From Socialist Voice, August 2010


Colombia: For a democratic peace with social justice

Abridged version of an article by Ivan Pinheiro
General secretary, Brazilian Communist Party

In the past few years it has been my task in the party to re-establish and strengthen the relations of the BCP with revolutionary parties and organisations, especially in Latin America. The aim was to strengthen proletarian internationalism, in the struggle against imperialism and for socialism.
     I was invited to visit the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the oldest and most important insurgent organisation in the continent, which has been fighting in the mountains for forty-six years for freedom and socialism in Colombia. This organisation was founded in response to an objective necessity: the peasants had to defend their plots of land, their homes and their families against the violence of the state and the militias in the service of the big landowners.
     Long before my visit I had formed the opinion that the country was being transformed into a bridgehead for imperialism in Latin America, playing the part that Israel does in the Middle East.
     In an article published some years ago, I wrote: “To act in solidarity with the peoples of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador; to help them in the fight to promote changes and advance the class struggle, even through processes which are incomplete and contradictory, to avoid war and reversals in our continent; for all this, there is one prerequisite: to defeat the true axis of evil, the arm of North American imperialism in our continent: the fascist government and the terrorist state of Colombia.”
     I already understood clearly, when I accepted the invitation, that neither the Colombian oligarchy nor the imperialists had any interest in recognising the political character of the guerrilla force, and even less in establishing a process of discussion with it which could bring the armed conflict in Colombia to an end, which it would be difficult to do by military means.
     We are facing an impasse, in which neither the guerrillas (FARC and also the ELN, which continues the struggle) have much possibility of expanding the territory under its control (nearly one-third of the country) nor the military and paramilitary forces can defeat them.
     The Colombian oligarchy wishes to keep the conflict going, to line its pockets with the billions of dollars from the military programmes financed by the United States; it attributes to the insurgents the most profitable activity of the group that hold power in the country—to be precise, the drugs trade.
     Neither does the United States wish to see a solution to the conflict, which allows it to justify its “war on drugs,” to reinstate the Fourth Fleet, to create seven more military bases in Colombia, to carry out a coup d’état in Honduras, to deploy thousands of troops in Haïti and now in Costa Rica, and to sign military agreements with several countries in the region, unfortunately including one recently signed with Brazil.
     The objective of imperialism is to reinforce its military presence in an attempt to destabilise and defeat progressive governments, especially in Venezuela, to tighten the blockade of Cuba, to prevent the strengthening of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas), to halt the process of change in Bolivia and other countries.
     In Latin America during the 1990s a process of demilitarisation was negotiated with guerrilla groups. In Central America, all these understandings resulted in agreements, with the transformation of the guerrillas into legal political organisations. Two of these are now in government—the FMLN in El Salvador and the FSLM in Nicaragua. In Colombia this process ended with the cruel assassination of more than four thousand members of the Unión Patriótica, a legal political party, which incorporated some of the militants of the FARC who had come down from the mountains, the Colombian Communist Party, and other organisations of the left.
     For these reasons, the FARC cannot accept a unilateral surrender without conditions, a peace of the graveyard, throwing aside its inheritance of decades of struggle and abandoning its activists to genocide. What they are seeking is a democratic peace with social justice, which would bring an end not only to the armed conflict but also to the terrorism of the state, to the expulsion of peasants from their lands, to the paramilitary militias, and to the assassination and imprisonment of thousands of activists, and which would ensure democratic liberties and social and economic change.
     But the start of a peace dialogue, in the interests of all democrats, pacifists, and anti-imperialists—not only communists—will be made possible only by a broad international campaign for a peace with social and economic justice in Colombia. A prerequisite for its success would be the recognition of the FARC and ELN for what they are: combative political organisations.
     It was in order to contribute to this urgently necessary campaign—knowing and explaining a little more about the history, the reality, the points of view and the perspectives of the FARC—that I decided to spend some days living with the guerrillas and conversing with some of its commanders, especially with Ivan Márquez and Jesús Santrich.
     Colombia is the second-greatest recipient of US military aid in the world, after Israel. It has the most numerous armed forces in South America.
     One of the principal aims of imperialism, with the systemic crisis of capitalism, is to foment local wars, above all against countries outside its sphere of domination and in possession of rich natural resources.
     In the case of Venezuela, where the process of change is most advanced, the provocations are the most audacious, constant, and dangerous. Colombia, which has already infiltrated thousands of paramilitaries into Venezuela to prepare a coup d’état, is now accusing Venezuela of sheltering guerrillas of the FARC.
     The United States has associated itself with these denunciations and already proposes bringing the case before multilateral organisations under its hegemony. Diplomatic relations between Colombia and Venezuela are at their most tense. Urgent political action is needed to avoid a worsening of the conflict, which only serves the interests of imperialism. The right, not only in Colombia but in all the countries of Latin America, is doing everything it can to help overthrow the government of Venezuela.
     Here in Brazil it is no different. The entire bourgeois press associates itself with the denunciations of the Colombian government, and the right is using the electoral campaign to attack the Brazilian government precisely in relation to one of the few aspects of its policy that internationalists can value.
     The right, in order to instigate a war between ColoColombia: For a democratic peace with social justicembia and Venezuela, seeks to disqualify Brazil as a mediator in the conflict. Therefore it accuses the party of the President of having relations and attitudes that unfortunately it does not have that could possibly help in finding a solution to the Colombian conflict.
     In Colombia the movement known as Colombians for Peace, led by Senator Piedad Córdoba, has facilitated the exchange of prisoners and tries to create an atmosphere favourable to dialogue. But this campaign will have no success if it cannot count on the participation of democratic and progressive governments, institutions and individuals of many countries, above all in Latin America. Brazil—by virtue of its importance and its leading position—is the country best placed to facilitate a dialogue in Colombia, leading a coalition of countries and multilateral organisations, preferably UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations), without the unwelcome presence of the United States. It is a good initiative of the Brazilian diplomatic service to raise the issue of the latest conflict in UNASUR and to make an attempt at mediation.
     But we should not be under any illusion that the new Colombian president will step back from the bellicose projects of the US-Colombia alliance. This is not the last rabid gesture of Uribe, as many people imagine. It is the first act of Santos before assuming his office, in agreement with Uribe, to start off his government with a loud voice, even if it’s a bit hoarse. Santos was not merely the candidate of Uribe: he was his Minister for Defence, responsible for the application of the infamous “Plan Colombia.” It is Uribism without Uribe. Let us not forget the Israeli invasion of Gaza, just before Obama assumed the office of President, in preparing the transition to imperialism without Bush.
     The relaxation of the present conflict between Colombia and Venezuela will be important, but not sufficient. This could settle part of the question in the shot term but would not address the root cause of the problem. Brazil should go further and make an effort to help find a solution to the internal conflict in Colombia. And that will be possible only when you have sitting at the table, along with accredited international observers, the actual participants in the conflict—the insurgent political organisations—and not just the government but the Colombian state.
     To further the aim of the Brazilian state to establish our country as a significant actor on the world scene it would be far more effective to sponsor a dialogue addressing the Colombia conflict than to lead the troops occupying Haïti.
     Further, dismantling the Trojan horse set up by imperialism in Colombia would not only serve to avoid a war with Venezuela or the overthrow of its government. As Fidel Castro says, the Yankee military bases in Colombia are as daggers plunged into the heart of all Latin America.

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