Colombia: terror deepens

Alvaro Uribe, President of Colombia, visited Tony Blair during the second week of July directly after meeting the Spanish Prime Minister to talk about arms purchases. His aim was to seek more support, more investment, and continued military links. Between 2000 and 2003 Ministry of Defence experts visited Colombia at least 10 times to advise on ‘counter-terrorism’ tactics and to provide training. Such backing means support for the Colombian army’s AUC terrorist allies.

In December 2004, the Colombian House of Representatives voted to let Uribe stand again for election in May 2006, a change to the constitution yet to be approved by the Constitutional Court but rejected by a previous national referendum. Meanwhile in June, Uribe pushed through a ‘Justice and Peace’ law to pardon the 20,000 strong AUC, a neo-fascist paramilitary force built by landowners, funded by drug dealing and which works with the army. The move will bring neither justice nor peace. It follows a deal in July 2003 on demobilisation which is to be completed by December this year. This June the imprisoned AUC leader Diego Murillo (aka The Terminator) directed the demobilisation of 450 AUC members. In July, 200 more from the ‘Heroes of Granada’ block were demobilised. Pardoned for their awful crimes, and with new jobs in the police, military, local guards, or with long-term unemployment payments, the deal is attractive. 4,000 have so far signed on. Effectively the government and paramilitaries are buying and selling mercenaries to sow terror in the countryside and towns.

As an effective state force is built through massive funding the Colombian military receives from the US, the AUC has become less necessary for the ruling class. President Clinton’s $3.5bn Plan Colombia, projected as a war on drugs when it was set up in 2000, was only ever intended to destroy the revolutionary opposition – FARC and the ELN. Colombia is the third largest recipient of US military aid after Israel and Egypt. The US wants to ensure access to oil and other natural resources. To ensure this, the AUC depopulates land through terror campaigns, and large landlords then seize it. Three million rural workers and small peasants have been displaced in the last 20 years, a figure currently growing by 700 a week. They are forced into the cities or across the borders to Venezuela or Ecuador.

In fact the AUC is as strong as ever, some 10,000 strong and it operates in a third of the country, along most of the north coast, in Magdalena Medio in the centre, and Narino and much of Putumayo in the south, where it accompanies the army. It murders and intimidates social workers, human rights activists, those opposing privatisation of oil and water industries, and those who owe them drugs money – such as 12 youth murdered on 19 April and 11 more on 21 April in the port of Buenaventura – or refuse to accept their writ in local political or business matters. In June the AUC ‘Liberator’s Bloc’ declared 20 members of the Teachers’ Union SIMANA ‘military objectives’. AUC supporters control about 30% of the national Congress, picking candidates for mayors, town councils and governors, and then running municipal contracts. Uribe is currently trying to reverse Congress’s rejection of the right of paramilitaries to stand for office.

FARC has constantly attempted to hold peaceful negotiations with the present and previous governments. It has called on the US to legalise narcotics in order to destroy the trade. The Washington Post has stated that ‘if the US keeps producing millions of drug users and addicts someone will be there to supply them’. Whilst the US administration boasts of the success of its fumigation policy in decreasing coca plantations by 21% from 144,450 hectares in 2002 to 113, 850 in 2003, the reality is that overall supply into the US has not been affected. Cocaine sold at roughly $1,000 dollars a kilo in the Andes fetches $80,000+ in New York, and the dealers who live in Miami are untouched. 95% of all cocaine revenues accrue to those outside Colombia. While 17,000 people in the USA die of illegal drug use every year, some 440,000 die from tobacco: the priorities don’t match. The idea of a ‘war on drugs’ being waged in Colombia is the most transparent rubbish imaginable. The aim is to destroy FARC and the ELN..

FARC resistance
Despite the whole-hearted support of US and European imperialism the latest Colombian ‘Plan Patriota’ has not defeated FARC. Not one FARC leader has been captured or killed, despite a price of $1m on their heads. In June 300 FARC guerrillas attacked an arms convoy near Puerto Asis in south-western Putumayo State, killing 25 soldiers despite immediate helicopter and aircraft counter-attacks by the state. The same weekend six more soldiers were killed in a state offensive in north-eastern Colombia. It took the government a week to relieve a FARC siege of Toribo in Cauca this year. In February 50 troops were reported killed. Officially the total is 130 this year. The lesson is that despite the terror, the resistance continues.
Victory to FARC/ELN!
Alvaro Michaels

FRFI 186 August / September 2005