Colombia the continued struggle for peace and justice

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On 23 June, after three and a half years of negotiations, the US-backed Colombian state and its armed communist opponents, the FARC, finally signed ‘a bilateral and definitive ceasefire, cessation of hostilities, and laying aside of weapons’, to end the armed class struggle waged since 1964. In the last year the FARC held to a unilateral ceasefire despite continued attacks, killings and provocations by the Colombian military. Cuban President Raul Castro declared the peace agreement a ‘victory for the people of Colombia’.

The governments of Chile, Cuba, Norway, and Venezuela were hosts, mediators or observers in the process. However, the peace accords have yet to be fully finalised and will be subject to a binding referendum, perhaps in September. Disarmament should take place immediately after the final peace accord is signed. In January 2016, the UN Security Council agreed to send a mission of 350 unarmed representatives, mainly from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which excludes the US and Canada, to oversee redeployment by FARC troops to 23 ‘temporary hamlet zones for normalisation’. Once the FARC lists the combatants in each hamlet zone, the government will suspend all outstanding arrest warrants for them. Weapons will be surrendered to the UN over a 180-day period.

Extending the grasp of capital

This long struggle was constantly fuelled by Colombia’s ruling propertied classes in their lust for land and materials and their determination to strengthen their state. They have been fully supported by US imperialism, which has spent $10bn since 2000 in joint efforts to crush any resistance to the rule of capital. An estimated 250,000 people have been killed or ‘disappeared’ over the last 50 years, mostly civilians, and more than six million were forced from their homes and land in state and landowners’ campaigns of brutal land clearances and enclosure. Indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians make up a disproportionate number of the victims and play a key role in the FARC. Since 2014, ethnic minorities under the umbrella of The Afro-Colombian Peace Council and The National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia have advocated for inclusion at the peace table, but the Colombian government ignored them. On 8 March, these communities launched a non-governmental ethnic commission on the peace process called ‘The ethnic commission for peace and the defence of territorial rights’. It will work to defend their territorial rights after the peace agreement is signed.

Colombia’s right wing, centred on the landowners, is the core of resistance to the peace agreement. They have no interest in allowing secure landholdings for the poor. However, US corporations, desperately trying to reverse the loss of their government’s influence in Latin America in the last 20 years, have more recently been pressing for a peace deal that favours their safe access to Colombia’s wealth.

The next stage

The agreement covers six areas: rural development and land reform, the key issue in the original formation of the FARC; the FARC’s future political participation; the movement’s reintegration into civilian life; illegal crop eradication; transitional justice and reparations; and the FARC’s disarmament and implementation of the peace deal.

To meet the fear of another assassination campaign against FARC members and their political allies conducting peaceful political activity, the government ‘will encourage’ political parties and other sectors to sign a ‘National Political Pact’. This commits all to abandon the combination of arms and politics and the promotion of paramilitary groups. A ‘mixed protection corps’ to guarantee the security of demobilised FARC members will be run by the Interior Ministry’s National Protection Unit. In 1985 the FARC and other left-wing groups formed the successful ‘Patriotic Union’ alliance to fight elections openly, but from then until 1990 some 5,000 of its candidates and elected representatives were assassinated, including, in 1990, 100% of centre-left parties’ presidential candidates. This forced the FARC to return to the armed struggle. The current Mayor of Bogota, Gustavo Petro, a former M-19 guerrilla, is a survivor of this bloodbath. A National Security Guarantees Commission is supposed to develop and oversee policies to dismantle ‘violent organisations’ and protect organisations, groups, and communities in areas of historical conflict.

The National Liberation Army (ELN), the second largest socialist guerrilla organisation, began formal talks with the government in March 2016, after contacts between January 2014 and March 2016 in Ecuador, Brazil, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, whose governments acted as guarantors along with the Norwegian government. Cuba and Chile officiated as accompaniers. The government aims to pull them along in the wake of the FARC agreement. The struggle for socialists now will be to defend the FARC and its supporters.

Alvaro Michaels


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 252 August/September 2016