Hundreds of people, their hands dipped in white paint and chanting "Colombia is in tears but won't surrender" marched through the streets of the capital Thursday protesting a surge of rebel attacks in their country.
The protest came in the wake of a car bomb explosion Monday night, which was aimed at a convoy carrying Sen. German Vargas. The blast wounded nine people, including three of Vargas' bodyguards, but the senator's bulletproof car protected him from being injured.
Police say the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. appears to be responsible for the attack on Vargas.
Adding to the unease in Colombia's capital, police on Tuesday discovered nine rebel rockets aimed at the presidential palace that were allegedly planted in a house by the FARC. Police discovered the missiles after one of them exploded prematurely.
Colombian army chief Gen. Reinaldo Castellanos has warned that the FARC is planning an offensive in the coming months leading to legislative elections in March.
The protesters gathered near the site of the attack on Vargas as workers repaired damaged buildings, clearing away broken glass, filling in holes with cement and installing new windows. The protesters dipped their hands in white paint as a symbol of peace and left white hand prints on a low cement wall, which had chunks gouged out from shrapnel.
"We want to show that we are not scared and won't be intimidated," said Maria Isabel Nieto, a Bogota city councilwoman and member of Radical Change, the new political party Vargas formed this year to support the hardline policies of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
Nieto also said she expects more violence in the run-up to the March elections.
"This is a volatile period, but democracy will prevail," she said.
The FARC, which began its fight with the Colombia government in the 1960s, has since become heavily involved in drug trafficking. The group is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations, AP reported. V.A.