user preferences

We must end this collusion with terror in Colombia

category venezuela / colombia | imperialism / war | non-anarchist press author Thursday July 31, 2014 20:55author by Seumas Milne - The Guardian Report this post to the editors

As talks to end a 50-year war hang in the balance, violent repression carries on – and the US and Britain stand behind it

The Colombian port of Buenaventura is a place of misery and fear. Four-fifths of the mainly black population live in dire poverty and paramilitary gangs exercise a reign of terror. Most of Colombia’s imports come through the port, which is being massively expanded to meet the demands of new free trade agreements.

But there’s no sign of any benefit in Buenaventura’s slums, whose deprivation is reminiscent of the worst of Bangladesh. Most of the city’s population have no sewerage and many no power. Tens of thousands have been forced off their land around the city to make way for corporate “megaprojects”.

Most horrifically, paramilitaries have been dismembering those who cross them with chainsaws in shacks known as chophouses. The police admit a dozen have met these grisly deaths in recent months, but Buenaventura’s bishop says the real figure is far higher.

The government insists the rightwing paramilitary groups that have terrorised Colombia’s opposition have been dissolved. But in Buenaventura, they can be seen openly fraternising with soldiers on the streets, and they even publish their own newspaper.

Hundreds of miles away in Putumayo, a remote rural area at the heart of the 50-year conflict between the state and the leftwing Farc guerrillas, local peasant farmers are blockading roads and bridges in protest against the destruction caused by oil exploration and the government’s drug-war fumigation of their crops.

In the village of Puerto Vega, locals line up with stories of atrocities and abductions by the police and army. Family members describe how four young trade unionists were shot in May by soldiers who later claimed they were killed in combat. It’s not the guerrillas they fear, villagers say, but the authorities.

It’s a similar story in the working-class Soacha suburb of Bogotá, where mothers of young men abducted and murdered by soldiers who falsely claimed they were guerrillas to qualify for bonuses weep as they describe years of campaigning to have those responsible brought to justice. More than 3,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed in this way in the past decade.

This is the reality of Colombia today. But it’s not, of course, the story sold by the Colombian government and its US and British backers. As far as they’re concerned, the peace talks with the Farc are heading for success after Juan Manuel Santos was re-elected president last month on a peace ticket.

Colombian officials talk peace and human rights with an evangelical zeal and a dizzying array of flipcharts. But, as one independent report after another confirms, there is a chasm between the spin and life on the ground. Laws are not implemented or abusers prosecuted. Thousands of political prisoners languish in Colombia’s jails. Political, trade union and social movement activists are still routinely jailed or assassinated.

A quarter of a million have died in Colombia’s war, the large majority of them at the hands of the army, police and government-linked paramilitaries. Five million have been forced from their homes. Although the violence is down from its peak, the killing of human rights and union activists has actually increased in the past year.

One of those jailed is the trade union and opposition leader Huber Ballesteros, arrested last year as he was about to travel to Britain to address the Trades Union Congress. Speaking in La Picota prison in Bogotá last week, Ballesteros told me: “There is no democracy in Colombia, we are confronting a dictatorship with a democratic face.”

Meanwhile in Havana, where peace negotiations have been in train since 2012, Farc guerrilla leaders warn that the process could break down unless the government agrees to meaningful democratic reforms and stops trying to kill the organisation’s leaders.

There’s no doubt the Farc wants to end its armed campaign, which first emerged as a defence of peasant farmers and has been used to smear and terrorise the country’s opposition for decades. But the guerrillas’ frustration with a one-sided process and a government that refuses to respond to their unilateral ceasefires is clearly growing.

It’s people like Ballesteros and the mothers of Soacha who have attracted the solidarity of British and Irish trade unionists and MPs, regularly brought to Colombia – where close to 3,000 union activists have been murdered since 1986 – by the British NGO Justice for Colombia.

But it’s the Colombian state and military, responsible for decades of dirty war and the worst human rights record in the hemisphere, that the US and British governments stand behind. Colombia is Washington’s closest ally in Latin America, the third largest recipient of US military and security aid in the world.

That’s why the Colombian conflict has been branded “America’s other war”, as it morphed from a fight against communism to a battle against drugs to another front in the war on terror. But Britain is also intimately involved, as it strengthens what the British ambassador in Bogotá, Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby, calls a “close” and “long-term institutional relationship” with the military.

The interests are both strategic and economic, as Colombia has opened up its resource-rich economy to privatisation and foreign investment. Western corporations such as the US-owned Chiquita banana company have been found to have directly financed paramilitaries that have cleared peasant farmers off prime land and attacked trade unions.

Santos represents that part of the Colombian elite that wants to end the war to make way for large-scale corporate investment. The progressive tide that has swept Latin America and brought leftwing governments to power across the region is also less favourable to the traditional death-squad model of rightwing politics.

A peace deal with effective protection for the opposition could open up the possibility of real change in Colombia. But that demands support for those genuinely trying to make it happen – and for the global powers that preach human rights to end their backing of repression and terror on an industrial scale.

Related Link:
This page can be viewed in
English Italiano Deutsch

Front page

(Bielorrusia) ¡Libertad inmediata a nuestro compañero Mikola Dziadok!

DAF’ın Referandum Üzerine Birinci Bildirisi:

Cajamarca, Tolima: consulta popular y disputa por el territorio

Statement on the Schmidt Case and Proposed Commission of Inquiry

Aodhan Ó Ríordáin: Playing The Big Man in America

Nós anarquistas saudamos o 8 de março: dia internacional de luta e resistência das mulheres!

Özgürlüğümüz Mücadelemizdedir

IWD 2017: Celebrating a new revolution

Solidarité avec Théo et toutes les victimes des violences policières ! Non à la loi « Sécurité Publique » !

Solidaridad y Defensa de las Comunidades Frente al Avance del Paramilitarismo en el Cauca

A Conservative Threat Offers New Opportunities for Working Class Feminism

De las colectivizaciones al 15M: 80 años de lucha por la autogestión en España

False hope, broken promises: Obama’s belligerent legacy

Primer encuentro feminista Solidaridad – Federación Comunista Libertaria

Devrimci Anarşist Tutsak Umut Fırat Süvarioğulları Açlık Grevinin 39 Gününde

The Fall of Aleppo

Italia - Ricostruire opposizione sociale organizzata dal basso. Costruire un progetto collettivo per l’alternativa libertaria.

Recordando a César Roa, luchador de la caña

Prison Sentence to Managing Editor of Anarchist Meydan Newspaper in Turkey

Liberación de la Uma Kiwe, autonomía y territorio: una mirada libertaria para la comprensión de la lucha nasa

Misunderstanding syndicalism

American Anarchist and Wobbly killed by Turkey while fighting ISIS in Rojava

Devlet Tecavüzdür

Attaque fasciste sur la Croix Rousse et contre la librairie libertaire la Plume Noire

Venezuela / Colombia | Imperialism / War | en

Mon 24 Apr, 03:44

browse text browse image

venezuelasedepsuvincendiada.jpg imageNo more coups in Latin America! 20:39 Mon 22 Apr by Frente de Estudiantes Libertarios 0 comments

We can be sure that the young people of Latin America will be on the side of the Venezuelan people, because we will never accept a repitition of what happened in Honduras and Paraguay, because we will never accept death as a tool in the hands of the powerful for putting an end to the changes which the poor need. [Castellano]

enero_9_2009_06_jpgmid_2.jpg imageSolidarity action with the people of Gaza and Greece (Colombia) 21:32 Sat 10 Jan by Cruz Negra Anarquista 0 comments

Today, January 9, about 100 demonstrators gathered in the Greek embassy to show our solidarity with the people of Gaza and with the Greek Insurrection.

imageHabemus pacem? Challenges on the road from Havana to Colombia Sep 08 by José Antonio Gutiérrez D. 0 comments

After three years of negotiations, a peace accord was signed in Havana, Cuba, between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC-EP, while the process with ELN is bogged down and that with the EPL is not even on the political agenda. The forecasts that had feared the possibility of a breakdown in the negotiations have been proved groundless, and it completes the cycle of a struggle that should necessarily open new scenarios and possibilities. [Castellano] [Türkçe]

imageColombia… is peace in the air? Sep 06 by José Antonio Gutiérrez D. 0 comments

Once again talks of peace have been placed on the political agenda in Colombia, with the goodwill of a significant section of the establishment. This development in not a free gift nor does it come from the good will of the president: it is obvious that the thesis of “the end of the ending” lacked substance, and that the “Plan Colombia” has reached its limit. Although this agreement is a positive development, we cannot be excessively optimistic, even less so, triumphalist, considering that “peace”, in itself, would represent a triumph for the popular classes and their historic demands, blocked by fire and blood for more than half a century, by the State. We must bear in mind that the road towards an eventual negotiating process is full of difficulties, since there are substantial and basic differences between what the different parties expect from the negotiations and what the understand by the word “peace”. [Castellano] [Português]

imageThe significance of the killing of Alfonso Cano Nov 07 by José Antonio Gutiérrez D. 0 comments

With the assassination of Cano, the Colombian government has closed the doors to dialogue. How will the insurgency react? It is difficult to predict, but whatever the exact form its response assumes, in all likelihood it will involve a period of deepening and intensification of conflict - standing idly by or reiterating calls for dialogue and peace that fall on deaf ears doesn't seem to be an option now for the FARC-EP. If the Colombian government demonstrates its willingness and intent to pursue the military option, then this is what will happen, and we know what it is that this route has to offer Colombia...

image200 years of independence in Colombia? There is nothing to celebrate! Jul 21 by Grupo Antorcha Libertaria 0 comments

Today, 200 years after the cry of “independence”, we live under slavery and despotism well disguised in various masquerades in our lives. One of the main achievements of the “liberators” was indeed to expel the Spanish empire, what ended up being nothing more than a distraction, not only for the creation of a new local ruling elite, but also to allow other empires to step in against the interests of our own people: while in 1500 they talked about civilisation, on 2001 they came to talk about the “war on terror”.

imageNo more coups in Latin America! Apr 22 Chile 0 comments

We can be sure that the young people of Latin America will be on the side of the Venezuelan people, because we will never accept a repitition of what happened in Honduras and Paraguay, because we will never accept death as a tool in the hands of the powerful for putting an end to the changes which the poor need. [Castellano]

© 2005-2017 Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by [ Disclaimer | Privacy ]