Colombia constant legal and physical assaults on FARC

Jesus Santrich, a former com-man-der in the now-demobilised Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was arrested on 9 April after the US Drug Enforcement Administration demanded his extradition on unsup-ported charges of drug trafficking. Santrich is accused by the US of running a $15m drug operation in Colombia after the peace agreement was signed in 2016, which he and his FARC party deny.


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Colombia: No choice but to fight

Despite being replaced as President in 2010, the neo-fascist Senator Alvaro Uribe still haunts Colombian politics. Uribe is the political force guiding current President Ivan Duque in his campaign to prevent the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) tribunals from achieving justice for the victims of Colombia’s formally ended 60-year civil war. On 10 March, Duque announced a veto of six of the 159 articles in the statutory law governing the JEP. ‘This opens the door ... to put us all in jail,’ said Reinaldo Cala, a lower house deputy of the FARC (Revolutionary Alternative Common Force).* ‘The goal of these reforms is to extradite us to the United States.’ Alvaro Michaels reports.


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Colombia: FARC military members regroup in the face of state duplicity

Mothers of Soacha (MAFAPO) demonstration demanding justice for victims of 'false positive' killings

Thousands of FARC fighters who demobilised after the 2016 peace agreement have been forced to take up arms again. The aggressive and vindictive assaults on the FARC during the long and difficult negotiations, the constant attempts to demoralise and corner the revolutionary organisation, the subsequent bad faith shown by the government in the implementation of the peace agreement, and the continuous assassination campaign against ex-FARC members, created this situation. ALVARO MICHAELS reports.


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Colombian elections: servants of imperialism strengthened

ELN fighters

In the final vote for the presidential elections on 17 June, Senator Ivan Duque (Democratic Centre Party) standing for the Grand Alliance for Colombia coalition was elected President of Colombia. He defeated Gustavo Petro, a prominent leftist, ex- member of the disbanded M-19 guerrilla group and former mayor of Bogota, representing the List of Decency coalition. Petro took 41.81% of the electoral votes while ex-banker Duque won with 53.98%, in a turnout of 53.04%, the highest in 20 years. The FARC’s (Common Alternative Revolutionary Force) presidential candidate Rodrigo Londoňo, known as Timochenko, suffered a heart attack and was forced to withdraw from the campaign on 8 March.  FARC then declined to field another presidential candidate. FARC’s legal political activities were obstructed from the day peace negotiations finished, and the new president will intensify the attack against it, an attack that undermines all socialists in Colombia.


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Colombian government impedes peace process

colombia farc party

30 November 2017 saw the end of a year-long ‘fast track’ period for Colombia’s Congress to pass urgently needed measures to consolidate the Havana Peace Accords. These measures represent about a tenth of the overall agreement between the FARC and the government, yet after a year only about a fifth of this tenth have been acted upon. The government of Juan Santos has lost its majority in the Congress as his opportunistic coalition members hunt around for deals with other parties in anticipation of the March Congressional and 1 May Presidential elections in 2018. Santos can now plead that his hands are tied. In November 2017 the Constitutional Court and Senate changed the Justice Model agreed at Havana, creating serious difficulties for the reintegration of FARC (military) members into civil society.

A year after the agreement, supervised by 700 UN observers, FARC has now completely disarmed. Some 7,000 members and 7-8,000 militia were ‘reincorporated’ into civilian life, and 9,000 weapons surrendered. More than half of the demobilised FARC members had left the camps by mid-November, but disillusionment is extensive as, according to the Head of the UN mission, they are ‘still being detained by the National Police, having difficulty accessing the banking system or signing contracts with the State’. There are shortcomings in the medical care provided for ex-guerrillas, some of whom are disabled and chronically ill.


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Colombia: continued murderous assaults on rural workers

desplazados conflicto 600 afp.jpg 1718483346

On 5 October 2017 at least ten rural workers were killed and over 50 injured during an assault by the police in Tandil, Tumaco. 1,500 demonstrators from the villages of Sonadora, Restrepo, Vallenato, El Divorcio Playon and El Tandil, as well as Awa Indigenous people, had gathered to protest against the forced eradication of coca crops and the federal government's non-compliance with the National Program for the Substitution of Crops for Illicit Use, as agreed in the Peace Agreement with FARC. They were violently attacked.


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Colombia: the ‘Peace’ process

Colombia peace

The revised Peace Deal between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas was ratified by both of Colombia’s parliamentary chambers on 1 December 2016. The first laws to carry it into practice were approved by both houses on 28 December. Six FARC appointed observers now sit in Congress to monitor the passing of legislation related to the peace process. Meanwhile, across the country, as FARC’s defensive structure disappears, rural spokespersons, social leaders and members of FARC’s political party, Marcha Patriotica, face renewed intimidation and death at the hands of landowners’ agents and drugs gangs.


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Colombia: new peace deal agreed

colombia august 2016

‘Like a bomb, the insurgency blew in Colombia after noble people were living in humiliation, some decided to take on the guns to do something for their nation, but if you want to fight and do not have guns you have my words, and acts of love that can penetrate the minds of the people, ’cos today we are asking for the liberation of our nation, of the workers, justice is coming, we can hear justice coming.’ (Rap lyrics of Jhon Steban Pérez, FARC guerrilla)

The 2 October 2016 referendum rejected the much-heralded Peace Accord of 26 September between the Colombian government and FARC-EP. The result, 50.2% versus 49.8% of voters, rested on the thinnest margin of 54,000 votes out of almost 13 million ballots, in a turnout of fewer than 38% of the 32.8m voters listed. International backers of the agreement were shocked. Leaders from the US, Mexico, El Salvador, Uruguay, Cuba and the UN had attended the signing. Most outlying provinces voted in favour of the agreement, with those nearer the capital and inland voting against, although the capital Bogota voted ‘Yes’. The neo-fascist rancher and ex-President, Uribe, led the opposition. Appealing to ignorance and bigotry he repeatedly called Santos a ‘Castro-Chavista’ and the Marxist FARC ‘narco-terrorists’.


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Colombia: Peace Accords rejected

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.


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Colombia the continued struggle for peace and justice

On 23 June, after three and a half years of negotiations, the US-backed Colombian state and its armed communist opponents, the FARC, finally signed ‘a bilateral and definitive ceasefire, cessation of hostilities, and laying aside of weapons’, to end the armed class struggle waged since 1964. In the last year the FARC held to a unilateral ceasefire despite continued attacks, killings and provocations by the Colombian military. Cuban President Raul Castro declared the peace agreement a ‘victory for the people of Colombia’.

The governments of Chile, Cuba, Norway, and Venezuela were hosts, mediators or observers in the process. However, the peace accords have yet to be fully finalised and will be subject to a binding referendum, perhaps in September. Disarmament should take place immediately after the final peace accord is signed. In January 2016, the UN Security Council agreed to send a mission of 350 unarmed representatives, mainly from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which excludes the US and Canada, to oversee redeployment by FARC troops to 23 ‘temporary hamlet zones for normalisation’. Once the FARC lists the combatants in each hamlet zone, the government will suspend all outstanding arrest warrants for them. Weapons will be surrendered to the UN over a 180-day period.


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Colombia peace talks: make or break

The Santos government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) set 23 March 2016 as the deadline to sign a final peace agreement, but negotiations in Cuba have stalled in past months over the last question on their agenda – decommissioning FARC’s armoury and demobilisation. On 10 March both sides announced that they aim to reach a deal by the end of the year. Since November 2012 – in long negotiations punctuated by government killings of FARC leaders – agreement has been reached on approaches to land reform, political participation, the illegal drugs trade and transitional justice. Alvaro Michaels reports.

On 21 March in Havana, US Secretary of State John Kerry again urged the Colombian government and FARC to reach a peace accord. Obama will ask the US Congress for $450m (£312m) as a sweetener after completion. To back Santos’s final shift against opponents from the large landowning class and sections of the military, Kerry defended the Santos-FARC talks by pointing out that it is not the FARC, but ‘right-wing militias’ that are currently ‘increasing the violence’. FARC quickly pushed for the State Department to remove the guerrilla army from its list of ‘foreign terrorist organisations’. When a peace agreement is reached, a referendum will be held for its approval.

President Santos has now discarded ex-President Alvaro Uribe as a useful bargaining tool in his negotiations with FARC, finally approving the arrest of Uribe’s brother Santiago on 29 February. He is accused of involvement in murders and forced disappearances in the 1990s. The family’s dealings with the drug trade (father, cousins, in-laws), known to US intelligence, made President Uribe pliable to US pressure when in office.


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Colombia: negotiating the future

President Santos (left) and FARC’s chief, Rodrigo Londoño (Timochenko) shook hands after a meeting facilitated by Raul Castro (centre)

On 23 September a further step in the class struggle in Colombia was reached when the FARC and the Colombian President Santos, accompanied by President Raul Castro, announced in Havana that they expected to conclude a peace agreement by March 2016. They have agreed on a formula for transitional justice for those accused of crimes committed in the conflict such as kidnapping, murder, forced displacement, disappearance and torture.

FARC leaders had hoped the Pope would agree to meet the negotiating teams on his visit to Cuba, but the Vatican rejected the notion. However while there Pope Francis’s warned that failure was not an option, a message already made on several occasions, including directly to President Santos at the Vatican. This deal on justice, along with previous agreements made since November 2012 on rural development, political participation for demobilised guerrillas and drug trafficking, now means agreement on four of the six points of negotiations. It remains to agree how FARC will demobilise and decommission their weapons, and how to implement the final accords.


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Colombia’s Killing Fields: Peace is War - James Petras article

FRFI is publishing this analysis by James Petras of the war in Colombia as it provides useful information and analysis of the current situation.
Colombia has received more US military aid - over $6 billion dollars in the past decade - than any country in the Western Hemisphere.  For its part, Colombia allowed the Pentagon to build seven military bases, more than all the other countries in the region combined. There are over 2,000 US military officers and private US ‘mercenary’ contractors engaged in military activities in Colombia - more than any other country in Latin America.


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Colombia: Army provokes an end to FARC’s ceasefire

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.’


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Colombia: FARC ceasefire under threat

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.


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Colombia: negotiating progress


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.'


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Colombia: FARC peace talks stall in Havana

Colombians want peace

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.


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Colombian elections: a vote for the peace negotiations

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.


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Colombia the changing form of class war

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.


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Colombia War and negotiation

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.


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Colombia: Negotiating for the future

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.


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Colombia – the struggle for peace

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.


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Colombia: renewed state onslaught on FARC

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.


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Colombia: a new phase in US global militarization

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.


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Colombia: FARC – 45 years of fighting for peace

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.’


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Colombia: who are the terrorists?

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.


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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.


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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.


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Colombia: total war

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.


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Repression and resistance in Colombia

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.’


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Colombia: a long struggle against imperialism

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.


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