Today your reporter is on assignment in Bogota, Colombia.
Colombia is known as one of the most dangerous places in the Western hemisphere. Guerilla warfare and drug trafficking have plagued this country for decades. Violence and kidnapping have become ingrained into the daily lives of most Colombians. One can never be completely at ease here.
Colombia has become known as the kidnapping capitol of the world in recent years. In 1998 alone, there was an average of nearly five kidnappings per day, leaving many families to grieve or pay huge ransoms to mostly leftist rebel gangs.
The rebels and other paramilitary groups finance their criminal activity with the money or seek publicity and use the abductions as means to negotiate with the government. And until recently, these were effective weapons of terror against the people and government of Colombia -- effective only until recently, when the urban middle class became targets of kidnapping and the day-to-day lives of many Colombians were being directly affected by the violence.
This has forced the people of Colombia to voice their anger for the first time. They have been gathering publicly, and in large numbers, to protest the kidnappings and urge their government to seek out a peaceful dialogue with the various political factions.
Many of the protesters are mothers or wives of abducted soldiers. Others are relatives of anonymous civilians. Hope, that an end to the rampant kidnapping is near, is what keeps them vigilant.