Colombia: renewed state onslaught on FARC

The assassination of FARC leader Alfonso Cano on 4 November has renewed the hopes of the Colombian state that it can defeat the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. These hopes will be in vain. FARC is based in the countryside where 5.2 million Colombians have been displaced with appalling brutality since 1948, most of them indigenous peoples and peasants. Colombian president Juan Santos speaks of restoring land stolen from these people to defuse the growing opposition to the ruling class. Yet the reality is that, without state violence, the wealthy and their foreign financiers cannot cling to their privileges.

In September, newly-appointed Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon promised an extra $550m military spending, with orders to ‘deal the final blow to the FARC’. But despite the loss of several leaders in the last three years, FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) have increased their actions in many areas, including attacks on key energy installations, in the face of an intense military campaign directed against them, supported by US technology and Israeli advisers.

Alfonso Cano was FARC’s top political emissary. He launched the Bolivarian Movement for a New Colombia in 2000, and was in charge of the Colombian Clandestine Communist Party. Rodrigo Londono-Echeverry, or Timochenko, who has a strong military reputation, has now been elected FARC leader.

The Army and paramilitaries are continuing to murder peasants, and then pretend the corpses are those of  FARC or ELN guerrillas. They are also returning to an old deceit of dressing up as FARC members to rob and kill. A new wave of narco-paramilitary groups, BACRIMs, has been created with ex-members of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, a paramilitary organisation set up by wealthy landowners to fight the FARC. These urban groups join other regional paramilitary gangs and sections of the police to steal from workers and small businesses.

University students strike

In October Colombian university students refused to attend classes until the government withdrew a bill aimed at privatising public universities. Inspired by the Chilean student protests, massive demonstrations blocked the capital on 10 November. 550,000 public university students went on strike. Former vice president Francisco Santos, said on radio that students on strike ‘will be faced, forcefully, with the legal arm of state repression.’ Subject to a wave of protest he formally apologised the next day for saying that the state should use tasers to control the protesters. On 16 November the students returned to classes in return for the president’s promise to demilitarise the universities and withdraw the bill, although this will require a vote in Congress. The students continue to demonstrate against it.

Alvaro Michaels

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 224 December 2011/January 2012