Colombia: FARC – 45 years of fighting for peace

On 20 May the Colombian Senate began the process of allowing a referendum on whether President Uribe can stand for a third term. This is part of a ruling class strategy to complete the creation of a centralised state with an iron grip throughout the country. Central to this strategy is a continual, brutal war against the mass of the people, and their expulsion from the land to establish huge single crop estates in the hands of a few billionaires. The war and land expropriations created 400,000 internal refugees alone in 2008, four million since the 1980s. Half of those displaced are unemployed, living in miserable shanty towns in shocking poverty.

Since 1948, state violence against the poor has forced them continuously to use arms to defend their lives. The revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (FARC-EP) was formed 45 years ago in the highlands of Marquetalia by guerrillas who had survived an extermination campaign directed by the Pentagon. Ever since then this revolutionary communist movement has waged an armed defence of the rural poor against the state. From its 1964 Agrarian Programme, to its present Bolivarian Programme for a New Colombia – a democratic, Bolivarian path to socialism – FARC has been determined to seek justice for the poor. It demands a National Agreement for Peace to ‘overcome the national shame of an illegitimate government... creator of death and poverty...[which] supported by Washington...guarantees, by blood and fire, security for investments by transnationals that steal our resources.’

The obstacle to peace
President Uribe’s state executive today is determined to destroy FARC. Uribe’s policy is one of permanent violence, a ‘final solution’ of complete and utter submission by the working class to a well armed and unified state.

In reorganising the state with US money. Uribe has had to rein in and redirect the fascist narco-gangs which were created by local landowners to terrorise the poor when the state was itself insufficiently armed. Many have now been incorporated into the army, police and local militias. Big fish who resist are being arrested. In revenge, some, such as ‘Don Berna’, have made damaging revelations about Uribe’s past links with the AUC death squads and those of his allies. In July 2008, Carlos Garcia Orjuela, the architect of the campaign to permit Uribe a third period of office, and president of the ruling political party, was arrested for using AUC death squads to intimidate voters in Tolima in 2001 when he was President of Congress. Another Uribe loyalist, Congress ex-President Luis Humberto Gomez Gallo, was arrested in October 2007. By then some 70 congressmen had been investigated by the Supreme Court for connections to the AUC and 32 detained, the majority Uribe allies.

Despite the mountain of revelations concerning business corporations’ direct role in the war against the working class, no penal action has been taken against companies such as Chiquita Brands, Drummond, Postobon, Brasilia, or Carbones del Caribe, all exposed by AUC chief Salvatore Mancuso in 2007 as directly arming or funding anti-working class paramilitary groups. Mancuso was extradited to the US in May 2008 to be charged with trafficking drugs and terrorism. Thirteen other AUC leaders were handed over with him. Another paramilitary chief, Francisco Enrique Villalba Hernandez, who denounced Uribe as directly responsible for the horrific massacre of El Aro, Antioquia, was murdered in April 2009. These are warnings to other heads of the AUC not to speak of Uribe’s past or present.

Uribe aims to raise his armed forces to over 450,000 with the largest US military funding in Latin America. Yet despite some tragic leadership losses in the past year, FARC remains a powerful and unbeaten force: in March alone, 297 soldiers were killed and 340 wounded in combat with FARC forces. The Colombian ruling class faces unceasing resistance.

Alvaro Michaels

FRFI 209 June / July 2009