Concert for peace held on Colombian-Venezuelan border

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Juanes performing at the New Orleans Jazz Festival.
Alejandro Sanz performing in Buenos Aires in 2007.

Tens of thousands of Colombians and Venezuelans attended a free concert Sunday, held on a bridge linking the two countries. It was organized by Grammy-winning rock artist Juanes to celebrate the end of the diplomatic crisis between Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador, and to further improve peaceful relations within the region.

The "Peace Without Borders" concert was staged atop the Simón Bolívar bridge, which connects the Colombian town of Cúcuta with the Venezuelan town of San Antonio del Táchira. "It would have been much more practical and simple to do it in a city," Juanes told the Miami Herald, "but the border is a symbol of peace between all countries. And this message is for everyone, all the countries in Latin America and the U.S. as well."

Concert goers gathered in a dried-up riverbed to hear music by many notable Hispanic performers, including Colombian singer Carlos Vives, Dominican musician Juan Luis Guerra, Spanish musicians Miguel Bosé and Alejandro Sanz, Venezuelan musician Ricardo montaner, and Ecuadorian singer Juan Fernando Velasco.

I think they all share my feelings: How can we use our music to support this, use our art for something important?


Juanes said the artists were "super responsive" when invited to perform. "I think they all share my feelings: How can we use our music to support this, use our art for something important?" he said.

"This is a celebration of the unity between Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia," Carlos Vives said on the stage. "We want our police and military officers to go home," he added, referring to the Colombian hostages held by leftist group FARC.

FARC was the center of the recent diplomatic crisis, which began when the Colombian military conducted an air raid against the organization inside Ecuador territory. Venezuela sided with Ecuador in condemning Colombia for the raid, and they each moved troops to their respective borders. The crisis was ended when the nations' leaders shook hands at a summit.

"It's not that a song by Alejandro or Carlos is going to change people," Juanes said. "But music becomes an excuse to send a message, that we're all here together building peace, that we are here as citizens and this is what we want, and we have to be heard. I think the governments have to understand and listen. We don't want to get involved in conflicts between people."

Colombian president Alvaro Uribe had planned to attend the concert, but canceled when Juanes' manager told him the show "was not to be a political event" and asked him not to come.

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