Juanes concert brings attention to violence in Colombian city

Medellin (Colombia), Sep 23 (IANS/EFE) Colombian singer-songwriter Juanes organised a concert in a violent district of his home city of Medellin, where turf battles among rival gangs have killed more than 1,600 people this year.

Tuesday’s concert, held on World Peace Day, also featured performances by other local artists.

Wearing a white T-shirt with a crossed-out gun and carrying his trusted guitar, Juanes told reporters Tuesday that ‘the problem in the ‘comunas’ (shantytowns) is exacting an incalculable toll’ and will ‘get out of hand’ if attention is not given to this critical situation.

He added that his presence in Comuna 13 – a hillside slum overlooking Medellin, capital of the northwestern province of Antioquia – was aimed at helping ‘people who are doing things the right way’.

The artist added that he also wants ‘to talk with people who are in trouble and listen to them’ to learn what they are looking for and what their expectations are.

‘It’s not just another concert. It’s a chance to reflect on the future of our children, which can be different if we all work toward that,’ Juanes said.

The concert began with a symbolic gesture in which local residents recalled two army operations in 2002 – ‘Orion’ and ‘Mariscal’ – to combat leftist guerrillas and drug gangs.

Several bands then took the stage before Juanes capped off the concert with a performance of his new hit single ‘Yerbatero’, accompanied by local Comuna 13 group Son Bata and other artists.

According to figures from different Medellin organisations, no fewer than 1,600 people have died this year and 2,266 have been forced to flee their homes due to turf battles among rival drug gangs, especially in the hillside slums that ring the city.

The most recent violent incident occurred Sunday in Comuna Noroccidental, where five people, including a minor, were killed in an indiscriminate attack by suspected drug-gang hit men.

Juanes, who has won more than a dozen Latin Grammy awards and one Grammy award, has also organised other ‘peace concerts’ in recent years.

In March 2008, Juanes organised a free concert on the Colombian-Venezuelan border aimed at calming tensions stemming from Bogota’s cross-border military airstrike on a clandestine Colombian rebel camp in Ecuador, a close ally of Venezuela.

Last year, the Colombian artist held a second ‘Peace Without Borders’ concert in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion.

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