Colombia: US backs new terror campaign

FRFI 166 April / May 2002 

The Colombian elections on 10 March saw a massive rejection of the traditional parties, forcing the head of the Presidential Conservative Party to resign and its Presidential candidate for May’s election to withdraw. The Conservative and Liberal Parties lost half their seats. The majority of seats were taken by ‘independents’ supporting either the right wing, violently anti-FARC Alvaro Uribe Velez, who is supported by the fascist militia (AUC), or the ‘leftist’ Senator Antonio Navarro Wolf, an ex-rebel of the disbanded M-19 group. A new and sharper polarisation is taking place in the country’s electoral politics, undermining the long running deal between the Conservatives and the Liberals. ALVARO MICHAELS reports.

The elections for President which are due on 26 May will see this new pattern develop. Velez wants an expansion of military and paramilitary forces to up to one million and the elimination of 100 congressional seats. This classical fascist programme is based on an attack on corruption. In fact since 1999 the Colombian state has been massively re-arming in order to defeat the FARC, the strongest armed workers movement in Latin America. Now with retrained troops and hundreds of millions of dollars in new equipment, the outgoing President has begun the assault anew.

In early January, the Colombian government demanded that the FARC withdraw within 48 hours from the huge ceasefire zone (twice the size of Wales) the government conceded in 1998 after its forces proved unable to control the area. The ultimatum was suspended after appeals from UN Secretary Annan, but on 20 February President Pastrana finally announced the end of the three and a half year negotiations and gave the FARC two and a half hours to leave. As US-trained troops entered the zone, over 85 bombing raids hit ‘hideouts’, crops and airstrips, killing three civilians including a child on 21 February. 13,000 troops were ordered to its perimeter, whilst elite troops were parachuted in to seize the main town of San Vicente. Army spokesman Enrique Hernandez said ‘there hasn’t been any combat with the FARC but we must remember they’re everywhere!’ The assault came as the state announced budget cuts of $867 million (2 trillion pesos) for 2002 to reassure international capital that ex- ploitation is the name of the game.

The US imports 200 thousand barrels of Colombian oil per day, making it eighth in US rankings. After 11 September it was widely noted that the US imports a greater quantity of imported oil from Central and South America than it does from the three main Middle East producers. The US government will encourage even greater import of oil from its ‘own back yard’ and will be ever more concerned about the political conditions for additional drilling and exploration in Latin America.

In 1998 Colombia was the world’s seventh largest coal exporter, and was expected to be the fourth largest in 2000. This would make coal Colombia’s second largest export after oil (valued at $4.6bn in 2000), overtaking coffee. The role of Colombian raw materials for imperialism’s industries is well known (see, for instance, FRFI 158). But only seven out of the 30 dollars each barrel of oil brings will stay in Colombia, and that goes to the wealthy. The process of privatisation is well under way, with all key industries either held or falling under US or European control. Colombian workers’ unions are constantly opposing these privatisations – the theft of national assets by global private operators. As a result, they experience constant deaths and kidnappings at the hands of the fascist bands of the AUC.

The US-led ‘Plan Colombia’ has pushed forward the expansion and training of the Colombian army, provided more air power and allowed the reorganisation of electronic listening posts. Now US President Bush wants the US Congress to provide $500m more in ‘anti-drugs’ aid for the Colombian police and military in 2003 plus a further $98m in direct military aid. There has been a tremendous expansion of the terror campaign against anyone who shows the slightest resistance to landlords, employers and their state officials. This campaign is run by the ‘United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia’ which is funded by rich land owners and drugs money and is practically an extension of the army, recruiting many former soldiers. In this way US imperialism trusts that it can maintain its business allies in power, destroying any significant opposition.

The FARC’s call to boycott the elections comes from its bitter experience of the fraud of democracy in Colombia in the 1980s, when, following a number of electoral victories, the Patriotic Union – FARC’s political movement – was liquidated by death squads. Today 102 of the 1,000 parliamentary candidates on 10 March had convictions for arms or drug trafficking or embezzlement, or were under investigation for these crimes.

Colombia is a revolutionary powder keg and the butchery of the state’s unofficial armed campaign against the rural poor in their land clearances in government-controlled areas is impossible to disguise. The strength of the FARC is well understood by the international bourgeoisie. As the Financial Times said of it over a year ago, ‘a strong sense of class warfare pervades the organisation. Their peasant origins and historic interest in land reform also differ from some of the more intellectual, middle class concerns of other guerrilla groups.’ (26 January 2001) The FARC is drawn overwhelmingly from the rural poor. When members of the educated or lower middle classes take sides with the poor, they live alongside them. Like the leaders of the urban trades unions they are subject to systematic campaigns of intimidation and assassination. The struggle of the Colombian people has entered a new and more dangerous phase.

For information on the poisoning of the environment by US/Monsanto using ‘Roundup Ultra’ (in direct contradiction to Colombian law) see:

For summaries and links on the war against the workers: