Colombia: US intervention and rising popular resistance

FRFI 167 June / July 2002

The USA is stepping up its intervention in Latin America. In April Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! had the opportunity to interview a leading member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). As we go to press, Alvaro Uribe, the right-wing candidate favoured by the paramilitary death squads, has been elected President of Colombia. He has threatened to suppress the FARC.
Translation by Dalton Hilliard.

‘For some time the government was determined to terminate the Liberated Zone. We knew this, but we did not want to publicise it. Thanks to the intervention of friendly countries, including Cuba and Venezuela, it was possible to delay this. But the government was gaining time to adjust its military plan to terminate the Zone. To achieve this the government violated an agreement it signed to give a space of 48 hours to allow the evacuation of municipal buildings if dialogue was broken off. In the event, Pastrana made a statement at 10pm and at 2am the bombardments began. They were massive. We had never anticipated a military operation so large.

From a military perspective, the operation against us was a complete failure. Our comrades still in the municipal buildings managed to get out. We did not suffer casualties. There were casualties among civilians. They killed children and pregnant women and they continue killing civilians, but militarily, we did not suffer significant losses. The operation was such a failure that it resulted in the near immediate departure of the general in charge of the operations.

On the other hand, we have had great success in military action throughout the country. We are confirming the losses inflicted on the army and the paramilitaries and they exceed 300 casualties. We have also had losses, for that is war.

From a political perspective their operation was a failure. They made war and they lost. They have lost prestige and their party has fallen into crisis, along with the Liberal Party. The political result can be seen in the March congressional elections. In Colombia there are 20-22 million voters. 12 million Colombians did not vote, 60% of people. They rejected the rupture of the dialogue and President Pastrana’s politics. Add to this 12 million a further one million people who spoiled their ballots. More than 75% of the potential electorate did not count. The officials were selected by the vote of 25% of Colombian voters, a minority. The political fact is that the Conservative Party, the party of the President, entered a profound political crisis. And the Liberal Party, the majority party, also faced political crisis.

We are going to have elections for the President of the Republic at the end of May. After the rupture of dialogue the Conservative Party candidate, (the candidate of the paramilitaries, the candidate of Pastrana and the candidate of the USA) lost his support. The reason is simple. The language he employed was too warlike and Colombian people see that the war is not good for anyone. He said if he becomes president, he will support the direct intervention of the USA in Colombia.

What concerns us is the situation in Venezuela. The aggression opens up the possibility that a US client force could be located in a section of the border. They want to control this border, because that is where the petroleum is, and Venezuela could serve to isolate it from the rest of Latin America. Venezuela is a ‘bad example’ for the entire world, especially in South America. Ecuador, Argentina and all Latin America see the possibility that the revolutionary process in Venezuela could take root in other countries, which could give life to the ideas of Simon Bolivar and push that movement forward.

We have said that we do not support any candidate in the presidential elections. Not Garzon [trade union leader]. Not anybody. In current conditions the electoral process does not offer democracy. It is a mockery of the desires of the people for profound change. Garzon’s position, searching for peace and dialogue, is really a slogan, leading to another type of confrontation.

We do not abandon the possibility of a political resolution. We joined in dialogue. We believe that we can return to dialogue. There is a standard that we never abandon in war, and that is peace. We want peace. We are not determined to pursue a military solution. Nevertheless, if the confrontation continues to escalate, if North American participation becomes more evident, if they force us we are going to have to give a military answer. We want to return to dialogue and a political solution to the conflict. But if you observe everything during the last three years, the government did not grant a single aspect of the agreement it signed. The Pastrana government did not make a single social or political change to say there was good will to pursue peace. On the day they initiated military operations, they had signed a truce, which they themselves had asked for, to lower the intensity of the armed conflict. This was the day we had to break with them definitively, because the entire military operation was already prepared and the generals had guaranteed to the President that they were going to have military success to stop the direction of peace. They broke everything off.

The real reason behind the military operation was that the government was forced by the USA and the generals to break off negotiations and finish the Zone. What they are attempting in South and Central America, including Panama, is to further the world dictatorship of the USA. In this part of the world to impose el ALCA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), to return Panama to military occupation and to obstruct the trend that is gaining ground visibly in South and Central America. There exists a very real possibility of a confrontation with the USA to prevent the implementation of the ALCA and to search for an alternative to neo-liberalism.

The situation in Argentina is very serious for them. There’s no getting out of that one. The situation in Brazil is absolutely severe. Despite the fact that in the speeches of Lula he is trying to move a bit to the right, as an electoral tactic. It is very possible that Lula will end up winning in Brazil. Conditions are being created in which breaking with the USA becomes a significant possibility.

Most worrying for the USA is what they call the radical triangle: Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Because of petroleum and their intentions with Plan Colombia they have to stop the revolutionary process in Venezuela. For this they conduct interventions and are militarising the region.

But we also see another possibility: the failure of the military intervention in Colombia, the maintenance of the revolutionary process in Venezuela, the sharpening of the profound contradictions that exist in Argentina and in Brazil. These create political conditions for us to unite with Central and South America to prevent the imposition of the ALCA and to resist the whole strategy of the USA. Our unity, our solidarity and the active participation of all of you in the revolutionary processes are supremely important, to permit us to move forward.

Sinn Fein and Colombia

The three Irishmen, Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and Jim Monaghan, arrested in August 2001 in Colombia are still awaiting trial on charges of travelling on false passports and giving military training to members of the FARC. A US Congressional Committee, meeting at the end of April, which had been ‘investigating’ the case, came to the bizarre decision that the IRA had been using Colombia as a base for international terrorism working with Cubans, Basques and Iranians!

Sections of the ruling class in the USA are using the arrest of the three Irishmen to push for expanding their military intervention in Colombia beyond the boundaries set by Plan Colombia which – officially – ‘limits’ the USA’s military intervention to anti-drug programmes. One of the Committee’s conclusions is: ‘The threat of drug-financed terrorism and organised crime of a global reach, illustrated by developments in Colombia, must be addressed by changes in US law that will permit American assistance for counter-terrorism programmes’.

US imperialism is also using the revolutionary struggle in Colombia to attempt to draw Cuba into George Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ and legitimise it as a future target of the US’s ‘war on terrorism’. In sharp contrast to Cuba’s principled opposition to the US’s military intervention in Colombia, Gerry Adams issued a statement in response to the Committee’s findings saying ‘Irish republicans pose no threat to national security interests in Colombia’.