- Created: Friday, 18 September 2015 12:10
- Written by James Petras
On 22 May FARC suspended its current ceasefire after yet another attack by Colombian state forces the previous day that killed 27 revolutionaries at a cost of at least 10 government forces. This included Jairo Martinez, a negotiator at the Havana talks, who had returned to report the state of the peace discussions with his comrades. President Santos called this a ‘legitimate action’. The 36th round of discussions in Havana between FARC and the Colombian state representatives had only just been completed in mid-May. FARC persisted with the next round starting 25 May, despite the killing of another FARC commander, Roma Ruiz, that day. FARC representative Pablo Catatumbo stated that ‘We’ll proceed with cool heads and ardent hearts, we cannot throw away our determined efforts in more than three years of talks.’
On 20 February, the US government appointed Bernard Aronson, George Bush’s former Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, as a special envoy to the two-and-a-half year long Colombian peace talks in Havana. This is an ominous step. While negotiators have so far reached partial deals on land reform, ending the illegal drug trade, removal of land mines, and participation by former rebels in politics, US requests to extradite at least 60 FARC guerrilla members are a critical barrier to any final agreement.
In a further attempt to halt the bloodshed in Colombia the communist-inspired Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) declared an indefinite cessation of hostilities with the Colombian state on 18 December 2014.
'We have resolved to declare a unilateral cessation of fire and of hostilities for an indefinite period, which should transform itself into an armistice. ... This unilateral ceasefire, which we hope to prolong over time, would end only if it is proven that our guerrilla structures have been the object of attacks from the security forces.'
On 16 November the Colombian government suspended peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Havana following the capture of Army Brigadier General Ruben Dario Alzate on the same day. FARC captured Alzate in civilian clothes along with a corporal and a lawyer, deep in their own territory at Las Mercedes near the city of Quibdo, Choco. He was captured in response to continued state attacks on FARC supporters. Alzate is the highest ranking military officer ever made a prisoner of war in Colombia. In sharp contrast to the Colombian government's continued practice of killing FARC members whenever possible, the release of the prisoners was negotiated soon afterwards. Alzate and his escorts were released on 30 November.
In the 14 June presidential run-off election, Juan Manuel Santos (leader of the Social Party of National Unity or ‘Party of the U’), who stood as the candidate for the three party National Unity Coalition, won Colombia's presidential contest. He took nearly 51% of the votes against the Democratic Centre party candidate Oscar Zuluaga’s who polled 45%. Zuluaga was the narrow winner of the first round in May by 29.3% to 25.7% of the vote. The final outcome depended on the swing votes of those who had voted for the other three main parties, the Colombian Conservative Party (Partido Conservador Colombiano), the Alternative Democratic Pole (Polo Democrático Alternativo) and the Colombian Green Party. The mass of the workers and peasants had no candidate to represent their interests and did not vote. Santos will be inaugurated as President in August for another four years.
On 6 November 2013, FARC representatives in Havana agreed ‘in principle’ to end the military campaign in defence of the people if the state agrees to essential democratic changes. This challenges the capacity and willingness of the Colombian bourgeoisie to give way to the most basic demands of the masses. Even if it does, conflict between the two main social classes will inevitably continue, and with a ruling class long habituated to the use of systematic cruelty to retain its wealth and power, this will be by no means peaceful. Alvaro Michaels reports.
Since November 2012, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) and the government have grappled fiercely with each other in negotiations taking place in Cuba. Colombian President Santos, backed by US imperialism, is attempting to force FARC to comply with a well-prepared scenario aimed at breaking its political influence and dispersing its members. FARC, however, is holding firm and making demands as socialists, in the interests of the masses, through its ‘Bolivarian Programme for a New Colombia’. Alvaro Michaels reports.
Discussions which started last November in Oslo, Norway, between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government continue in Cuba. Central to the agenda are: land redistribution; a secure and open electoral process to allow FARC’s political representatives and allies - the 10-year-old underground Bolivarian Movement for a New Colombia (MBNC) - to campaign for office; a national solution to the production and sale of cocaine, and compensation for war victims. At the start FARC declared a ceasefire, yet the government refused to reciprocate. Under continued attack in the field FARC returned fire from 20 January 2013, while remaining open to a bilateral truce. The discussions continued.
On 27 August, President Santos of Colombia announced that his government had agreed to engage in formal discussions with leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) with the aim of ending the 48-year civil war. These talks will begin on 8 October in Oslo and will then move to Havana. The agreement follows six months of exploratory talks in Cuba and will be the fourth attempt in 30 years to end the war.
Santos was Minister of Defence (internal repression) in the preceding government of millionaire rancher Alvaro Uribe. Despite his continued assaults and bellicose statements, Santos recognises that the FARC will not be defeated by armed force. The systematic attempt to liquidate the FARC leadership, rather than negotiate peacefully, has not succeeded. From 2010 Santos started to put out feelers, but continued the war, killing FARC leaders Mono Jojoy and Alfonso Cano. Rodrigo Londono, Cano’s successor, took up these contacts. Between 23 February and 27 August this year there were ten exploratory meetings out of which emerged the agenda for the forthcoming talks, with its five main points.* Central to these are democratic guarantees for the FARC and ‘in particular for the new movements that arise after the signing of the Final Agreement’, including access to the media. Colombia’s congress passed a law in June creating a framework for amnesties and ‘pardons’ for rebel leaders.
The assassination of FARC leader Alfonso Cano on 4 November has renewed the hopes of the Colombian state that it can defeat the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. These hopes will be in vain. FARC is based in the countryside where 5.2 million Colombians have been displaced with appalling brutality since 1948, most of them indigenous peoples and peasants. Colombian president Juan Santos speaks of restoring land stolen from these people to defuse the growing opposition to the ruling class. Yet the reality is that, without state violence, the wealthy and their foreign financiers cannot cling to their privileges.
Expelled from its Manta military base in Ecuador from 18 September, the US has reorganised its military infrastructure in South America so that Colombia becomes the regional hub for operations. On 14 August, it concluded a secret deal with Colombian President Uribe, allowing US Southern Command the use of seven military bases – three naval, and two each for the US air force and army. South American states immediately called an emergency meeting of UNASUR to discuss their response to this threat to their security.
On 20 May the Colombian Senate began the process of allowing a referendum on whether President Uribe can stand for a third term. This is part of a ruling class strategy to complete the creation of a centralised state with an iron grip throughout the country. Central to this strategy is a continual, brutal war against the mass of the people, and their expulsion from the land to establish huge single crop estates in the hands of a few billionaires. The war and land expropriations created 400,000 internal refugees alone in 2008, four million since the 1980s. Half of those displaced are unemployed, living in miserable shanty towns in shocking poverty.
Since 1948, state violence against the poor has forced them continuously to use arms to defend their lives. The revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (FARC-EP) was formed 45 years ago in the highlands of Marquetalia by guerrillas who had survived an extermination campaign directed by the Pentagon. Ever since then this revolutionary communist movement has waged an armed defence of the rural poor against the state. From its 1964 Agrarian Programme, to its present Bolivarian Programme for a New Colombia – a democratic, Bolivarian path to socialism – FARC has been determined to seek justice for the poor. It demands a National Agreement for Peace to ‘overcome the national shame of an illegitimate government... creator of death and poverty...[which] supported by Washington...guarantees, by blood and fire, security for investments by transnationals that steal our resources.’
FRFI 163 October / November 2001
Who is spending billions of dollars systematically despoiling thousands of hectares of agricultural land and forest, poisoning the eco-system, forcing tens of thousands of poor peasant families off the land they struggle to cultivate, making them sick, killing their animals, driving them hundreds of kilometres to the appalling slums of the larger cities? The US government has planned and is organising and paying for this terrorism. The aim of the notorious ‘Plan Colombia’ is to drive the poor from the land. ALVARO MICHAELS reports.
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.
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.
FRFI 169 October / November 2002
On 7 August, with sharpshooters surrounding Congress, US spy planes overhead and 20,000 soldiers and police on alert, Alvaro Uribe was inaugurated as President of Colombia. He arrived in an armoured truck. Just after all assembled foreign ‘dignitaries’ had taken their seats, the FARC fired 120mm projectiles at the Presidential Palace, hitting it three times. During the day electric pylons were blown up across the country, and fighting between the FARC and the drug-funded ‘Farmers Self-Defence Groups’ in Cordoba province left 50 dead and dozens wounded.
Sixty per cent of the population is now in deep poverty, 50% of the rural population is unemployed, 15 state bodies are bankrupt, and the external debt has risen over the past four years from 32% to 50% of GDP. A state of open class war exists between a deeply reactionary US-funded state machine and armed workers and peasants.
FRFI 172 April / May 2003
Gloria Ramirez, member of the National Executive of the Central Workers Union in Colombia and Carlos Lozano, editor of the Voz newspaper and member of the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Colombia spoke to FRFI. They explained that the level of state and fascist paramilitary repression is escalating with the direct military intervention of the United States through Plan Colombia.
Carlos Lozano said the US government had openly interfered in the Colombian civil war for 40 years: ‘Plan Colombia is an instrument of intervention that, despite the name, has been adopted in the US Congress. It is a plan that never was approved by any Colombian institution.’
FRFI 174 August / September 2003
Plan Colombia is restructuring the country to meet the demands of US imperialism which needs to plunder the huge natural riches of South America to maintain its global position. Britain and other European powers are keen to join in. Fascist Colombian President Uribe is pressing home the asset-stripping programme of the US. The telecom industry has been privatised and now the state oil industry Ecopetrol is to follow. A referendum in October aims to create a corporate state that will finally end the years of internecine struggle within the ruling class. Meanwhile the state is concentrating its attack on the resistance of the working class and the poor peasantry. Alvaro Michaels reports.
On the third anniversary of Plan Colombia, the pretext of a war against narco-farming is barely maintained. One way or another, the same quantity continues to be grown, to make real money for the wealthy producers in Colombia, and the dealers in the US and Europe. The massive use of chemical sprays simply destroys the lives of the ordinary peasants, driving many of them from the land. Those that hold on are offered inducements to grow export crops instead of much-needed staples. These are subject to speculation and over-supply so that the peasants risk debt and starvation. On 26 June, resistance forced an Administrative Tribunal to order the suspension of aerial fumigation, and, conceding the right of Colombians to enjoy a healthy environment, to order proper studies of the chemicals used. This did not stop Uribe announcing the continuation of such schemes in speeches he made during July.
The current aim of the Colombian government is clear: prolong the role of Colombia as a US client state, prolong the presidency of Uribe, prolong the attack on the revolutionary opposition. Peace and justice are not on the agenda, unless it is ‘peace’ brought by the Colombian Army, its terrorist accomplices in US special forces, independent contractors and the fascist paramilitary AUC. Any opposition to control of Colombian assets by private US interests must be destroyed; this is essential in the case of FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the ELN (National Liberation Army). ALVARO MICHAELS reports.
On 13 December, Colombian police, assisted by corrupt Venezuelan national guards, abducted Ricardo Granda, foreign minister for FARC, from Caracas. He was taken to the Colombian border and detained by Colombian police. The Venezuelan government delayed a public response to consider the implications, before giving details that included the £800,000 bribery of security officials. In September 2004 Interpol had rejected a Colombian request to put Granda on its international wanted list because the charges were seen as political.
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.
The revelation of the secret Ralito Pact between leaders of the fascist AUC and a number of senior elected officials has lifted the lid on political collusion between the paramilitary death squads and successive Colombian governments, in particular that of current President Alvaro Uribe. An investigation into the collusion has already led to the arrest of eight of President Uribe’s congressional allies on grounds that they conspired with the death squads. A further 20 are now under investigation.
One of the signatories of Ralito Pact, pro-government Senator Miguel de la Espriella, announced its existence in a newspaper interview in November 2006. Other signatories included politicians who supported Uribe in his successful 2002 presidential campaign as well as AUC leaders Salvatore Mancuso and Rodrigo Tovar, alias ‘Jorge 40’, both of whom are wanted for extradition to the US for being amongst Colombia’s biggest cocaine traffickers.
President Uribe’s government continues to reel as more and more details of the dirty war against the Colombian people surface. To date, 14 members of Congress have been arrested for collaboration with fascist cocaine and murder gangs, 13 of whom are Uribe allies. This has seriously embarrassed his US backers, with some Democrats in the US Congress calling for trade deals and military aid to be blocked. The government has been placed on the defensive by the exposure of wide-scale telephone tapping. Meanwhile a recent large scale assault on the FARC led to the death of 11 local politicians, which Uribe hypocritically blamed on the guerrilla movement.
All these events demonstrate the bankrupt nature of the Colombian ruling elite. Violence, corruption, deceit and falsehood are its trademark. The government has had to acknowledge the existence of 8,000 hours of illegally-taped telephone taps of journalists, current and ex-Congressional representatives and FARC prisoners. The tapes also include taps of Interior Minister Pretelt, Peace Commissioner Restrepo, and Sergio Caramagna, the OAS delegate for the trials of members of the fascist AUC and even AUC paramilitaries. The taps were made by police intelligence and the armed forces without official permission. Ten generals and the director of police have resigned, but Uribe has defended the Minister of Defence who refuses to confirm the names of those spied upon. 168 of 231 Congress members have backed him.
Unable to escape intense international and domestic pressures to negotiate the exchange of prisoners of war with the revolutionary guerrilla movement FARC, President Uribe has desperately invited Venezuelan President Chavez to mediate. Uribe still rejects direct negotiations with FARC and has in the past accused Chavez of supporting the guerrillas. The invitation is aimed at distracting attention from Uribe’s own difficulties. Yet it is proving to be no escape and the consequence is that the Venezuelan revolution is extending its influence.
Colombia’s elite are incensed at the invitation. The press has given unprecedented space to criticising their president, fearing Chavez’s ‘intervention’ in Colombia’s politics, working up a ‘Chavezphobia’ against the ‘dictator’, ‘caudillo’ and ‘communist’. The pro-government newspaper, El Tiempo, writes: ‘Chavez will install himself in the heart of Colombian politics’. ‘The president has given Chavez a golden opportunity to interfere in our affairs,’ says the magazine Semana. El Espectador states openly that ‘it is preferable that the war continues than Chavez be involved in Colombia’s affairs’. The magazine Cambio says ‘Peace in Colombia will advance his [Chavez’s] ideas, and that would threaten our institutional stability and our conservative political culture.’
The Uribe government experienced yet another set-back at the hands of the people when growing opposition enabled the Alternative Democratic Pole to win the three main cities in Colombia, Bogota, Medellin and Cali in elections on 28 October. The Mayor of Bogota is regarded as the second most important political position after the President. This advance was secured despite the fact that there were 64 politically motivated killings and 12 kidnappings in the days leading up to the election. Half of the country’s nearly 1,100 municipalities saw electoral violence or intimidation of candidates. The Alternative Democratic Pole now has a solid base for the next presidential elections.
FRFI 200 December 2007 / January 2008
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were formed in the 1960s as a defence force of armed peasants fighting their displacement in the south of the country. During its long struggle for peace and equality, FARC has undertaken three peace initiatives – 1984-1990, 1999-2001 and 2007-2008. Each has been met with the cruellest of responses, at best simple rejection, more usually the killing of any FARC member who stepped forward to discuss political solutions to the 45-year violent class war, or enter into any negotiation. Thus in March, Commanders Raul Reyes and Julian Conrado were killed by US aircraft after phoning to arrange the unilateral release of prisoners of war.
The current plan to liquidate the leadership of FARC, announced as Plan Victoria, started in January 2007 and extends the Plan Patriota of Uribe’s first term (2002-6). It aims to defeat all opposition to US corporations pillaging Colombia’s oil, coal, and other natural resources. Plan Victoria is led by General Alejandro Navas, with 14,300 troops in southern Colombia and back-up from the air force and navy equipped with nine Brazilian Supertucano aircraft.
On 2 July the Colombian government triumphantly announced that it had deceived FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) into releasing some captives: Ingrid Betancourt, a prominent Colombian politician and one time presidential candidate, three US military contractors and 11 Colombian police officers and soldiers. The action cynically exploited the good faith built up with FARC by recent Venezuelan initiatives to release prisoners; military operatives were disguised as journalists and Red Cross representatives, once again demonstrating the moral turpitude of President Uribe, who is intent on destroying opposition to a ruthless ruling class.