Bomb severs transporation links between Popayán and Cali
Stay in Popayán long enough and sooner or later your connection to the world slips away, whether it be severed by bombs, blockades, or earthquakes.
This time, once again, it´s a bomb.
One hundred kilos of explosives last night blasted apart a small bridge on the Pan-American Highway near Santander de Quilichao, where the highway drops down from the steep Andean mountain slopes to the sugar-cane covered fields of the Cauca Valley. The military is blaming the FARC guerrrillas. They usually do.
The explosion was about midway between Popayán and Cali, on the highway that connects Popayán and the southern Andean mountains to rest of Colombia. Small vehicles – no buses nor trucks, but some ambulances – skirted slowly around the bomb crater on Tuesday.
Guerrillas from time-to-time blow up the bridges to the north and south of Popayán. Last year soldiers guarding the remains of another bridge delighted in informing me that the large gap in the centre of a bridge I walked across was the result of another FARC bomb. They suggested I get off the road before dark, then resumed guarding the remains of the bridge.
About this time last year the coffee strike shut Popayán down for about two weeks, with blockades on both sides of the Spanish-colonial, regional capital. First fruit and vegetables disappeared from store shelves, then baked goods and meat. Gas was smuggled in, can by can on the back of motorcycles over bumpy mountain backroads.
Back in 1999, Popayán was locked down for almost a month, during a strike by campesinos. Newspapers, television and radio repeated the government line, that the city was under siege by the FARC guerrillas. Better to paint the desperate agricultural workers as “guerrillas” and “terrorists” than recognize them and their issues. Tonnes of food were flown into the city´s airport during that strike.
As Semana Santa celebrations approach, Popayán residents are reminded that natural events dwarf the disruptive efforts of people who blockade and bomb. These are the Andes, and from time to time they move about. They frequently cause landslides and earthquakes. Almost 31 years ago, on Easter Sunday, the Popayán earthquake killed more than 300 persons and left thousands homeless.
Just another reminder that in these mountains if you´ve got somewhere to go, go today. Tomorrow it might not be possible.
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