrocities in the heart of the capital the FARC will be, in theory, hoping to sway public opinion into forcing the government of Juan Manuel Santos to cede and yield to peace talks on the guerrillas’ terms.

On what was a major day in Colombian history, the nation has been tarred by this cowardly and mindless act.

(This entry was written on the day of the bombings and some of the facts are incorrect as news outlets received varying accounts. My news piece for Dialogo magazine can be read here. The whole event reminded all too much of London from the 1980s.

And finally, I would like to mention that this blog was picked up by the City Paper Bogota and reproduced in its print edition for July 2012).

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