CUCUTA, Colombia – Tens of thousands of Colombians and Venezuelans flocked to a border bridge on Sunday for a free concert that Grammy-winning rocker Juanes organized to help heal the worst crisis in Andean relations in decades.
Held atop the Simon Bolivar bridge connecting the northeastern Colombian town of Cucuta with San Antonio in Venezuela, the show also featured Colombian singer Carlos Vives, Dominican Juan Luis Guerra and Spain's Miguel Bose and Alejandro Sanz on the playbill.
Below the span, which was draped with a huge banner reading "Peace Without Borders," thousands of fans dressed in white enjoyed the music in a dried-up river bed.
Juanes' idea for the concert was born out of a bitter quarrel that started March 1, when Colombia launched a commando raid into neighboring Ecuador to kill a leading rebel commander and nearly two dozen other members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Venezuela and Ecuador both withdrew their ambassadors to Bogota in protest and sent troops to their borders with Colombia.
The three nations' presidents shook hands and reached a tentative detente soon after at a Latin American summit in the Dominican Republic, but Juanes, a Colombian, decided to push ahead with the concert to promote good neighborly relations.
"As a Venezuelan, I am happy that we are strengthening the peace with our Colombian brothers," concertgoer Alvaro Riano said Sunday as he hawked white T-shirts to the crowd.
"Music is a weapon of peace, and the people who came here, came ... to listen to the music," Bose told Caracol Radio before the concert.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe had planned to attend but canceled on Sunday, saying Juanes' manager asked him not to come because the show "was not to be a political event."