Colombia: Peace Accords rejected

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Colombia peace talk

On 26 September 2016 the Colombian government and the leadership of FARC–EP signed the agreements that they have negotiated over the last four years. During these years, FARC declared unilateral ceasefires to undermine excuses made by the government not to negotiate, while the Colombian state continued to target and kill key FARC leaders. The two sides were joined at the signing by leaders from the US, Mexico, El Salvador, Uruguay, Cuba and the United Nations. Days later, the referendum on acceptance of the Accords was rejected by a small majority.

The agreement, signed in Cartagena, Colombia, was preceded by a special, tenth, Congress of FARC delegates from throughout the country. Held in Yari in the Selva of south west Col­ombia, over 200 delegates discussed the Havana Accords for a week and agreed on the steps to follow the Accords. Invited guests included Imelda Daza, leader of the Patriotic Union, which would have again played a vital part in the struggle for socialism in the towns and cities. They would have had five seats guaranteed in the two chambers of the 2018 Con­gress, the 102-seat Senate and the 161-seat House of Representatives. These are based on the votes cast for the Patriotic Union before thousands of its members, leaders and cadres, were butchered in the 1990s by establishment assassins. This evolving poli­tical party will have little time to consolidate its influence before the July 2018 Congressional election.

The bourgeois press never ceases to attack FARC, whilst sidestepping the greater part of the many more serious crimes of the state forces and their informal auxiliaries against the population. This has resulted in the defeat of referendum.

Even as the agreement was in its final stages of preparation, landowners’ hired guns have been killing indigenous rights campaigners. The office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in Colombia named 41 activists or human rights defenders killed in 2015. The local NGO, Somos Defensores, reported 63 murdered, up from 55 the year before, and said that 19 human rights defenders or activists had been killed and over 80 threatened up to the end of March 2016. For example, on 7 March, William Castil­lo, a member of Marcha Patriótica, was gunned down. A day earlier, Klaus Zapata, a member of the Communist Youth group, was murdered while playing football.

On 29 August three rural militants in the Department of Cauca were murdered: Joel Meneses was a historic leader of CIMA (Comité de Inte­gración del Macizo Colombiano) and community leader of the Campesino and Indigenous Process of the municipality of Almaguer, PROCAMINA. The two other victims were also working as community leaders of the Col­ombian Massif, in the same muni­cipality. They were developing def­ence activities against mining and for saving the water. These murders followed deaths of four Awá indigenous people in the Department of Nariño, also in south western Colombia, in the days before.

The struggle over the land, despite the brutal clearances of the past half century, will remain central to the class struggle in Colombia. Both FARC and the government have pledged to continue the peace talks.

Alvaro Michaels

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 253 October/November 2016