Colombia in Pentagon crosshairs.

An article entitled "Anti-rebel role for U.S. increases in Colombia" appeared in the Nov. 17 San Francisco Chronicle. It described growing U.S. involvement in Colombia's 40-year civil war, including the recent training of a special operations battalion and plans for another. It calls this "a sharp departure from previous policy" for Washington.

In fact, the U.S. has been expanding its direct intervention since the 1998 approval of Plan Colombia, a $1.8 billion package of primarily military aid. In July 2002 the Bush administration announced that all U.S. aid to Colombia, past, present and future, could be used in the counterinsurgency effort. Previously, the aid had been nominally restricted to the "war on drugs."

The continued expansion of U.S. intervention is a response to the inability of the Colombian ruling class to destroy the progressive guerrilla insurgencies and implement neo-liberal social and economic policies that benefit the U.S. bosses.

Plan Colombia was an attempt to shore up the decrepit Colombian military, which had relied almost completely on its paramilitary death- squad allies for intelligence. Bush's announcement of direct support for counterinsurgency and continued economic and political support for the regime in Bogotá was calculated to open the door to wider U.S. intervention.

The latest reports of direct U.S. intervention and training come at a time of political setbacks for the Colombian ruling class, including the results of the Oct. 25-26 elections.

President Alvaro Uribe hoped a referendum on Oct. 25 would give him a popular mandate for increased privatization and expansion of the war. It included provisions to freeze the wages of public sector workers for two years and decrease the size of Congress.

An alliance of labor union leaders, activists, and the ruling-class Liberal Party opposed the referendum, encouraging voters to abstain. Every point of Uribe's referendum was either voted down or did not receive the required minimum of 6.25 million votes.

In the Oct. 26 municipal and departmental elections, Lucho Garzon was elected mayor of Bogotá, widely considered the second most important political office in the country. Garzon is a leader of the Polo Democratico Party and a former union leader. He has been outspoken in his criticism of Uribe's policies.

Leftists also won in other large cities and important departments.

Colombian and U.S. officials and the big-business media applauded this as proof that leftists can participate in the electoral process in Colombia and the revolutionary insurgency is obsolete. Historically, leftists have been assassinated for participating in Colombian elections. This was the case with the Patriotic Union (UP), which participated in elections in 1984 as part of peace negotiations between guerrillas and the government. Some 4,000 UP leaders and members were murdered during the following decade.

Lucho Garzon's election doesn't represent the vindication of Colombian democracy or the end of the necessity for armed resistance. It doesn't address the social and political conditions that are the basis of the revolutionary struggle of the Colombian people. But it does signify that the people of Colombia--even the middle class and parts of the ruling class--are not united behind Uribe's fascist program of total war and repression.

In the two weeks after the referendum and municipal elections, the interior, defense and environment ministers all resigned. The military chief resigned as well.

While the corporate media claim Uribe has a 70-percent approval rating for his "hard line" policies, the recent elections prove that the majority of people in Colombia don't support his agenda. And this is affecting even the ruling class, which was previously been united behind Uribe and his program of ending the civil war by destroying all resistance, armed or otherwise.

Despite the billions of dollars spent by the Colombian and U.S. governments to destroy it, the resistance continues.

[Sourece: By Natalie Alsop, Via Workers World News Service. Reprinted from the Dec. 11, 2003]

DDHH in Colombia

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