Donate to Links


Click on Links masthead to clear previous query from search box

GLW Radio on 3CR



Recent comments



Syndicate

Syndicate content

Colombia: The end for guerrilla warfare?

FARC guerillas.

[For more discussion on Colombia, click HERE.]

By Anthony Boynton, Bogotá, Colombia

March 25, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- As long as there are sleepy, oppressed, oppressive and isolated villages connected to a city somewhere over the hill by an unpaved road with bridges that might wash out in the next storm, guerrilla warfare will be possible. But those villages are fast disappearing into memory as the extension of electric grids and networks of paved roads extend into every corner of what used to be called the Third World.

In Colombia such villages still exist in valleys in the mist-covered Andes, and far out in the tropical plains east of the Andes, and dotted here and there in the Amazon jungle, but they are clearly an endangered species. While the Catholic Church still dominates the plaza of every town, and landlords still have their hired guns, they have been joined by an evangelical church around the corner and a real estate agency just down the street. The town internet cafe most likely has more visitors than does the confessional in the church, and the priest in the confessional may be texting his boyfriend while the old lady on the other side of the screen recites her favourite sins.

Cell phones are everywhere.

An era of guerrilla warfare in Latin America is coming to an end. Exactly how the end game will be played out remains to be seen.

Even where conditions favourable to guerrilla warfare still exist, the military advantages guerrilla armies once had are also disappearing. A Colombian military operation earlier this week in Aguas Claras, a location in the municipality of Arauquita in the department of Arauca, an area where the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia– Army of the People) continues to have a strong presence, illustrates the point.

A FARC unit was destroyed by night-time aerial bombardment. Thirty two FARC fighters were reported to have been killed, two wounded and five captured. Among those reported killed were the second in command of Frente 10 and the unit’s financial officer.

The operation had been planned long in advance. The Colombian military combines electronic surveillance of FARC cell phone and internet traffic with long-term infiltration of FARC unit supply lines, plus offers of large cash rewards for information to gain as much intelligence about FARC units as possible before attacking. In advance, the military tries to identify the unit’s exact movements, locations and base camps, the unit’s exact numbers, and even the names and biographies of the FARC militants in the unit. Then an encampment of the unit is chosen for night-time bombing, which is carried out only after military intelligence verifies that the camp is occupied on the night of the scheduled attack. Bombardment, carried out by a combination of helicopters and fixed-wing gunships, is followed within minutes by helicopter landing of airborne soldiers.

The bombing of Aguas Claras was a repeat of the formula used to kill FARC leaders such as Raul Reyes, Mono Jojoy and Alfonso Cano.

Although the FARC-EP, the Ejercito de Liberación Nacional (ELN, National Liberation Army) and even the Ejército Popular de Liberación (EPL, Popular Liberation Army) continue to fight in Colombia, their numbers are dwindling, their areas of influence are shrinking and their popular support has nearly vanished.

They themselves have been transformed into very different organisations from those that arose decades ago in the era spanning the Cuban and Sandinista revolutions.

Political offensive

Recent events seem to indicate that the FARC-EP is once again looking for negotiations with the government of Colombia. Both the FARC and President Manuel Santos have said they want to negotiate. The FARC has said that it will release the last 10 soldiers and police officers it holds hostage on March 30, and the FARC has announced that it will no longer enforce Law 2, through which it captures and ransoms civilians who do not pay taxes to the FARC.

The FARC has also launched a military offensive of sorts in areas where it still has enough armed strength to make a show of force: Choco in the north-western corner of the country bordering the Pacific Ocean and Panama, the north-eastern range of the Andes and the Llanos Orientales (eastern tropical plains), the southern border of the country north of Ecuador, and the mountains surrounding the valley of the Rio Cauca south of the city of Cali.

Whether or not this military offensive is coordinated with the FARC’s political offensive remains to be seen: the military offensive could be an effort to enter negotiations with a stronger bargaining position or, as some observers believe, it could be a sign that the FARC is divided between a core sector around its central leadership and regional units that are no longer following the orders of the central leadership.

In either case, the FARC’s political and military offensives have been met with counteroffensives by the government and military. The government has said it will not provide any demilitarised zone for negotiations and the military has said there will be no ceasefire during any negotiations that might take place. The military’s counteroffensive has effectively defeated the FARC´s “armed strike” in Choco, and has caused the FARC serious losses of leadership cadre and fighters everywhere else in the country.

Time to take stock

Whether or not negotiations do occur in the near future, it is a good time to take a step back and take stock of the long guerrilla war in Colombia.

First, it should be clear that Colombia has always been very different from countries like China, Vietnam, Korea and Yugoslavia, which fought national liberation struggles against occupying armies of imperialist invaders. Colombia has never been occupied by a foreign army since the struggle for independence from Spain. The Colombian state was formed out of the independence struggle and maintains its legitimacy as an expression of Colombian nationalism in the eyes of most of the people in Colombia and Latin America.

Second, but perhaps not as obvious, Colombia has always been a very different case from Nicaragua and Cuba. In terms of state regimes, the pre-revolutionary regimes in both of these countries had been installed by US military interventions. In addition, Fulgencio Batista in Cuba and Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua were dictators who ruled without even the figleaf of contested elections or constitutional regimes. Despite corruption, election fraud, civil wars and the use of terror against its political opponents, the Colombian ruling class has maintained a pretence of a constitutional electoral system throughout its history.

In terms of the larger societies, in 1979 Nicaragua was the size of one Colombian department and had no large cities. In 1959 Cuba was the size of two or three Colombian departments, and had one large city.

In contrast, Colombia is an urban country with increasingly strong interconnections between every city and town. Colombia has been a predominantly urban country since before the founding of the modern guerrilla movements. In 1951, 38.7 per cent of the 11.5 million people lived in urban areas, and there were six cities with populations of over 100,000. By 1985 the urbanised percentage had grown to 67.2 per cent, and there were nearly two dozen cities of over 100,000 and four cities with populations of over 1,000,000. Today about 18 million of the country’s more than 46 million people live in six urban areas of over 1,000,000 people, and there are more than 50 cities with populations between 100,000 and 1,000,000.

Guerrillerismo

The real social basis for the rise and continuation of guerrillerismo in Colombia is the struggle for land between poor farmers and large landlords and adventurers. In particular, guerrilla struggle took the form of rural self-defence against the predatory armed bands of the terratenientes, and against the armed forces of the state which was controlled by these same large landowners.

The struggle for land in Colombia has always been at its most acute in the ever-moving agricultural frontier. These are the areas where intensive agriculture, both large scale and small, meet the enormous areas which are farmed extensively or not at all by indigenous groups. Movements of small farmers into these zones has always been based primarily on subsistence agriculture, but as the population of a new area increases and market towns are formed, subsistence farming turns into cultivation of cash crops for sale in local markets.

In contrast, large-scale farming moves into the agricultural frontier to produce market crops and cattle for Colombia’s cities and for export markets. Migration of small-scale subsistence farmers into a new region requires little or no investment in roads or other infrastructure, but large-scale agriculture production for the cities inevitability means road construction, road improvement and other large scale infrastructure projects.

The agricultural frontier has spread out in concentric figures around the populated areas concentrated in the plateaus and valleys of the Andes cordilleras, in the valleys of the Magdalena and Cauca rivers, and in the northern coastal lowlands. From these areas it has jumped over mountains to the tropical coastal plains of the Pacific coast and to the vast plains east of the Andes in the Orinoco basin and the Colombian Amazon.

These frontier areas have been the strongholds of the guerrilla organisations, the areas in which illicit drugs have been cultivated, processed and shipped, and the areas in which most of the armed conflict has occurred.

Population growth has been a contradictory process which has fuelled both the migration of small-scale farmers to the agricultural frontier and the growth of the cities. Urban growth has in turn spurred on the movement of large scale capitalist farmers into the agricultural frontiers where they immediately come into conflict with the expansion of small scale farming.

Historically, the result of this process was the extremely bloody period of Colombian history known as La Violencia. Conventional estimates put the death toll from 1948 to 1958 at more than 200,000 people or somewhere between 1 and 2 per cent of the total population of the country.

Not paradoxically, the terror in the countryside led to mass migrations to the cities, and to increased growth of the urban economy and markets adding additional incentives to increased incursions of large scale capitalist farming into the agricultural frontier. This was a classic case of what Marx called the primitive accumulation of capital.

La Violencia never really ended, although its political form changed.

What began as a civil war between the Liberal and Conservative parties became more and more clearly a war of the large landowners against the small landowners, especially those led by Liberal Party and communist self-defence forces in what came to be called the “independent republic”.

By 1967 three important guerrilla groups had come into existence: the FARC, the ELN and the EPL. The latter two, unlike the Communist Party-led rural militias that formed FARC at the outset, drew their members largely from the youth, especially university students.

In 1974 another guerrilla organisation was formed. Dissidents from the FARC who believed that the cities rather than the countryside were the key battleground joined together with the socialist wing of ANAPO (Alianza Nacional Popular, National Popular Alliance), the political party which supported former military dictator Rojas Pinilla, to form the Movimiento 19 de Abril (M-19, 19th of April Movement).

Following a fraudulent election in 1970, a decade of radicalisation began in Colombia. It was centred in the rapidly growing student and trade union movements. M-19 was only one of the products of that radicalisation. All the old left parties grew, and new ones were formed.

Out of the mass movement of millions, thousands of radicalised youth joined the FARC, the ELN, the EPL, M-19 and smaller guerrilla groups. Most of the generation of guerrilleros who now lead the surviving organisations came from among that generation of youth.

Nevertheless, the general radicalisation of the country did not automatically translate into greater popular support in the countryside for the guerrilla organisations. The guerrilla organisations found themselves on the horns of a dilemma: increased numbers of fighters drawn from the urban radicalisation required arms, housing, clothing, food, medical care and training, but the resources to do all of these things were not readily available in the rural areas where these organisations were operating.

Support from outside of the country also proved to be inadequate as ripples from the crisis in the Soviet Union spread outward to affect Cuba, the African revolutions, the Sandinistas and the left in Europe, Asia and North America.

Cocaine changes the game

When the cocaine boom began at the end of the 1970s the stakes were raised in the struggle for land. Land that was not suitable for coffee, rice, sugar, bananas or the industrial greenhouses of the flower industry was more than suitable for growing coca. A renewed scramble to appropriate land in isolated areas began. Small farmers were often murdered, frequently expropriated under threat of death, or sometimes began to grow coca themselves as a cash crop supplement to subsistence.

The cocaine boom intersected with the existing guerrilla movements and with the clandestine paramilitary war against them.

At first all the guerrilla organisations were strongly against any relation to the drug dealers and to coca growers, although some of the drug dealers recognised common interests with the guerrilla organisations. Both were outside of the law and were armed, and the guerrilla organisations were in need of money and arms from the black markets. Nevertheless, early commercial relations between the guerrilla organisations and drug gangs went from bad to worse after M-19 kidnapped Martha Nieves Ochoa, the daughter of a member of the traditional landowning oligarchy and sister of the Ochoa brothers, who were founders of the Medellín Cartel. A meeting of 223 major drug dealers was held soon after, which established a new organisation called Muerte a Secuestradores (MAS, Death to Kidnappers).

The MAS became the seed bed for the formation of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), which worked closely with the Colombian army to spread a reign of terror throughout the regions in which the guerrillas operated. Within a decade the AUC had moved into the cities and within two decades it had become a powerful force within the ruling class political parties from which point it shared state power during the recent two-term administration of President Alvaro Uribe Velez (paramilitaries claimed to have controlled 35% of the country’s members of Congress and the Senate).

According to confessions of “demobilised” members of this organisation to La Fiscalía General de la Nación (the Colombian attorney-general’s office), the AUC murdered 173,183 people, committed 597 massacres, forcibly recruited nearly 4000 children, caused 34,467 cases of “forced disappearances”, caused mass displacements of whole communities totalling 75,000 people, kidnapped 3527 people and committed 3532 acts of extortion.

Peace processes

Beginning in the early 1980s, and parallel to the rise of the paramilitary terror, numerous “peace processes” have occurred. From 1982 to 1984, the Belisario Betancur administration and the FARC negotiated the Uribe Accords. The FARC moved to enter the electoral arena through the formation of the Union Patriotica (UP) in alliance with the Communist Party. Simultaneously, the Betancur government’s negotiations with M-19 and the EPL resulted in the Corinto agreements, which were signed in August 1984. They established a bilateral ceasefire and the protocol for further negotiations which the army almost immediately broke with an ambush of top M-19 commanders.

Government perfidy was answered with an offensive by the M-19, leading to the seizure of the Palace of Justice, which was then destroyed in the subsequent attack by the Colombian army.

The UP participated in the elections of 1986 with modest results, but soon after its candidates and activists began to be attacked and assassinated. Presidential candidate Jaime Pardo Leal was assassinated on October 11, 1987, signalling all-out war on the militants and sympathisers of the UP. The exact number of the victims may never be known; the FARC has claimed 5000 were killed, the Communist Party says more than 4000 were killed. Many of these people were trade unionists and Communist Party militants whose public positions left them in more vulnerable positions than FARC militants who worked in clandestinity.

After the Palace of Justice fiasco the M-19 continued its military offensive but also began to reassess its strategy. Renewed negotiations led not only to the M-19’s demobilisation, but also played a key role in bringing about the election of a constitutional assembly to rewrite the country’s 100-year-old constitution. The three presidents of the assembly were Conservative Party leader Alvaro Gomez, Liberal Party leader Horacio Serpa and the M-19’s Antonio Navarro Wolff. The new constitution became the law of the land in 1991.

Although the FARC chose not to enter this peace process, several smaller guerrilla organisations did.

As in every other peace process, the government used the process to assassinate guerrilla leaders. M-19’s central leader and presidential candidate Carlos Pizarro was assassinated on a plane while supposedly protected by a security team from the DAS (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, Administrative Security Department, Colombia’s domestic and foreign intelligence agency).

The M-19 did not return to armed struggle, but instead launched itself on the path of electoralism. That path led to the formation of a broad left electoral alliance that included the Communist Party, the MOIR (Movimiento Obrero Independiente y Revolucionario, Independent and Revolutionary Workers Movement, the largest Maoist organisation in Colombia), ANAPO and many smaller organisations.

In Uraba, military and paramilitary operations against the EPL decimated its ranks and left only a shell of the organisation. One surviving splinter formed a political party, also named EPL (Esperanza, Paz y Libertad), which became a pawn of the paramilitaries. The UP, which had strong support in the region, was all but wiped out in bloodshed in which the AUC established complete dominance in a region in where the left had been extremely strong.

Farclandia

Six years after the new constitution had gone into effect, the FARC began new peace negotiations, this time with the government of President Andres Pastrana. Although the FARC did not agree to a ceasefire, Pastrana agreed to remove the Colombian armed forces from a 42,000 km² area in El Caguán in south-eastern Colombia. This demilitarised zone became known as the despeje.

Pastrana’s strategy, coordinated with administration of US President Bill Clinton through “Plan Colombia”, was aimed at winning a political victory over the FARC. The FARC’s strategy aimed at using negotiations to gain military advantages that would enable it to launch a final offensive to take the capital city of Bogotá.

During the nearly four years of the despeje the FARC governed the territory as if it were an independent country. Peace negotiations and FARC military offensives were televised and widely reported in the print media. FARC military strategy was to attack long-distance high-voltage transmission towers and police stations in small towns, while also setting up roadblocks to charge travellers a tax. The FARC stepped up its policy of taxation and arrests to the point that by the end of the period, it held over 450 people captive. The majority were owners of medium-sized farms and small businesses, many were soldiers and police officers, and the most famous were political figures. These included 12 deputies of the departmental legislature of Valle de Cauca, the governor of the Department of Antioquia and presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

By the end of the period, the FARC was more politically isolated than it had ever been before, and the ruling class of the country was more united than ever before in its determination to defeat the FARC. The Pastrana government had won the political victory it sought at the beginning of the negotiations.

The long offensive against the FARC

The 2002 election of Alvaro Uribe to succeed Pastrana expressed the consensus within the Colombian ruling class that they finally had achieved sufficient political support within the cities, especially from the country’s diverse middle classes, to launch an all-out offensive against the FARC.

The military offensive was based on the decades-long build-up following the lines suggested by United States military advisors during the Cold War: military intelligence, ranger units, paramilitary war, economic development.

Military intelligence was both human and electronic. The Colombian military had spent decades infiltrating the FARC and surrounding it with observers. In addition it offered rewards of up to US$2 million for information leading to the capture or death of important FARC leaders. Electronic intelligence was controlled by the United States using over flights by spy planes, spy satellites and surveillance of civilian communication networks.

The paramilitary-orchestrated terrorism offensive by the AUC was aimed at trade unionists and civilians who the government believed might be sympathetic to the guerrillas. This element of the offensive aimed at “drying up the sea” in which the FARC swam. Within regions where the FARC had some real popular support, the paramilitary terror led to mass displacement of the rural and small town populations to the cities.

Although some efforts were made to decrease levels of corruption and increase combat readiness of the army, only a small portion of Colombia’s soldiers were really needed to fight the outnumbered FARC. Previous ranger units were reorganised into the airborne rapid deployment force (Fuerza de Despliegue Rápido, FUDRA) under Plan Colombia during the Pastrana government. This force was expanded to five brigades during the Uribe administration. It was used to retake the despeje and for almost all subsequent offensive actions against the FARC including the attacks that have killed many of the FARC’s main commanders.

The offensive against the FARC also included an international component with three major goals: reducing sympathy for the FARC among the broad left in other countries, eliminating safe havens for FARC operations outside of Colombia and reducing FARC income from cocaine trading.

The Uribe government’s great success in this diplomatic offensive was getting the FARC placed on all the major international lists of terrorist organisations. Nevertheless, most Latin American countries did not follow suit.

The strategy was almost completely derailed when Colombia bombed the camp of FARC commander Raul Reyes in Ecuador in 2010. The incident led to a complete rupture of relations between Colombia and its two most important neighbours, Venezuela and Ecuador.

Uribe’s replacement as president, Juan Manuel Santos, made restoration of ties with Venezuela and Ecuador a top priority when he took office in 2010. Commercial and diplomatic relations have been fully restored, and the Venezuelan government has begun to cooperate with the Colombian military and DAS to arrest and extradite FARC leaders.

Perhaps symbolically, on March 21, the same day the news media announced the bombing of Frente 10 in Aguas Claras, it also announced the arrest of William Alberto Chitiva Asprilla, whose noms de guerre in the FARC were “Fernando Bustos” and “Marquetaliano”. Chitiva Asprilla was one of the last remaining founders of the FARC still living. He was arrested in Venezuela by Venezuelan authorities working in a joint operation with the Colombian military and secret police.

End game

Although the FARC still leads thousands of armed fighters and has the financial resources to continue fighting, the decimation of its leadership combined with its political isolation has brought it to the point of no return. It may enter into a new peace process with the government of Juan Manuel Santos, although it has little to bargain with. On the other hand, if it does not, the continued offensive against it by the Colombian military could result in its complete disintegration as an organised force.

Comments

Elements left out in a discussion of Colombia

Anthony Boynton's discourse on Colombia could have appeared in the New York Times or National Public Radio. With a kind of feigned objectivity and neutrality, it does have a clear stance. Of the Colombian FARC he asserts, as any US establishment journalist would: "its political isolation has brought it to the point of no return."

This long-winded journalistic account omits many important elements in the situation. At almost four THOUSAND words long it's characterized mainly by the author's goal of discrediting the idea of revolutionary armed struggle in Colombia, while proposing nothing to replace it.

Colombia's armed revolutionary organizations haven't succeeded in taking power. But Colombia's capitalist armed forced haven't defeated the revolutionary movements, either. Virtually all journalistic accounts tell us that the FARC has been all but wiped out, but even Boynton is forced to admit they still have THOUSANDS of active armed combatants. They certainly must represent some kind of social force in the country to retain control over parts of its territory and to be able to maintain an army of thousands.

Boynton's discussion would have been more useful had it included some matters, which I'd like to suggest here. The list is hardly exhaustive.

Perhaps the biggest one left out is the deepening process of Latin American integration, exemplified by the development of CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. The persistence of a civil war and armed struggle runs counter to the slow but steady integration process. CELAC represents an effort to unify the continent without subordination to Washington and its little friend Ottawa.

Here's an informed discussion of CELAC:

WORKERS WORLD
CELAC: A step forward for the region, with contradictions
http://www.workers.org/2012/world/celac_0119/index.html

Then there's the Bolivarian Alternative for Our Americas, ALBA, also left out:

PEOPLE'S WORLD
Progressive alliance charts new course for Latin America

The ongoing war in Colombia has provided an excuse for Washington to obtain Bogota's consent to the installation of seven US military bases inside the country. We can see pretty well what US military bases can accomplish if we look at the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Fidel Castro wrote an eloquent indictment of those bases three years ago:

SEVEN DAGGERS AT THE HEART OF THE AMERICAS
http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/reflexiones/2009/ing/f050809i.html

Also among the left-out elements are such developments as the announcement by the FARC that they will no longer practice kidnapping. Here's a report from the US National Public Radio:

Colombia's FARC Says It Will Halt Kidnappings

Even some in the capitalist news media have noticed and commented on this topic which Anthony Boynton leaves out:

LA TIMES: FARC opens the door [editorial]
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CubaNews/message/131430

Boynton's essay is dated well after the FARC announcement, made a month ago.

The FARC are releasing long-held hostages. They have unilaterally released hostages in the past. They call for a negotiated end to the conflict. But the Colombian government rejects negotiations with them.

Left out in addition is the role of prominent Colombian political leaders such as Piedad Cordoba, the senator removed from her seat in the legislature because of her relentless campaign for a negotiated end to the conflict.

Fidel Castro: Piedad Córdoba and Her Fight for Peace
http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/reflexiones/2010/ing/c300910i.html

Left out also is the overall approach of Cuba and Fidel Castro, which have hosted peace talks between Colombian guerrillas and the Colombian government, which maintains normal diplomatic relations with Cuba. Colombian President Santos visited Havana just a few weeks ago.

Left out of consideration are Fidel Castro's detailed discussions of Colombian politics. Here's one such example, in English:

THE ANNEXATION OF COLOMBIA TO THE UNITED STATES
http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/reflexiones/2009/ing/f061109i.html

Indeed, Fidel Castro has written an entire BOOK on the topic, LA PAZ EN COLOMBIA, which can be found, in full, online (Spanish only, alas) The book is 265 pages long. It's completely free.
http://www.cubadebate.cu/reflexiones-fidel/2008/11/13/la-paz-en-colombia...

Many other important figures have reported and discussed these matters, such as The representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Todd Howland:

UN Welcomes Announcement by Colombian Guerrillas
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CubaNews/message/131207

Despite its many defeats, the FARC has not been eliminated. The Colombian government hasn't been able to defeat the FARC, nor has the FARC been able to defeat the Colombian government. It's a situation not dissimilar from what the Irish, the Salvadorans and the South Africans faced. Some change in the political equation is needed. How that will come about a political puzzle to which Colombians will have to find a solution among themselves.

Anthony Boynton, who lives and works in Colombia, presumably means well. But he is a foreigner. And with his nearly FOUR THOUSAND words, he actually proposes NOTHING. He just provides dreary "analysis", but toward what end?

To leave out the role of Colombian protagonists such as Piedad Cordoba and others with whom she works politically, is to miss potentially decisive components of a negotiated resolution to the Colombian conflict. Cordoba was such a burr under the saddle of the Colombian oligarchy that they had to kick her out of the national legislature.

It's not necessary to agree with Piedad Cordoba, or Fidel Castro, but to omit any mention of or even reference to or comment on their roles and perspectives raises at least one question:

Why are their views and activities excluded?

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews
Los Angeles, California
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CubaNews/

Alternative strategy in Colombia

Walter, I'm sure Anthony can speak for himself but surely you would realise that this article needs to be read in conjunction with his earlier articles. It is silly to expect that he must repeat himself in every article. I'd suggest his atternative to the guerilla struggle, is the open political struggle as outlined here: http://links.org.au/node/2597, something both Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez have been urging.

Elements left out in a discussion of Colombia

Thanks, Norm. I went back and looked at the article you referred to. Alas, there was no discussion of the kidnapping at all, not to speak of Fidel's strong recommendation that the FARC release their hostages.

Likewise there was no discussion of the various proposals, including by figures like Piedad Cordoba as well as the FARC, for a negotiated end to the conflict and consequent stalemate.

Evidently Anthony doesn't consider these subjects even worth mentioning. Presumably if they WERE worth mentioning, he'd have said something about them.

Walter Lippmann

"End of FARC" thesis flawed

Boynton is consumed with the Bogota-Washington "end of FARC" thesis.

Essential reading here:

-James Brittain "Revolutionary Social Change in Colombia"
-Gary Leech "FARC, The Longest Insurgency"
-Oliver Villar and Drew Cottle "Cocaine, Death Squads, and the War on Terror"
-Nazih Richani "Systems of Violence"

Chavez has urged FARC to end the armed struggle whilst he has extradited Colombian leftists to a fascist regime. Castro at least understands that laying down arms means a certain death. These are basic facts.

Solidarity,

Carlos.

Just a quick response to

Just a quick response to Walter: I didn't leave anything out, but I was only writing about a narrow element of the situation in Colombia, the political isolation and military defeats of the FARC. You should look at the article I wrote for links a couple of months ago to see some of the other things that are happening in Colombia. In fact, I only wrote about the FARC because I was asked to. I think guerrilla warfare is not on the agenda in Latin America today, an opinion shared by Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro, as well as 99 % of the left in Latin America despite the many differences that exist. Some of the reasons it is not on the agenda are in the article you just commented on. Armed struggle in the countryside outside of Bogota is about as viable as it is in the countryside outside of Los Angeles today. If you think it is a good idea here, why don't you recommend it for all big metropolitan areas?

Anthony

the "left" and armed struggle relevancy

99% of the left? What "left" is Anthony talking about even if it made up the majority?? Armed struggle is a response to the state terror backed with massive US military aid and funding. A cursory examination of Colombia will demonstrate it is a class war, not downtown Los Angeles or outback Australia. If Washington wants the FARC dead that doesn't mean the "left" should be collaborating with its so-called "demise". It is very disturbing for a so-called "leftist" position to be denying and ignoring the FARC's mass support base in the countryside and the clandestine work of the Communist party in the cities. This "post-postist" belittling of Colombia's revolutionaries has nothing to contribute. US imperialism has invested vast amounts of resources in anti-FARC propaganda for years. Saying that, such rightist views as they are, must be condemned by the revolutionary left.

Steps toward resolving the Colombian stalemate

ANTHONY BOYNTON writes: "Armed struggle in the countryside outside of Bogota is about as viable as it is in the countryside outside of Los Angeles today. If you think it is a good idea here, why don't you recommend it for all big metropolitan areas?"

WALTER LIPPMANN responds: Boynton's argument is a bit demagogic. Boynton's position sounds like that of the Colombian government, which, nevertheless, actively practices armed struggle itself. Boynton doesn't say that the Colombian government's armed struggle isn't viable, only that the FARC's is unviable. Why does Boynton only say that one of the two is unviable?

Furthermore, is anyone recommending armed struggle to anyone? The armed struggle in Colombia exists and remains a fact. How to bring an end to that armed struggle is a serious political problem, first of all for Colombians and beyond that anyone concerned with peace and Latin American integration.

Fidel Castro has recommended that the FARC release all its hostages immediately and unilaterally. But he pointedly did NOT recommend that the FARC put down or turn in all their weapons. The experience of previous efforts to move toward strictly electoral activity - when thousands who tried that were murdered by the Colombian oligarchy - would make such a move as Boynton proposes simply suicidal.

Boynton apparently wants the FARC, etc. to simply surrender, since Boynton argues that the FARC's struggle is unviable. No Cuban leader recommends anything of the sort. (Chavez has made statements to that effect, but the Cubans have not.) Boynton continues, here again in his response, to omit the role of Colombian leaders like Piedad Cordoba in working toward the release of hostages. But his blindness hasn't stopped her efforts.

A negotiated solution appears therefore to be the best way out of the Colombian stalemate. It's unfortunate that Boynton doesn't seem to understand that. Examples such as South Africa and Ireland indicate both that a negotiated end to an armed struggle is possible.

Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California

==========================
Brazilian Choppers Ready for FARC Release Operation Escrito por Raquel Maria Garcia Alvarez viernes, 30 de marzo de 2012

Brasilia, Mar 30 (Prensa Latina) The two Cougar 532UE choppers contributed by Brazil for the unilateral release of 10 people held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) arrived Friday in San Gabriel de Cachoeira, in northern Brazil.

From that area bordering Colombia they are scheduled to fly to the city of Villavicencio, in central Colombia, to start the release process on Monday.

According to Colombia's former Senator Piedad Cordoba, the first batch of people will be handed over on April 2, and the second on April 4 in Villavicencio, the capital of the Colombian Meta department.

In February, FARC announced the unilateral release of 10 Army and Police troops in its hands through a communiqu? released by its official website.

In the document, they urged the government to seriously find a solution different from that adopted for the past few years, and said that after the release operations they would never again resort to holding people.

The announcement was described by members of Colombians for Peace as unprecedented in FARC's history.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos described the end of hostage taking as significant but not enough, and said that his government would offer all guarantees needed for the release.

As in previous occasions, Brazil is contributing the helicopters and their crews, including 20 Army officers and troops.

Members of the International Red Cross Committee are also scheduled to participate in the process.

sgl/rma/lac/otf Modificado el ( viernes, 30 de marzo de 2012 )
-------------------------
Latest update:
Colombia: Preparations for Unilateral Releases Advance
sábado, 31 de marzo de 2012

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CubaNews/message/132043

WSJ: Colombian Rebels Release Last Officials in Captivity

Writing the FARC off misreads the Colombian situation.
As this makes clear, they are still very much part of
the political equation. Thanks should be given to the
leadership role of Piedad Cordoba, in particular and
all those who worked with her to bring this episode
to a successful conclusion. It's a big step forward
toward a peaceful resolution of the civil war which
has been waged in Colombia. The struggle continues.

Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CubaNews/
==============================================
("The government demanded that the FARC release the hostages and they did it," said León Valencia, a former commander with a smaller guerrilla group known as ELN who now works as a security analyst. "There is a clear interest from the FARC and the government to move toward peace talks," he said.)
==============================================

WALL STREET JOURNAL
LATIN AMERICA NEWS
April 2, 2012, 6:30 p.m. ET

Colombian Rebels Release Last Officials in Captivity

By DARCY CROWE

BOGOTA—Colombia's most powerful insurgency freed the last remaining security officials it held as hostages Monday, a move that restores hope for peace negotiations with the government.

A spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been handling the release, confirmed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) released 10 policemen and soldiers, some of whom were captured in combat and have been held hostage for 14 years.

With Monday's release no other government officials are believed to be held by the FARC, a half-century-old cocaine-financed Marxist insurgency, but hundreds of civilians remain in the hands of the rebels.

AFP/Getty Images
A screen shot taken from a Venezuelan television channel shows Colombian former Senator Piedad Cordoba (third from left), members of the Red Cross and freed former FARC hostages upon their arrival in Colombia on Monday.

The FARC has signaled that the release show their willingness to start a negotiation process with the government. President Juan Manuel Santos has demanded that the FARC stop its drug-dealing activities and military operations before any potential talks with the government.

The FARC once controlled large swaths of Colombia's rural areas, but an effective military offensive by the government over the last decade has pushed them deep into the jungles. The government estimates that the insurgency currently has about 8,000 fighters, about half from a decade earlier

After suffering a string of setbacks earlier this year, the Colombian military has hammered the FARC in recent weeks, killing 68 guerrillas in combat.

"The government demanded that the FARC release the hostages and they did it," said León Valencia, a former commander with a smaller guerrilla group known as ELN who now works as a security analyst. "There is a clear interest from the FARC and the government to move toward peace talks," he said.

The releases mark another chapter in Colombia's long history of kidnappings. During the 1990s and in the early years of last decade, the FARC would snatch some 3,000 people every year, becoming one of the world's most prolific kidnappers. The rebels would set up illegal road blocks on some of Colombia's key highways and snatch people by the dozen.

More recently the FARC, which is labeled as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union, has used kidnappings to build its war chest and as a political weapon to negotiate with the government.

In February, the FARC also announced that it would abandon its decades-old practice of kidnapping civilians for ransom.

Write to Darcy Crowe at darcy.crowe@dowjones.com

REUTERS: Colombian rebels free captives held for over a decade

This is a step along the lines Fidel has been advocating for years:

FIDEL CASTRO: PIEDAD CORDOBA AND HER FIGHT FOR PEACE (excerpt)

I have criticized the FARC. In a Reflection I publicly expressed my disagreement with the holding of prisoners of war and the sacrifices meant for them by the tough conditions of life in the jungle. I explained the reasons and the experience we acquired in our struggle.

I was critical of the strategic concepts of the Colombian guerrilla movement. But I never denied the revolutionary nature of the FARC.

I believed, and I believe, that Marulanda was one of the most distinguished of the Colombian and Latin American guerrilla fighters. When many of the names of the mediocre politicians are forgotten, Marulanda will be acknowledged as one of the most honorable and firm fighters for the well-being of peasants, workers and the poor of Latin America.

The prestige and moral authority of Piedad Córdoba has multiplied.

FULL:
http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/reflexiones/2010/ing/c300910i.html
===================================

Colombian rebels free captives held for over a decade

8:50pm EDT

By Helen Murphy and Brian Ellsworth

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's FARC rebels freed 10 members of the armed forces held hostage in jungle prison camps for more than a decade on Monday, the last of a group the drug-funded group had used as bargaining chips to pressure the government.

The four soldiers and six policemen were released to a humanitarian mission led by the International Committee of the Red Cross in what the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia called a gesture of peace.

Wearing olive fatigues and seeming well fed and relatively healthy, the 10 men stepped off a helicopter provided by Brazil after the Marxist rebels freed them in a remote area of southern Colombia.

Smiling and joking with a medic, one soldier left the aircraft draped in the Colombian flag and skipping with joy. Each carried a plastic bag of belongings and one was accompanied by what appeared to be a small pig that had been his pet in the jungle. Another had what looked like a monkey on his shoulder.

"To these victims of the intolerance and cruelty of the guerrillas, soldiers and policemen of Colombia, welcome to freedom," President Juan Manuel Santos said from the presidential palace. "Freedom has been long delayed, but now it's yours."

The release could signal that the FARC is taking tentative steps toward a bid for talks that may end Latin America's oldest insurgency after five decades of killing and destroying economic infrastructure.

But many Colombians remain skeptical that the guerrilla group, which is still believed to be holding as many as 700 civilian hostages for ransom, will lay down its weapons after having used previous peace talks to strengthen their forces.

Santos, who is under pressure to end the conflict, has demanded the FARC free all its prisoners and cease attacks on civilian and military targets before any talks can take place.

"As soon as the government considers there are sufficient conditions to initiate a process that would end the conflict, the country will know," Santos said, in an apparent response to rumors of secret peace talks.

"In the meantime, everything else that has been said about this is no more than speculation."

The 10 men were seized at the end of the 1990s when the FARC was at its strongest. They formed part of a group known as "canjeables," or exchangeables, used to pressure the government for political concessions rather than for ransom payments.

Their release followed a series of messages from the FARC's leadership, including a promise in February to stop kidnapping for ransom, that hints at a desire for peace.

"This is a gesture that shouldn't be underestimated," said local conflict analyst Juan Carlos Palou.

"The promise that they will no longer kidnap for ransom implies to me that the government really should take it as a sign that the FARC really is interested in talks and move ahead with a process to end the conflict," he said.

Some analysts have called the FARC's promise to halt kidnappings for ransom a ploy to garner international support and shed their image as terrorists, while raising funds for war through other means such as extortion.

COLOMBIA CELEBRATES

The FARC, which has kidnapped thousands of civilians over the decades to help pay for weapons, food and uniforms, is classified as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union. It is suspected of being behind about a third of all kidnappings in Colombia.

"There are still hundreds of hostages that the FARC should free if they really want Colombian society to believe their announcement that they will not continue kidnapping," Olga Gomez, director non-profit group Free Country, told reporters.

For decades, the FARC has seized business leaders, oil workers and cattle ranchers as they drove on remote highways, or dragged them from their beds, sometimes posing as police.

Chained in mountain hideouts and urban slums, some captives languish for months or years while families try to muster ransoms running into the thousands, or occasionally millions, of dollars. Some are killed if negotiations fail.

"It makes me so happy. I hope they'll be celebrating with their families tonight," said Jhonny Castiblanco, 24, a waiter watching the release on television in an empty restaurant in the capital. In the 93rd Street Park of well-heeled northern Bogota, the unfolding events were displayed a large screen.

Unlike high-profile captives such as French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt - whose kidnapping prompted global condemnation, prayers by the Pope and direct involvement by French President Nicolas Sarkozy - most FARC victims have received little attention.

Last year, three Chinese oil workers and 23 oil industry contractors were seized in incidents blamed on the rebels. The Chinese workers are still in captivity, but troops freed the contractors.

The logistics of feeding and moving hostages has become more difficult for the FARC as an increasingly effective U.S.-backed military offensive has killed its leaders and driven the guerrillas back into ever more remote regions.

As a result, the police say, cases of kidnapping for ransom have fallen 90 percent since 2000 to 208 incidents last year, while the number of extortion cases surged 33 percent in 2011 from the previous year.

(Additional reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Nelson Bocanegra. Editing by Daniel Wallis andChristopher Wilson)

COHA: The FARC is by no means noticeably weakened

It's too bad those who've written off the FARC seem to have lost interest in defending their point of view. Facts, however, are stubborn things.

Here's another contribution from the liberal Council on Hemispheric Affairs. This is but a single paragraph out of a much longer contribution just out today:

Auspiciously, with the Summit’s briskly-approaching commencement next week, Colombia was handed a timely gift when the last ten remaining non-civilian hostages were freed by the country’s longstanding guerrilla group, the FARC, on Tuesday. This enormously symbolic act is consistent with the group’s new pledge to halt all kidnapping for the purpose of ransom, and conforms to last month’s promise to release the remaining captive members of Colombia’s armed forces and police. Despite the noteworthiness of the deed, however, FARC is by no means noticeably weakened in its vision or ideology, and continues to hold an estimated 405 kidnapped individuals. The new FARC policy on kidnapping is being viewed by most as an attempt by the guerrilla force to gain a higher degree of credibility and earn recognition as a legitimate military force, rather than a radical terrorist and paramilitary threat—the label by which it is currently classified by most of the world. This development is being viewed with cautious optimism by Colombia’s peace-making community, but it remains clear that a more accountable, collaborative, and transparent Colombian government stands the best chance of peacefully resolving the FARC problem, and the summit in Cartagena could be an ideal starting point in this process, assuming the distracting developments involving Cuba do not undermine this opportunity.

FULL:
http://www.coha.org/colombia-prepares-to-welcome-the-americas-to-cartage...

PL: FARC Urges Summit to Address Regional Topics

FARC Urges Summit to Address Regional Topics

Cartagena de Indias, Apr 14 (Prensa Latina) The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) urged on Saturday heads of state and government participating at the Sixth Summit of the Americas to discuss the main concerns of the region at the summit.

In an open letter to which Prensa Latina had access, the Secretariat of the Central High Command of FARC expresses that issues like the end of the U.S. blockade against Cuba and Argentina legitimate claim of sovereignty over the Falklands can not be absent at the meeting this weekend.

Also urged participants in the summit to respect the sovereignty and independence of the countries of the region, to search for an alternative model of development, and a political solution to the Colombian conflict and as a way of dealing with differences.

"In a full global crisis, a successful Summit of the Americas should deal not only with economic growth related to the rules of the market ", FARC said.

Regarding drug trafficking, one of the issues present in the hemispheric forum, FARC called to analyze it as a social problem that "can not be dealt with by military means and that requires commitment from the major powers as main sources of global demand for drugs".

The open letter also mentions the conflict in Colombia, and in that sense the rebels accuse the government to insist on the military option to solve it.

According to FARC, the Colombian government responds to United States interests and to the impositions of the multilateral lending agencies, "which generates privatization, damages working conditions and cuts social guarantees".

sgl/Jsr/leg/wmr Modificado el ( sábado, 14 de abril de 2012 )

Colombia's Marcha Patriótica Calls for International Solidarity

Would prefer to see this published as as a stand-alone
contribution to the discussion. It's an excellent reply
to Anthony Boynton's commentary here on Links.

Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CubaNews/
========================================
From: Alliance for Global Justice [Add to Address Book]
To: walterlx@earthlink.net
Subject: Colombia's Marcha Patriótica Calls for International Solidarity, Not Interference
Date: May 7, 2012 7:46 PM

Colombia's Marcha Patriótica Calls for
International Solidarity, Not Interference
by James Jordan,
National Co-Coordinator
for the Alliance for Global Justice

The Summit of the Americas in Cartegena, Colombia turned out to be an embarrassing fiasco for Pres. Obama and the US delegation. It was mainly marked by the Secret Service prostitution scandal, denouncements of the War on Drugs at every turn, three heads of state in the region not even showing up and Argentina’s Pres. Kirchner storming out, and the utter isolation of the US and Canada in regards to Cuba.
There was one pernicious dog and pony show, however, that was a “success” for both the US and Colombian delegations–and for the same 1% they both serve. This was Pres. Obama’s announcement of Colombia’s compliance with the Labor Action Plan upon which the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is contingent. The FTA is now on course to go in effect on May 15th–and with it an acceleration of more hard times and displacement for Colombia’s small, family farmers. Pres. Obama’s announcement is especially cynical given that there have been several recent murders and arrests of unionists. In fact, threats and attacks against Human Rights defenders in Colombia are at a ten year high, according to Somos Defensores (We Are Defenders).

The Marcha Patriótica converges at the Parque Nacional

But there was another meeting, also in April, that was of a very different character. This was the convening of the Marcha Patritica (Patriotic March) and its launching of the Consejo Patriotico Nacional (National Patriotic Council), made up of representatives from more than 1,500 grassroots organizations. Several observers, both in and out of Colombia, have said this may well have been the most important event in the Colombian Left since the mid-1990s. The Marcha Patriótica and launch of the Consejo Patriótico Nacional represents the next stage and the coalescing of the movement into a powerful and independent political block.

According to former Senator and former Mayor of the San Jose de Apartado Peace Community, and member of the Marcha Patriotica’s National Directorate, Gloria Cuartas, “The people have converted their pain into political power.” She called the Marcha Patriótica “…the most interesting reconfiguration of the Left in Colombia since the genocide of the Union Patriótica (Patriotic Union), which was literally eliminated. The Marcha opens a new route of hope for the various sectors found within it….We are very much in tune with what is occurring in Latin America.”

Recently released Political Prisoner, Human Rights Defender and labor activist Liliany Obando told me that,

“The MP [Marcha Patriótica] is like the Phoenix that was reborn from the ashes of previous failed processes…such as was the case with the genocide against the Union Patriótica and many other social and political processes…. With the MP, we find all those who…feel that there is no true space in the Colombian political system for dissidence, for critical opinion, for political opposition….We hope to be able to continue our search for…a just and durable peace, without social iniquities and with truly inclusive politics, so that they no longer incarcerate, torture, displace and kill you for thinking and dreaming of a different kind of country.”

I was one of five US delegates representing the Alliance for Global Justice, the National Lawyers Guild, the video collective Pan Left, and the pro-immigrant, anti-border militarization Coalición de Derechos Humanos (Coalition for Human Rights). We witnessed more than 400 delegates from all over Colombia coming together to organize a new political platform on April 21 and 22. And on April 23, we saw some 100,000 persons march to the Parque Nacional (National Park)to demand peace with justice, negotiations toward a political solution, full, open and secure political participation and meaningful land reform.

Reported widely in Colombian press of all kinds, international corporate media completely ignored the event and, indeed, much of the international progressive media also ignored it. Cuba’s Prensa Latina, Telesur and a variety of Leftist media supplied coverage, but other voices were conspicuously absent, especially in the US. This is a shame for a couple of reasons. First, it betrays a general ignorance or neglect for Colombia solidarity. The Marcha Patriotica brought together under one banner the Left wing of the Liberal Party as well as Colombianas y Colombianos por la Paz (Colombians for Peace), both led by Piedad Córdoba (who is part of the Marcha’s National Directorate), the Colombian Communist Party, FENSUAGRO—the largest organization of peasant unions and associations, the indigenous Minga movement, a former mayor of the San Jose de Apartado Peace Community and hundreds of other organizations and popular representatives.

Piedad Córdoba and Gloria Cuartas at the Marcha Patriótica

However, the second reason the silence is so deafening is because violence and repression are already underway against the Marcha and the rest of the Colombian Left and labor movement. Even before delegates had arrived in Bogotá, the disappearance of FENSUAGRO delegate Henry Díaz dampened the event. Then, on the Friday after the Marcha, SINALTRAINAL unionist Daniel Aguirre Piedrahita and Coordinator of Body Guards for Carlos Lozano, Mao Enrique Rodríguez, were both assassinated in separate events. Lozano is the Editor of Voz, Colombia’s largest circulation Left newspaper, and is part of the National Directorate for the Marcha.

Numerous threats continue against members of the Marcha, many directed at FENSUAGRO. Jimmy Sneith Ortiz Gutierrez is a young leader of the SINPREAGRICUN union, a FENSUAGRO affiliate. He has been contacted numerous times by members of the Armed Forces who have cajoled and, finally, threatened him, wanting him to go on record identifying unionists as members of the FARC-EP. On May 1st, he received a note full of run-on sentences and bad grammar…but all too easily understood:

“Guerrilla dog, don’t believe that you can save yourself, don’t believe that we don’t know where you are ….the cleansing begins….you cannot shield yourself with a simple union because we go there to begin to take heads….and don’t believe that everything is going to end with you leaving your sector, there will not be an alert that saves you, we have already seen you in Bogotá and we do not lack gall, we are waiting to see if you yourself….take this decision, respond to our message within 20 days.”

This is, incidentally, a classic example of how people are pressured and forced to turn into informers to give false, usually paid testimony to frame union and popular movement leaders as guerrillas. In fact, former Defense Minister Freddy Padilla de Leon once bragged that one out of twenty Colombians acted as agents and informers for the Colombian state. Padilla was the General Commander of the Colombian Armed Forces from 2006 to 2010, including the time when the False Positive scandal was first uncovered, for which he urged an “attitude of tolerance” in investigations and prosecution of these crimes. The False Positive scandal stems from a process wherein young persons are rounded up and executed, then dressed up as guerrillas and claimed as enemy combatants. So far some 3,000 victims have been officially identified, and perpetrators have been implicated up to the highest levels of the Colombian military.

International awareness and accompaniment are considered absolutely key to the success of any peace process and to the safety of the Marcha. In fact, in my travels to Colombia, never have I heard so many requests for the presence of internationals.

Sen. Cuartas called to both the national and international communities that “…you might accompany us, protect us and attach yourselves to this Marcha.”

Human Rights lawyer, Luis Carlos Dominguez Prada, writing a few months before in the magazine Taller, writes that for a successful political solution and land reform to occur in Colombia, “It constitutes an imperative….that it can count on ample solidarity and international accompaniment.”

Liliany Obando, with her family, has endured repeated threats and harassment since her release in March, 2012, including being followed and photographed by unknown men. For her, the issue of accompaniment is very personal, saying,

“International accompaniment always will be fundamental….Your presence in some form prevents them from committing so many human rights abuses. Equally, it is of great importance that you might serve as direct witnesses to these processes….This is just as important for the positive aspects, such as the case of constructing new initiatives of social and political organization and participation, as well as for the negative that takes place in Colombia such as the systematic violation of human rights, the theft of our natural resources on the part of the multinationals, the support of foreign governments for war in Colombia and the nefarious role of the Free Trade Agreements.”

It is important to note that the Marcha Patriótica is not a second phase of the Union Patriótica (UP), which included the open and legal participation of the FARC-EP. Nevertheless, the memory of the UP’s experience is seared in the minds of the Marcha Patriótica. The UP was created as part of an effort toward a political solution to the armed and social conflict in Colombia. Over ten years of existence, from 1985 to 1995, military and paramilitary attacks killed 5,000 of its candidates and elected officials, including two presidential candidates.

Nevertheless, Sen. Cuartas adds that, “You can’t compare them. The UP was born out of the negotiations between an insurgent group and the government. The Marcha Patriótica, in contrast, emerges from the social movements.” Cuartas added, “We’re not going to get tangled up in responding to the government….Whatever person who in this country speaks against the system or defends human rights, they are going to be labeled as a son of the FARC.”

Leader of the Organización Campesina del Valle del Río Cimitarra (ACVC) and Marcha National Directorate member Andres Gil adds, “The FARC are not our political leaders.”

But there is ample reason to believe that both the government and corporate media in Colombia will try to paint the Marcha as a front for the FARC-EP. There are more than 9,000 political prisoners in Colombia and only 800 of them are known to be members of the FARC-EP. The vast majority are prisoners of conscience or of judicial set-ups, more often than not behind bars for the vague charge of “Rebellion”. Many of these, after several years of incarceration (as in the case of Liliany Obando) will be later freed for lack of evidence and/or violation of conditions. Yet the government still claims that most these prisoners are members of or sympathizers with guerrillas.

Even worse is the long-standing practice of political, business and media leaders and outlets who accuse dissidents, without supporting evidence, of being members of the FARC. These kinds of accusations are often followed by acts of violence against those so maligned. Similar accusations have already been leveled against the Marcha, both by government officials and corporate media, and there is no basis for thinking they will stop.

Still, it was clear throughout the event that the vast majority of Marcha delegates rejected the demonization of the FARC-EP as completely counter productive to any hope or possibility of a political solution and a legitimate process toward peace with justice. This stage of the Marcha Patriótica–the launching of the Consejo Patriótico Nacional–grew out of was National Encounter for the Land and Peace that took place in Barancabermeja in August, 2010. At this meeting some 27,000 delegates from indigenous, Afro-Colombian and campesino communities met with members of the Colombian Left, elements of the Catholic Church, student and labor movements to demand land reform and a peace process based on negotiations and a political solution to the armed and social conflicts.

It was also clear at both the National Encounter and at the Marcha Patriotica that, whatever approval or disapproval participants had regarding insurgent groups, that their good faith efforts toward a political solution were recognized. The FARC-EP has repeatedly declared its willingness to enter into negotiations and work toward a legitimate peace, and these declarations have been backed up by numerous unilateral releases of prisoners, culminating in the release of all remaining prisoners of war held at the time (military and police captives), and the renunciation of taking political prisoners for ransom purposes.

In a joint statement released in August, 2011, the Marcha Política and FENSUAGRO called for, “dialogue among the rural communities, the unions, the government and the Colombian insurgency…for all the political and social actors to sit down to think and construct from the hopes of the country, proposals for peace, and not for war.”

Marcha Patriotica member organization, ACVC, were clear about where they felt the obstacles were coming from. An August 14, 2011 statement declared that,

“…It is necessary to interpret as positive the…recent messages of the guerrillas…expressing their availability for dialogue…such as their call…for citizens to mobilize for peace as a fundamental method to achieve it. On the other hand, it is very positive that those who make up the model of the Mafioso State are losing political space before those who opt for a conventional state under ‘Rule of Law’.”

Or as FENSUAGRO President Eberto Díaz told me,

“The military aid of the United States and Plan Colombia constitute one of the greatest obstacles to peace…The US must not continue intervening in this conflict and maintaining that peace is not possible. It must stop calling the armed insurgency terrorists because this blocks dialogue and it also shows a double standard regarding political violence in the country….”

The Colombian popular movement wants international support. One thing that they clearly are not asking for, however, is interference or judgment. Yet to our extreme discredit, many US based solidarity activists and organizations, in the name of “peace”, repeat and spread around lies, distortions and misinformation emanating directly from sources such as the US State Department, the Pentagon and the very transnational corporations that are currently plundering Colombia.

Such actions show a profound lack of understanding of the Solidarity Model. As my colleague and National Co-Coordinator for the Alliance for Global Justice Chuck Kaufman explains,

“The Solidarity Model to which we ascribe mandates that we create relationships based on self-respect and interdependency in order to moderate power differentials. We view our role to be to amplify the articulated priorities of our Southern partners rather than one in which we tell them what we think is best for them. One aspect of this is that we do not criticize the strategies and tactics of authentic organizations of the oppressed. We trust that they know the realities of their lives and culture better than we do. In nearly every matter we believe that our partners have the right to walk their own path to peace and justice; a path on which we accompany them. In our own country, our responsibility is to change our own government, and we welcome our international partners to walk our path with us. “

Because the problem of disinformation is all too widespread in the US-based Colombia solidarity movement, it is necessary to identify and at least partially rebut some of the more common of these false or distorted assertions. In broadcasting the call our partners have made for international accompaniment, it is all the more pressing upon us that we address these myths and insist that US based solidarity activist be informed and refrain from distortions and interference in the internal affairs of our Colombian allies. Let me address some of these myths one by one.

Myth Number One:

The FARC-EP is a terrorist organization that refuses to enter into a political process, preferring indiscriminate violence against local communities to a path toward peace.

The FARC-EP was founded in response to campaigns of violence and displacement against rural communities by the government and the hired guns of big landowners. FARC-EP membership is mostly made up of members of rural populations, rather than outsiders. The majority of casualties from FARC-EP attacks have been members of the Colombian Armed Forces and Paramilitaries. Whatever excesses and atrocities may have been committed by members of the FARC-EP , the ELN (National Liberation Army) and other guerrilla groups, it should be noted that throughout the course of the history of the FARC-EP (dating from May 27, 1964), 70 to 80% of all political violence has been committed by either members of the Colombian Armed Forces or by “private”, paramilitary death squads.

As far as entering into the political process goes, there are many, many examples of the FARC-EP’s willingness to negotiate and take up political organization, and we have already discussed the main example of the Union Patriótica. The lesson learned from this history is that minus an end to the impunity of political criminals and a secure and open political process, the FARC-EP has no guarantees that good faith entry into the electoral arena will be met by good faith efforts on the part of the government, corporate leaders and big landowners and their paramilitary hirelings.

In fact, this last November, at the 2011 protests to close the School of the Americas, I took part in a workshop in which a woman from the Justicia y Paz movement in Colombia, brought to this event by Witness for Peace, was asked point blank if she thought that the FARC-EP should be required to disarm as a prerequisite for negotiations. She responded with an emphatic, “no”. She was most definitely neither supporter nor friend of the FARC-EP, but still seemed incredulous that the question was even asked, given the experience of the UP.

Recent history has also not been encouraging regarding government and corporate commitment to peace. For instance, on the opening day of the National Encounter for the Land and Peace, Pres. Santos ordered the indiscriminate and unprovoked bombing of a villages in the municipality of Chaparral, Tolima, alluding to the alleged presence of FARC-EP troops in the area. That same day, Pres. Santos declared that the door to peace was “…closed with a key, and I have the key in my pocket.” A few days before, Santos had commented that “There are many people who do not want peace and many people who want to play a leading role, and the advocacy for peace is very harmful.”This was both preceded and followed by the arrests of several FENSUAGRO members in the Department of Putumayo. The timing of these attacks, arrests and statements seemed designed to undermine the Colombian movement for peace.

So far, the Colombian government, the US government that funds and advises war and repression in Colombia, and the transnational corporate interests they serve have not shown a genuinely strong interest in negotiations. Having displaced more than 5 million mostly rural Colombians from as much as 12 to 16 million acres of land, their interest is not in peace, but in the consolidation of illegal corporate land-grabs and access to oil, water, energy, agricultural and mining resources.

For the US government to list the FARC-EP as a terrorist organization, and for US “solidarity” activists to repeat this assertion does nothing to advance the cause of peace but, rather, justifies ongoing war.

Myth Number Two:

The FARC-EP and other guerrilla groups are too fragmented to negotiate meaningfully. With only 9,000 members or less left; with no clear, well-functioning centralized command; and with a lack of regular, viable communication among the various fronts, there is no one who can truly speak for the guerrillas.

First of all, where exactly does this “9,000” number come from but from the previous administration of Pres. Uribe–a man who was listed in 1991 by the US Defense Intelligence Agency as one of the 100 most “important narco-traffickers” in Colombia? This number was being quoted before revelations showed that at least 3,000 young people-the false positives-had been murdered and used to inflate the numbers of killed insurgents.

The figure of only 9,000 soldiers left in the FARC-EP also comes from the Uribe administration in its employment of Luis Carlos Restrepo as a “peace commissioner”. Restrepo has since been found to have concocted another kind of “false positive” scandal in which he claimed to have overseen the demobilization of an entirely fictitious front of the FARC-EP.

This 9,000 figure comes from an administration that employed the services of Cesar Caballero, former director of Colombia’s National Administrative Department of Statistics. Caballero admitted that the government had manipulated and continues to manipulate ‘statistics to make Colombia appear safer than it is. Caballero adds that , “…the president’s policy is…to maintain the perception that security has improved, no matter what the case.”

In other words, there is absolutely no reason for US-based Colombia solidarity activists to accept this number as credible, much less to repeat it. Doing so is a service to the propaganda efforts of Empire.

Almost all credible sources will admit that it is impossible to get an exact count on the numbers of FARC-EP insurgents. Canadian scholar James Brittain has suggested the number of FARC-EP combatants may be well over 40,000, citing several carefully documented sources and his own experience conducting first hand research among a number of FARC-EP fronts.

Scholar James Petras says that the FARC-EP is “…the dominant political force in over 50 percent of the country’s municipalities, fielding a guerilla army of approximately 18,000 mostly peasant fighters.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross affirms that there has been no significant loss of capacity for the FARC-EP, despite the high-profile deaths of several FARC leaders. In a press conference launching a report by the ICRC, Christophe Beney noted that, “What we see today, perhaps between the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, is that…the FARC adapts itself dynamically….to continue being an important actor in the armed conflict.”

The Colombian government-funded think-tank Nuevo Arco Iris notes that there have been steady increases in 2010 and 2011 in military actions by the FARC-EP, although it attributes them to restructuring and new strategies, rather than the failure of the government’s “Democratic Security” strategy. Nevertheless, it does recognize the failure of the predicted “end of the FARC-EP” and a subsequent demoralization among the armed forces. According to a 2011 Nuevo Arco Iris report,

“There was an overvaluation of the successes of democratic security in 2008…[and] the country was said to be at the “end of the end” [of the war]…Then General Padilla de Leon declared that in no more than one year the FARC would be practically liquidated….The research showed that there is a wear or fatigue in some structures of the Military Forces. This is due to the fact that the so-called “end of the end” is not so near for the guerrilla group….”

When US-based Colombia solidarity activists repeat as fact that the FARC-EP is fragmented and down to only 9,000 combatants, they are relying on outright liars and manipulators of statistics for their numbers. I once even heard one such oft-cited activist remark, “Who would the government negotiate with? The FARC are so weakened and the communications between fronts so disrupted, that even if the government reached agreements with FARC Commanders, how could they be enforced?” In other words, he was repeating exactly what the Empire wants us to believe.

Myth Number Three:

The FARC-EP no longer need popular support or the backing of local communities because they have forsaken their ideological principles and have converted into nothing more than a narco-trafficking organization.

This is a myth that is repeated ad nauseum by many alleged proponents of peace.

Oliver Villar and Drew Cottle note in their new book, Cocaine, Death Squads and the War on Terror, that,

“From the late 1980s the Colombian state commenced efforts to manufacture its image as a defender of democracy at war with narco-terrorists. The state employed the services of the Sawyer/Miller Group, a leading public relations company in the United States to wage PSYWAR on Colombia’s narco-terrorists, the FARC….By the 1990s, the Sawyer/Miller Group had regularly used the American press to disseminate Colombian government propaganda….

Despite the propaganda about the FARC as narco-terrorists, in 2001 Colombian intelligence estimated that FARC controlled less than 2.5 percent of Colombia’s cocaine exports, while the AUC controlled 40 percent, not counting the narco-bourgeoise as a whole…

The guerrillas provide the security and enforce a drug tax, as they do with all products under their control. By protecting its campesino base, the FARC accepts the cash crop as a supplementary income for the campesinos’ subsistence…When territory is captured by the FARC insurgents the narco-bourgeoisie is driven out…

…If the FARC dominated the multibillion-dollar cocaine trade in any way, it could not be in conflict with needed contacts within the Colombian establishment and the United States.”

Donnie Marshall, the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency under Pres. George W. Bush has gone on record saying, “…there is no evidence that any FARC or ELN units have established international transportation, wholesale distribution or drug money-laundering networks in the United States or Europe.”

According to Rafael Suarez, who was a military advisor to the Uribe administration, “if you reduce the FARC to just a drug cartel, you make the possibility of negotiating a political settlement more difficult.” Of course, if the goal is not peace, but the consolidation of stolen lands, then the strategy works well of branding the FARC-EP as major drug traffickers and carrying out a “War on Drugs” that is really a War of Displacement and a War against Farmers.

James Brittain explains that,

“Guerrillas don’t get paid and receive three meals a day and medical treatment if they need it, but sometimes even those are scarce. They live in camps in the forest, sleep on wooden planks, bathe in rivers, and fight with diseases. It isn’t a life of luxury, which led journalist Garry Leech, who once spent time in a FARC camp, to say:

‘And if guerrilla leaders…are little more than the heads of a criminal organization, then they must be considered miserable failures. After all, other Colombian criminals live in luxury. The leader of the former Medellín cocaine cartel, Pablo Escobar, lived lavishly in magnificent mansions, as have many other Colombian drug traffickers over the past thirty years. Paramilitary leaders have also lived well on their vast cattle ranches in northern Colombia, enjoying the riches wrought from their criminal activities’”

Regarding measuring the popular support of the FARC-EP, again, when Colombia “solidarity” activists claim that there is none, and that the FARC-EP is isolated from the populace, they are once again mouthing the words of the Colombian oligarchy and the US-Corporate Empire.

The FARC-EP is strongest in areas abandoned by the government. In these areas, the FARC-EP has built roads, set up schools and health clinics, acted as a legal system for the settlement of disputes and protected the populace against paramilitary and military attacks. James Brittain notes that, “Alongside the creation of education centers, the guerrillas have shaped grassroots medical facilities…Medical and dental services have been provided by the FARC-EP directly or through allies….When someone is ill, remedial treatment is offered at no cost. I experienced this at first hand when I became severely ill in the jungle.”

Brittain also notes that,

“the FARC-EP has been involved in much simpler excise practices in some rural communities. These levy systems saw the guerrillas collect a tax on amenities such as toothpaste, soap, and in some cases, beer, which was reciprocally repaid in full to a community-based body. The taxes were collected but not spent by the FARC-EP. They are forwarded to ‘an elected committee from the locality’called Juntas Acción Comunal (JAC) – a locally elected neighborhood council – which implements social programs and infrastructure with the collected funds.”

Polls are often cited as proof positive that the FARC-EP does not enjoy any popular support. However, these polls are generally done via landline telephones. Most Colombians don’t own land lines for economic or geographic reasons. Furthermore, those polled can easily be identified using landlines, therefore the polls are not truly anonymous.

Perhaps the peace negotiations of 1998-2002 give some clue, though, to how rural communities regard the FARC-EP. For instance, before negotiations, the region of San Vicente del Caguan had around 100,000 residents. After negotiations, roughly 740,000 peasants migrated to the area under the control of the FARC-EP.

Myth Number Four:

The lack of concern or consideration for human rights and life is proven by the FARC-EP’s recruitment of child soldiers.

No one who cares about peace can approve of the use of child soldiers. But I also have heard repeated testimonies from Colombian rural villagers as well as students about killings of Colombian young people by the military and paramilitaries. Young people are killed as false positives, they are killed for their political activities, they are killed because they refuse to become informers, they are killed for a variety of reasons. In fact, I heard one story about a young 13 year old girl who wanted to join a contingent of the FARC-EP, but the brigade commander refused. A year later the commander was in the area again, only to find that the girl had been killed by paramilitaries.

When I was visiting in a village of the municipality of Corinto, Cauca, in 2008, we saw a video that graphically illustrated the dangers of being a young person in a rural zone of conflict. The video showed two teenagers who had been murdered by members of the Armed Forces while they were sitting on the floor eating supper. The villagers refused to let the soldiers leave–and refused to allow these young people to be dressed up to become yet two more false positives. A subsequent investigation confirmed that this was indeed a murder committed by the military–but no one was jailed for this crime.

The Alliance for Global Justice condemns the use of child soldiers. And we condemn the killing and maiming of children by the Colombian Armed Forces and paramilitary death squads, and we recognize that part of the reason some children are compelled to take up arms is for their own safety.

Because AfGJ refused to either endorse or condemn Colombian guerrilla groups, I have been asked several times what is the attitude of the Alliance for Global Justice toward the FARC-EP, the ELN and other groups. AFGJ and myself, personally, emphatically do not meet with any clandestine groups nor do we know nor can we identify any members of such groups. We have no reason and no desire to talk with such organizations or their membership. We do not in any way give our support to insurgent groups in Colombia. Besides, if they needed the paltry resources of the AfGJ, then they would be pitifully bad off indeed.

However, we also refuse to condemn insurgencies or spread false information about them. As a solidarity organization based in the US, our job is to oppose US policies of war and repression, not to choose sides in the internal affairs of other countries.

All our allies in Colombia have chosen the road of popular mobilization and political organization rather than violence. Indeed, all our closest allies have hitched their horses to the wagon of the Marcha Patriotica. Our solidarity takes the form of efforts to change US policies toward Colombia and to give our support for a legitimate peace process. Our solidarity takes the form of a positive answer to our partners’ calls for accompaniment. As internationalists, we also join in worldwide efforts to bring to bear the pressure of international opinion on the Santos administration to pursue negotiations for a political solution because peace in Colombia is of vital importance to the stability of the continent, the hemisphere and the entire planet.

I would be remiss to suggest that Santos is no different than his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe. In Santos’ dealings with Cuba and Venezuela and in his criticisms of the War on Drugs and openness to the prospect of legalization, he shows some level of independence, however small, from the dictates of Washington, DC.

In regards to the armed conflict, unlike his predecessor, Santos at least admits the armed conflict exists and has even said that he and others could be found guilty of crimes against humanity in a context other than the war. Most important has been the reality that the Santos administration has already engaged in backdoor, unofficial and low level talks with guerrilla forces. Thus it is all the more important that we bring international pressure to bear on this administration that it might enter fully and in good faith into a legitimate peace process.

With the advent of the Marcha Patriotica and a history of growing mobilizations for peace in Colombia, the role of the US solidarity movement is to stand squarely with these mobilizations. Several times in the past, the US government and Pentagon, and US corporations like Drummond Coal, Chiquita Banana, Coca-Cola and others have interfered to sabotage movements toward peace. We must demand that the US support the goal of a political solution by not interfering. A good start would be for the US government to return to Colombia extradited guerrilla Prisoners of War such as Ricardo Palmera, so that they may participate in a peace process. The US should also return extradited paramilitary prisoners so they can participate in truth-telling commissions. And the US government should take the FARC-EP off its list of terrorist organizations.

The Colombian popular movement is insisting that international awareness and accompaniment will be necessary components for any kind of social transformation and peace. We in the US must step up to the plate and do what we can to answer this call in the affirmative. But what is not needed, and not welcome, are those who in the name of peace repeat the lies and distortions of the Empire. For “solidarity” activists such as these, it is best that you stay at home.

JUVENTUD REBELDE: Dark Hands Threaten Not Only Piedad Cordoba

JUVENTUD REBELDE
Dark Hands Threaten Not Only Piedad Cordoba

Marina Menéndez Quintero • marina@juventudrebelde.cu
May 11, 201221:09:40 CDT

http://www.walterlippmann.com/docs3414.html
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

No other threat could better reveal the nature of those who make it. If death is now stalking the peace and life champion Piedad Córdoba, we know that behind the threats are the dark hands of the most retrograde sectors of her nation as well as those of the paramilitary forces which were in the past promoted by those who used them as arrowheads against the insurgents and thus extended far beyond what was (or is?) believed to be their social background.

With this news comes a reason for serious concern: the confirmation that in Colombia survives and –are renewed-- the practices of those death squads that at some point President Alvaro Uribe boasted of having demobilized; bands that committed massacres and selective crimes which made the country have the highest number of murdered union leaders and social leaders in Latin America.

A plan to murder the ex-Senator for $565, 000 dollars has been disclosed. But the hideous action that some pretend to pay for does not surprise us. Uribe himself used the method to obtain information on and the capture of guerrilla leaders.

A few hours ago this was denounced by Colombianos y Colombianas por la Paz, an organization led by Piedad who play a key role in the return to civilian life of FARC prisoners recently freed and which promotes a negotiated solution to the armed conflict. This is reason enough for the “hard” sectors to dislike her, but not the only motive as she herself has suggested.

The plan against her integrity emerges at a time when many are discussing that which will undoubtedly be a momentous event: the birth of the Marcha Patriotica [Patriotic March] the widest –and therefore powerful- social body Colombia has ever had.

It wasn’t born as a party, but it may become one that would overtake groups that had never had so much strength. The purpose of its leaders is to unite the “democratic left” and carry it along, but its mere existence with so much representativeness makes it a political voice. It is made up of 1,800 popular organizations and is the most important expression of a Colombia that is not visible, shaded by wars, the paramilitary, a political web with frequent splashes from drug dealing, and a violence that makes victims of the poor and humble more frequently than of the guerrilla and soldiers who are casualties in the combats.

Such is the violence that is knocking at the doors and entering by the windows of the Marcha Patriótica . When the movement was introduced to the world with the gigantic march of 60,000 people that on last April 27 shook Bogotá, it already had a death. Two weeks later, Telesur reported that Communist Party member Jorge Gómez talked about the disappearance of two participants in the march, two murdered and seven captured. And Piedad is among the visible heads of that event.

For members of the new popular entity, the fact that several media presented the event as an action “financed” by FARC guerrillas or the result of an “idea” from the insurgence are attempts to “stigmatize” them. Media like Spanish El País, for example, wondered if this was the “political arm of the guerrilla…”

In a country like Colombia, such statements -apart from robbing the Marcha… of its authenticity as a legitimate representative of sectors involved in the struggle for democracy- may be very dangerous.

But this does not deny –or rule out- the fact that the movement could accept the insurgence within its ranks, which would somehow mean its insertion in civilian life. Couldn’t this lead to the silencing of weapons… a dream of the majorities in Colombia?

Interviewed by RCN after the mobilization, and according to the network, Piedad Córdoba declared the insurgence would have a space in the new political project and that she would “continue the dialogue started by Colombianos y Colombianas por la Paz to construct a final understanding between the different sectors in the country without resorting to negotiating tables or restricted spaces, but with the contribution of each one to achieve a comprehensive dialogue”

Looking at it from a different perspective, we can’t rule out the fact that the threats against Marcha Patriótica that come from the extreme reaction, are trying to strain a climate where, for the first time in several years, a different air is coming in.

The commitment made by the FARC to renounce kidnapping and to unilaterally free the last paramilitary and policemen in their power –as demanded by the Government- and on the other hand the recent statement by President Juan Manuel Santos at the Cámara de Comercio de Bogotá during a seminar on electoral systems where he said “yes to politics” and “no to weapons” could be indications that something is moving.

Meanwhile, the relevant authorities have said they have taken note of the death threats to Córdoba… And they should. An attempt on the life of this courageous woman would hurt much more than Piedad.

Colombia: New group shows hope of bringing change

WORKERS WORLD
Colombia: New group shows hope of bringing change

By Berta Joubert-Ceci
Published May 30, 2012 9:36 PM

Colombians launched a new movement in April that may challenge the oligarchy’s
rule there. La Marcha Patriótica [Patriotic March or PM] is an outgrowth of the
diverse social movements in Colombia.

Before proceeding to Workers World’s interview with a Patriotic March
spokesperson, a brief description of recent developments will help readers
understand this movement’s significance.

Colombia’s current political climate

Two years have passed since Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, took
office. Santos, the ruling-class member who was educated in private schools in
Colombia and universities in the U.S. and Britain, shows a sophistication that
his predecessor lacked. Santos has given the impression that he somehow is
fairer and more democratic than former president and paramilitary ally, Álvaro
Uribe.

Even the trade agreement, which Washington was pushing for for so long but
failed to pass under Uribe, now has been approved. This, despite the recent
report released by the State Department indicating that “the most serious
problems of Colombia in the period were ‘impunity and a deficient judicial
system, corruption and social discrimination.’” (noticiascaracol.com)

State repression and violence against the progressive forces and the armed
insurgency continue unabated. Labor leaders continue to be assassinated by the
paramilitary forces linked to the Colombian army. Transnational corporations
continue stealing the Colombian peoples’ resources.

In spite of these continuing atrocities, there is a polarization within the
established system, between Santos and Uribe, which was the focus of a recent
editorial in the daily El Espectador. Uribe blames Santos for not following his
policies of “Democratic Security” — meaning an overtly repressive state. In the
article, entitled, “Against Itself” [En contra de sí mismo], the author, Nicolás
Uribe Rueda, exposes the serious polarization and “the weakening and
self-destruction of the institutional mechanisms” that are supposed to “solve
the most complex problems of our society.” (Elespectador.com)

Within that context, he mentions the Congress and the judicial system, stating
that “Colombians distrust politicians and judges alike.” He portrays a
completely dysfunctional state that works on behalf of different individuals’
interests.

Will the forces allied to Uribe make a move against the Santos government? Uribe
has been traveling to the U.S. and various countries in Latin America promoting
his views and his hatred of Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez. Is this an
attempt to gather support? Only time will tell.

David Florez speaks about the Patriotic March

In the meantime, the left political forces are moving and gathering strength.

David Florez, who until recently was a leader of the growing student movement,
is one of several spokespersons of the PM. Florez told WW/MO of PM’s origins:
“It arises from a process of confluence of the Colombian social and popular
movement of long ago. In the first place, it comes from the reconstruction of
the peasant movement, of great mobilizations in the 1990s, of the reconstruction
of the student movement, particularly from universities in the 2000s, and from
the convening of joint mobilizations.”

Florez spoke of the first large national and popular mobilization in 2007
against Uribe’s government in many departments [states] of the country which led
to the founding of a coordinating group formed mainly by peasants’
organizations. Later on, Indigenous, students’ and workers’ organizations
joined. In 2009, after an International Meeting on Peace and Humanitarian
Exchange, other organizations joined the effort.

The basis for joining was a shared understanding about peace, a political
solution for the Colombian conflict and the need for a humanitarian exchange [of
political prisoners and those retained by the insurgent forces].

By 2010, organizations that were struggling against the neoliberal model also
joined in and a major mobilization took place on July 20 as they confronted the
government’s official celebration of the bicentennial of the country’s
independence.

“It was an important date for us because it was a date that they used to say
that Colombia was a prosperous country, with freedom, democracy and sovereignty,
but for us it was an opportunity to say quite the opposite. A country where
there is no sovereignty, where there is no real democracy, where there is no
real sharing of the wealth, but on the contrary, there is a large concentration
of wealth [in few hands].

“Then we organized ourselves to hold a commemoration critical of the [official]
bicentennial and carry out what was called the Patriotic March and Open Cabildo
for Independence. A cabildo is a space for political discussion and
participation. At that time, we mobilized more than 60,000 people throughout the
country and developed 10 thematic cabildos.

“Since then, we have been preparing this initiative,” Florez continued. “That is
how the PM was born, for the reconstruction of the popular movement and out of
the belief that a different way of carrying out politics is necessary.”

In 1985, the FARC-EP, along with other organizations, founded the Patriotic
Union, a successful electoral party, as part of a proposal for peace and
democratic politics under negotiations with then President Belisario Betancourt.
However, thousands of its leaders and members were killed by paramilitaries and
the Colombian state security forces. The extermination of this organization,
with more than 4,000 people assassinated, was called Operation Red Dance.

Taking into account this genocide, WW/MO asked Florez to compare the PU with the
PM. He said, “The PU was born out of a treaty between the state and the [armed]
insurgency … for the purpose of participation in the political scene and to
develop the reforms that the country needed. The PM arises from popular and
social movements and some political organizations.

“There are differences but also similarities. The PM as well as the PU mean the
possibility for many sectors that do not feel represented by the existing
political parties … to have a space where they discuss their problems, but also
raise their proposals.”

Another Red Dance in the making?

The PM has gotten no assurances from the government regarding security. In fact,
members of the Colombian army and other government forces have harassed and held
members of the PM in different parts of the country. Mao Enrique Rodríguez,
chief of bodyguards for Carlos Lozano, another spokesperson of the PM from the
Colombian Communist Party, was shot to death on April 27. Hernán Henry Díaz,
leader of the Patriotic Council of Putumayo, has disappeared in a region between
two army roadblocks [retenes]. Paramilitary groups harass peasant communities in
Antioquia.

In Colombia, dissent is a crime punishable with death, torture, disappearances
or long prison terms. That has not changed and that is precisely what the
Patriotic March organizes against.

One important distinction between the PU and the PM is that the PM is not an
electoral party. It is an attempt to unite all the possible forces into an
effective social movement that can do away with the anti-democratic and
exclusionary system that pervades Colombia. It has a significant presence of
Afro Colombians, Indigenous people, peasants, workers and students. Another
spokesperson of the PM is ex-Sen. Piedad Córdoba, a courageous Afro Colombian
woman who has been instrumental in the process of humanitarian exchange.

The PM has developed a document explaining their goals and methods which has
been amply discussed around the country. Florez explained how they work hard to
involve all the members in making decisions, not relying on representatives or
leaders. As such, it is an example of participatory democracy.

More information can be read on their website, marchapatriotica.org. It is
indeed a welcomed development in that suffering country, one that can serve as
example to the world.

Prensa Latina: Colombian FARC insists on a real and tangible pea

Colombian FARC insists on a real and tangible peace

http://www.walterlippmann.com/docs3457.html
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC)Bogota, June 8 (PL).- The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insisted on the need for real, effective and tangible peace for the country in order to overcome existing inequalities.

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) in a public statement posted today in its website, holds that such a peace can only be attained through the large-scale mobilization of all sectors willing to see a change.

That is how we in the FARC understand a situation that we strive to resolve, the rebels state in this text that hails the student movement on the occasion of Fallen Students Day, observed today and tomorrow.

The guerrilla force believes that Colombia’s hopes are pinned on its youth and students and their ability to mobilize. “Our homeland is confident of your creative spirit, joy and fortitude to keep supporting the fervent and massive clamor for a peace with social justice now resounding across the national geography”, the FARC holds, stating its recognition of the student movement’s struggle for social justice and sovereignty as well as its unity and solidarity with various signs of resistance currently thriving in the country.

Our youth, the FARC continues, is now standing up to the decline and privatization of public education fostered by the government’s neo-liberal strategy.

According to the Colombian rebels, President Juan Manuel Santos is trying to make even more changes so that he can line his pockets and those of our own homegrown capitalists with a greater presence of big business and its transnational corporations. This is at the expense of all the natural and human resources he has put out to tender, surrendering our national sovereignty to the detriment of the Colombian people’s most elementary living conditions.

Likewise, the FARC refers to the free trade agreements with the United States and other nations as prejudicial to Colombia. In this regard the FARC warns of the way these agreements only add to the crisis currently imposing on the environment, people, workers, peasants, industrial activity and food production.

On top of that –the text goes on– these treaties will affect and destroy public education, critical thinking, scientific research and the formation of free women and men.

The FARC believes that patriotism and national independence become but old-fashioned absurdities in light of the neo-liberal wave now spreading throughout our educational institutions.

On the other hand, the guerrilla force underscores that these are times of unity and struggle that call for a true popular mobilization of people who take to the streets and impose from there a law that provides for free education up to the university level.

In the meantime, they remind readers that war and repression by the army, police and paramilitary groups are on the rise, as is the violation of fundamental rights by state agents.

“Trade union, peasant and popular leaders are being murdered and threatened; violence against human rights activists is increasing; more and more Colombians are stripped of their land or forced to move elsewhere, and the restitution of their property is nothing but a deceitful publicity stunt designed by the government”, the message denounces.

The authorities keep bringing pressure to bear on and issuing warnings to the democratic and revolutionary opposition, while State terrorism and exploitation go hand in hand with impunity.

According to the FARC, the peace offered by President Santos excludes our people and disregards any change of the causes that gave rise to and still fuel the existing conflict.

“His is therefore an irresponsible, demagogic, lying, unpatriotic and above all else vote-seeking, reelection-oriented strategy tailored to the interests of the White House”, the guerrilla force points out.

SPANISH ORIGINAL:
Guerrilla colombiana insiste en paz real y tangible

http://www.prensa-latina.cu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=51...

TELESUR: Santos confirms start of peace talks with the FARC

TELESUR
Monday August 27, 2012, 7:44 pm
Santos confirms start of peace talks with the FARC

President of Colombia ratifies rapprochement with the FARC and ELN.

Google translation.

VIDEO OF SANTOS DECLARATION:

Colombian President confirmed the information revealed by teleSUR on approaches that his government will begin with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to steer the nation toward peace. Evaluate participation National Liberation Army (ELN).

The president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, confirmed on Monday night revealed by teleSUR information about the beginning of a rapprochement between the Government and the Armed Forces Revolcuionarias of Colombia (FARC) to find the end of armed conflict in that country and therefore peace in the nation.

In a message sent to the country, Santos said that the talks will be given in the framework of three guiding principles clearly left seated: "Learning from past mistakes to avoid repeating them, any process must lead to the end of the conflict and its extension, and operations will remain military presence on every inch of the country ".

He also announced that the National Liberation Army (ELN) also expressed their intention to participate in the dialogue process. In this regard, said that talks are welcome as are framed in the three principles.

=========================
TELESUR
Lunes 27 de Agosto de 2012, 07:44 pm
Santos confirma inicio de diálogo de paz con las FARC

Presidente de Colombia ratifica acercamiento con las FARC y ELN. (Foto: teleSUR)

El presidente colombiano confirmó la información revelada por teleSUR sobre los acercamientos que su Gobierno iniciará con las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) para encaminar a la nación hacia la paz. Se evalúa la participación del Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN).

El presidente de Colombia, Juan manuel Santos, confirmó en la noche de este lunes la información revelada por teleSUR sobre el inicio de un acercamiento entre su Gobierno y las Fuerzas Armadas Revolcuionarias de Colombia (FARC) para buscar el fin del conflicto armado en ese país y por ende la paz en la nación.

En un mensaje transmitido al país, Santos informó que las conversaciones se darán en el marco de tres principios rectores que dejó claramente sentadas: "Aprender de los errores del pasado para no repetirlos, cualquier proceso tiene que llevar al fin del conflicto y no a su prolongación, se mantendrán las operaciones y presencia militar sobre cada centímetro del territorio nacional".

Anunció además que el Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) también manifestó su intención de participar en el proceso de diálogo. En este sentido, aseguró que serán bienvenidos mientras las conversaciones estén enmarcadas en los tres principios antes mencionados.

WSJ: Colombia in Early Talks With Rebels

("Earlier in the day, Francisco Santos, an ex-vice president and cousin of the president, said the two sides have been meeting in Cuba and that a deal was reached Monday to set up peace talks. Telesur, a Latin American cable television station owned by the Venezuelan government, said a deal between both sides on talks was struck on Monday in Cuba. Venezuela is Cuba's closest ally.")
===================================================

WALL STREET JOURNAL
LATIN AMERICA NEWS
Updated August 27, 2012, 9:47 p.m. ET

Colombia in Early Talks With Rebels
President Santos Tries to End Bloody Half-Century-Old Conflict by Opening Negotiations With FARC

By DAN MOLINSKI

BOGOTÁ—Colombia's government has opened discussions with the country's biggest guerrilla group about starting formal peace talks, raising hopes of a reconciliation after more than a half century of civil conflict.

President Juan Manuel Santos said in a televised address Monday that his government has been in contact with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC by its Spanish acronym, to agree on conditions for possible talks and said the results of the talks should be known within days.

"Exploratory conversations with the FARC have been advanced to seek an end to the conflict," said Mr. Santos, a conservative former defense minister who oversaw successful military operations against Latin America's biggest and deadliest guerrilla group.

The FARC offered no immediate public reaction to Mr. Santos's statement.

Peace talks would be the first in a decade between the government and the FARC, a Marxist-inspired guerrilla organization that began in the 1960s with the aim of overthrowing the government and still has 9,000 men and women under arms, about half its top strength.

Estimates of the conflict's death toll from the past 50 years range from 50,000 to 200,000.

Starting formal peace talks is a big political risk for Mr. Santos, who served under former President Álvaro Uribe, a conservative who managed to drive the FARC from the doorstep of the capital back into the country's remote jungles during his 2002-2010 tenure.

Colombia's last attempt at talks with the FARC failed. Former President Andrés Pastrana granted the rebels a large, demilitarized zone the size of Switzerland in southern Colombia that the rebels then used as a base for kidnapping, drug-running and other operations. The Pastrana talks collapsed in 2002, after the guerrilla group hijacked an airliner and kidnapped a senator on board.

Mr. Santos tried to reassure his countrymen that any peace talks with the FARC this time around wouldn't include the demilitarization of "even one centimeter" of national territory. "We're going to learn from past mistakes and not repeat them," Mr. Santos said in his speech.

He also said the National Liberation Army, or the ELN, a second guerrilla group, "could also be part of this effort to end the conflict."

The ELN, a sometime FARC ally with an estimated 3,000 fighters, told Reuters it was willing to participate in peace talks.

Reports of the contacts between Mr. Santos' administration and the rebels had already angered Mr. Santos' predecessor, Mr. Uribe, who has criticized any idea of talks with the rebels and has slammed Mr. Santos for wanting "peace at any cost."

"To reach negotiations this government has weakened security and allowed the FARC terrorists to rebuild," Mr. Uribe said Monday on Twitter.

Other Colombians greeted the news with skepticism. Angela Melo, who runs the Galactica fruit-juice store in the town of Tabio just north of Bogotá, said she had little confidence that talks will yield tangible results.

"I don't think the two sides will actually be able to reach a peace deal," said Ms. Melo, 26 years old. "So long as the FARC continue to finance themselves with drug trafficking, with cocaine and the like, I don't think these talks are viable."

Peace talks would come at a crucial time for Mr. Santos, who is likely to run for re-election in 2014. Halfway through his first, four-year term, he has seen his popularity ratings drop to under 50% from around 80% when he was swept into office in 2010.

The announcement of a possible path toward peace may give him an immediate bump in ratings, as Colombians are desperate for a solution to their half-century-old nightmare. But if the talks fail, most analysts say Mr. Santos will likely be a one-term president.

Earlier in the day, Francisco Santos, an ex-vice president and cousin of the president, said the two sides have been meeting in Cuba and that a deal was reached Monday to set up peace talks. Telesur, a Latin American cable television station owned by the Venezuelan government, said a deal between both sides on talks was struck on Monday in Cuba. Venezuela is Cuba's closest ally. President Santos's office didn't respond to a request for comment.

It remains unclear where such talks might occur, but several reports indicated they would likely be held outside Colombia, perhaps in Cuba or Oslo, Norway.

The FARC, which funds itself through cocaine trafficking and is considered a "terrorist" organization by the U.S. and Europe, has been hammered by a U.S.-backed government offensive in the past decade. Once 18,000 strong, its numbers have been cut in half. Most of its high command have died, been captured or killed.

While violence across Colombia has fallen, the country still has a long way to go. A package bomb exploded inside a parked taxi in rural Colombia on Sunday, killing the driver and five people including two young children, a police official said Monday.

Officials said the attack bore all the hallmarks of the FARC. It didn't claim responsibility, as by its normal custom.

The bomb was apparently hidden among groceries that an unknown person handed to the taxi driver for delivery, just before it exploded. It wasn't clear who the target of the attack might have been, or if it was meant to explode at that moment.

Local media said the two children killed were playing next to the taxi when the bomb went off. Their mother was severely injured in the blast and is clinging to life at a nearby hospital, according to reports.

A version of this article appeared August 28, 2012, on page A12 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Colombia in Early Talks With Rebels.

COUNTERPUNCH: Peace Talks Begin in Colombia

COUNTERPUNCH
August 28, 2012

Time for Obama To Earn His Nobel Prize
Peace Talks Begin in Colombia
by DANIEL KOVALIK

According to Colombia’s El Tiempo, 75% of Colombians want a dialogue between the Colombian government and the guerillas. And, this stands to reason, for Colombia has been devastated by over 50 years of armed conflict which has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians (between 50 and 250 thousand of whom were “disappeared”); left over 5 million persons internally displaced (the largest IDP population in the world); and given a pretext for the Colombian government, with the aid of its paramilitary allies, to wipe out progressive organizations, including trade unions, working for social change. On a grander scale, the Colombian conflict has provided a convenient pretext for U.S. military intervention in that country and the entire region and has been the biggest hurdle to the dream of Latin American integration.
-------------
As a final note, the Cuban government must again be applauded for playing its positive role in this process. As it has in the past, Cuba hosted the initial talks which led to the commencement of this peace process, and, along with Norway, will continue to host such talks throughout the process. This tiny island, much vilified by our government, continues to play its positive role in our hemisphere for peace, regional stability and public health. The shamefulness of the U.S.’s continued blockade of that country grows each day as Cuba outshines the U.S. in terms of its contributions to the world.

FULL: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/08/28/peace-talks-begin-in-colombia/

Text of Colombian gov't accord with FARC

COLOMBIA REPORTS

Text of deal between Colombia's government and Colombian government and guerrilla group FARC commit to end the country's armed conflict. The following is a translation of the original Spanish text.

General agreement for the termination of the conflict and the rebel group FARC to end armed conflict

RCN Radio published the alleged agreement in which the construction of a stable and lasting peace

The delegates of the Republic Government of Colombia (National Government) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP):

As a result of the Exploratory Meeting that had as headquarters Havana, Cuba, between February 23, 2012 and XXX, and that counted on the participation of the Government of the Republic of Cuba and the Government of Norway as guarantors, and with the support of the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as facilitator of logistics and companion:

With the mutual decision of putting an end to the conflict as an essential condition for the constitution of stable and lasting peace; attending the cry of the population for peace, and recognizing that:

The construction of peace is a point of the society in conjunction that requires the participation of all, without distinction; The respect of the human rights in all of the confines of the national territory is an end of the State that should be promoted; The economic development with social justice and in harmony with the environment, is a guarantee of peace and progress;

We have agreed:

I. To initiate direct and uninterrupted conversations about the points of the agenda established here, with the end of reaching a Final Agreement for the termination of the conflict that will contribute to stable and lasting peace.

II. To establish a table of conversation that will be installed publicly (a month after the public announcement) in Oslo, Norway, and whose principal headquarters will be Havana, Cuba. The table could have meetings in other countries.

III. To guarantee the effectiveness of the process and conclude the work about the points of the agenda expeditiously and in the least amount of time possible, to fulfill the expectations of society concerning the agreement. In any case, the duration will be subject to periodic evaluations of progress.

IV. To develop the conversations with the support of the governments of Cuba and Norway as guarantors and the governments of Venezuela and Chile as accompaniment. In accordance with the necessities of the process, they may by agreement invite others.

V. The following agenda:

1. Integral agricultural development policy. The integral agricultural development is crucial to boost the integration of the regions and the equitable social and economic development of the country.

2. Access and use of land. Wastelands. Formalization of property. Agricultural border and protection of reserve zones.

3. Programs of development with territorial focus. Infrastructure and land improvement.

4. Social development: health, education, housing, eradication of poverty.

5. Stimulus to agricultural production and the economy of solidarity and cooperation. Technical assistance. Subsidies. Credit. Generation of income. Marketing. Labor formalization.

6. Food security system.

Political participation

1. Rights and guarantees for the exercise of the political opposition in general and in particular for the new movements that arise after the signing of the Final Agreement. Access to the media.

2. Democratic mechanisms of citizen participation, including those of direct participation, on different levels and diverse themes.

3. Effective measures to promote greater participation in the national, regional and local policy of all sectors, including the most vulnerable population, equality of conditions and with guarantees of security.

End of the conflict

Integral and simultaneous process which implies:

1. Bilateral and definitive cease of fire and hostilities.

2. Abandonment of arms. Reincorporation of the FARC-EP into civil life - economically, socially and politically -, in accordance with their interests.

3. The National Government, will coordinate the revision of the situation of individuals, charged or convicted, for belonging to or collaborating with the FARC-EP.

4. In parallel form the national government will intensify the fight to end the criminal organizations and their support networks, including the fight against corruption and impunity, in particular against any organization responsible for homicides and massacres or undermines defenders of human rights, social movements or political movements.

5. The National Government will revise and make the reforms and institutional adjustments necessary to address the challenges of the construction of peace.

6. Guarantees of security.

7. Under the provisions of Point 5 (Victims) of this agreement they will clarify, among others, the phenomenon of paramilitarism.

The signing of the Final Agreement initiates this process, which must develop in a reasonable time agreed by the parties.

4. Solution to the problem of illicit drugs

1. Illicit crop substitution programs. Integral development plans with participation of the communities in the design, execution and evaluation of the programs of substitution and environmental recovery of the areas affected by illicit crops.

2. Prevention programs of consumption and public health.

3. Solution to the phenomenon of production, consumption and public health.

Victims

To compensate the victims is in the center of the agreement National Government - FARC-EP. In this sense they will treat:

1. Human rights of the victims.

2. Truth.

6. Implementation, verification and countersignature.

The signing of the Final Agreement begins the implementation of all of the agreed points.

1. Mechanisms of implementaion and verification:

a. System of implementation, giving special importance to the regions.

b. Commissions of tracking and verification.

c. Mechanisms of resolution of differences.

These mechanisms will have the capacity and power of execution, and will be confirmed by representatives of the parts of society, following the case.

2. International accompaniment:

3. Schedule.

4. Budget.

5. Tool of dissemination and communication.

6. Mechanism of countersignature of the agreements.

The following operating rules:

1. In the sessions of the Table up to 10 people will participate per delegation, of which up to 5 will be plenipotentiaries who will carry the respective voice. Every delegation will be made up of up to 30 representatives.

2. With the end of contributing to the development of the process they can realize consultations of experts about the themes of the Agenda, once the corresponding procedure is sorted.

3. To guarantee the transparency of the process, the Table will elaborate periodic reports.

4. It will establish a mechanism to raise awareness to the advances of the Table. The discussions of the Table will not be made public.

5. It will implement a strategy of effective dissimination.

6. To guarantee the most open participation possible, it will establish a mechanism of reception of proposals about the points of the agenda of citizens and organizations, by physical or electronic means.

By mutual agreement and a determined time, the Table can make direct consultations and receive proposals about said points, or delegate a third the organization of spaces of participation.

7. The National Government guarantees the necessary resources for the operation of the Table, that will be administered in an efficient and transparent manner.

8. The Table will have the necessary technology to advance the process.

9. The conversations will initiate with the point of integral agricultural development policy and will continue with the order that the Table agrees.

10. The conversations will be given under the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
Links

SPANISH TEXT

REUTERS: Colombian rebels welcome peace talks "without hatred"

Colombian rebels welcome peace talks "without hatred"
2:19pm EDT
By Helen Murphy

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's FARC rebel leader said on Monday the group would join peace talks with the government "without hatred or arrogance" in its first response to President Juan Manuel Santos' announcement of imminent negotiations.

The prospect of talks, likely to take place in Norway and Cuba, has raised Colombians' hopes of an end to five decades of bloodshed - though past governments' failures to end Latin America's longest-running insurgency show the path is not easy.

In a video posted on the Internet on Monday that swung from serious to mocking, a group of uniformed FARC rebels acknowledged the possible negotiations by singing and playing the bongos - but they also ridiculed Santos.

The group's leader Rodrigo Londono, known by his war alias as Timochenko, is edited onto the introduction of the song, telling the rebels: "We join the negotiating table without hatred or arrogance."

In office since 2010, the conservative Santos last week announced his government had taken part in "exploratory talks" with the leftist FARC - which stands for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - that may lead to formal negotiations.

He said the nation's second-biggest rebel group, the National Liberation Army or ELN, could also be involved.

In Monday's video, the FARC men and women sang, danced and played the guitar in an unidentified clearing, surrounded by trees and fence posts. Some dressed in olive-green uniform and others in black T-shirts and berets depicting Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara,

"I'm off to Havana, this time to talk to he who accuses us of lying about peace, that bourgeois who tries but can't crush us," they sang in the video, which can be seen at: here

"That pedantic Chucky Santos who finds the need to ask (former Cuban leader) Fidel Castro to help with the FARC," they added, in reference to the murderous doll Chucky in the movie franchise "Child's Play."

Around Colombia, there has been cautious optimism since Santos' announcement, with many praising it as a bold move that would help bring further economic prosperity to the Andean nation and free rural areas from the fear of constant attacks.

Some, though, have dissented from that general mood. Most notably, former President Alvaro Uribe and his backers have slammed the move as pandering to "terrorists."

TALKS ABROAD

At the mid-point of his four-year term, Santos may reveal more details in the coming days. An intelligence source told Reuters talks are likely to start in Norway then move to Cuba.

Santos, who has said military operations would continue while discussions are under way, has agreed that FARC leaders would not be extradited to a second nation to stand trial, according to the source who asked not to be identified.

The drug-funded rebels have been hit hard in recent years by a U.S.-backed Colombian army offensive that has weakened their ranks and hobbled their communication system.

Still, the FARC is able to launch repeated attacks on economic infrastructure and military targets.

Santos had been facing severe criticism over a perception that security was deteriorating amid repeated FARC attacks on oil and mining installations.

While extremely risky, a successful peace agreement with the FARC would secure a place in history for Santos as the only leader to end a war that has killed tens of thousands over the years and sullied the South American nation's reputation.

Santos' approval rating, which slipped to 48 percent in June, moved up again to 51 percent last week in the latest survey by Gallup conducted amid rumors talks were starting.

A previous attempt at peace under former President Andres Pastrana resulted in the FARC using the ceasefire to rebuild its military operations and establish a multi-billion dollar drug-trafficking network.

(Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Cynthia Osterman)

FARC video on movement toward peace in Colombia

Note that this rap video is introduced by Comandante Timochenko.

FARC rap video on movement toward peace in Colombia:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-RdfpSr-pI

FARC video announcing peace talks in Havana, Cuba

FARC Comandante Timochenko introduces video
announcing upcoming peace talks in Havana:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE75ZmSDlgo

ACN: The FARC Ratify Beginning of Peace Negotiations in Colombia

The FARC Ratify Beginning of Peace Negotiations in Colombia

HAVANA, Cuba, Sept 5 (acn) Representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) ratified on Tuesday in this capital, the beginning of peace negotiations in the near future with the government of that South American nation.

During a meeting with the national and foreign press at Havana’s Convention Center, members of the FARC reproduced a recorded message by their top leader, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (alias Timoleon Jimenez, Timochenko).

By way of this message, Timochenko announced the closing of the exploratory meeting and the beginning of the negotiating table for peace, and urged “the entire Colombia” to support the upcoming conciliation.

The leader ratified that they get to the negotiating table with no hard feelings and with the certainty that the way out is not war, but civilized dialogue.

He expressed his appreciation for and acknowledged the “invaluable” cooperation of the governments of Venezuela, the Kingdom of Norway and Cuba, which accompanied the exploratory meetings held between the months of February and August.

The Commander expressed his confidence in that other nations will join peace efforts in Colombia and asserted that the FARC returns to negotiations accompanied and backed by the international community.

During the meeting, the delegation announced that a press conference will take place on Thursday in the same place, to offer more details on the future dialogue.

One hour before, from Bogotá, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the beginning of talks with the FARC for the first half of October in Oslo, Norway, which will continue later in Havana.

COLOMBIAN ELN: The so-elusive peace we all want

Colombia
The so-elusive peace we all want
Journal Insurrección, editorial, 3-9-2012
http://www.eln-voces.com/

http://www.walterlippmann.com/docs3550.html
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

After his recent endless war cries the President’s call for peace comes as a positive sign.

The urgent need for peace has been a permanent demand that the vast majorities have repeatedly expressed in every possible way all throughout this fratricidal conflict. Therefore, those of us who are on the majority’s side consider the President’s announcement a positive sign, as we do the increasing calls for peace in Colombia we hear coming from every corner of the country as well as from the rest of the world, especially because some of those expressions are theoretical in nature while others, the most important ones, are the actions of governments and peoples who have sensibly and tirelessly taken responsibility for the efforts to achieve peace for all Colombians.

On the part of the National Liberation Army (ELN), for more than 20 years we have been committed to and worked very hard for peace, to the point of signing a number of agreements that President Pastrana was coerced to reject by the paramilitary groups and those behind their refusal to a possible peace treaty in Colombia.

We have never been daunted by the failure of the peace process, to the point of sitting at the negotiation table with the Uribe Administration despite his warmongering purposes and delaying tactics to hold talks that he eventually decided to interrupt abruptly and irresponsibly.

That is why we reassert that this is hardly a new decision: for over two decades we have strived and repeatedly stated our intention to start a serious, responsible and socially inclusive peace process.

However, we repeat, we are seeking an elusive peace, a word with different connotations, implications and meanings to different people.

For the poor of Colombia, peace is social justice and equality, real democracy, sovereignty and, particularly, the deep-seated significance of collective compensation for the ravages of this social and armed fratricidal conflict, which has destroyed and profoundly affected our society and the precious norms and ethical principles of coexistence, tolerance, acceptance of what is different, and respect for diversity.

To the ruling class, peace is another thing. They see the peace that we in the majority demand as a situation with no effects on their economic and political interests, power, capitalistic aspirations and personal future, all designed in keeping with capitalism.

In order to reconcile these two contrasting conceptions, the ruling class must make concessions, great efforts and many sacrifices, but such is the path to reach a steady, lasting peace. Hence the big question: is the ruling class willing to walk down that path to achieve peace of a profound social and political content?

To the poor and the revolutionaries of Colombia, peace means restoring basic rights we have always been denied, while the rich see in peace a strenuous state of affairs which involves the recognition of the rights of all Colombians and a great political, economic and social challenge.

Aware as we are of these obstacles, we must reiterate our appeal to commit ourselves to achieving real peace regardless of the existing difficulties and working together with the whole society and the decisive support of the international community to protect this process against both the deadlocks caused by disagreement and the attacks of those who oppose it.

We have said that the key to peace is in the hands of the people and the nation. The President was the one supposed to take the first step by making room for dialogue with the rebels, since a real peace process is made much more complicated by the many political and social expressions that it must bring to terms, something impossible to accomplish only through talks between the rebels and the government.

It is therefore indispensable that all popular and social organizations without exception join this peace process because, as some of them have stated, no one will take over their role in this effort, and only with their active participation will a true, lasting and far-reaching peace treaty be feasible and capable of leaving behind the reasons that gave rise and fed the conflict and fulfilling the dreams and hopes that all Colombians deserve, as we will have survived the long night imposed by fifty plus years of a social armed conflict which has plunged our country into its worst crisis ever and made us understand that war only leads to destruction.

From: Ernesto Herrera [Add to Address Book]
To: boletin prensa
Subject: Colombia/ la paz que todos queremos pero que es tan esquiva [Ejército de Liberación Nacional]
Date: Sep 4, 2012 1:18 PM
Attachments: unknown-172 B
boletín solidario de información
Correspondencia de Prensa
4 de setiembre 2012
Colectivo Militante - Agenda Radical
Montevideo - Uruguay
redacción y suscripciones: germain5@chasque.net
Colombia
La paz que todos queremos pero que es tan esquiva

Revista Insurrección, editorial, 3-9-2012
http://www.eln-voces.com/

Es positivo el anuncio de paz del Presidente, luego de sus más recientes y reiterados pregones llamando a la guerra.

La urgencia de la paz ha sido reclamada por las grandes mayorías durante todo el tiempo de este conflicto fratricida, a través de todas sus expresiones de lucha; por eso para quienes estamos del lado de las mayorías, el anuncio del Presidente es positivo, así como todas las expresiones de respaldo a la paz de Colombia desde todo los ámbitos del país como de la Comunidad internacional, mucho más cuando unas son expresiones teóricas y otras, las más importantes, acciones de gobiernos y pueblos que en actitud prudente y denodada, asumen la responsabilidad de trabajar por los anhelos de paz de todas y todos los Colombianos.

Por parte del ELN, nos hemos comprometido y realizado serios esfuerzos por la paz, desde hace mas de 20 años, incluida la firma de una agenda de acuerdos que el presidente Pastrana reversó por presión de los paramilitares, respaldados desde entonces, por quienes hoy alzan su voz en contra de un posible acuerdo para la paz de Colombia.

Los fracasos en el proceso de paz, no nos ha amilanado, al punto que incluso en el gobierno de Uribe, conociendo sus propósitos guerreristas y sus posturas retardatarias, se estableció una mesa que ese gobierno cerró de manera abrupta e irresponsable.

Por eso reafirmamos que no es solo ahora, sino desde hace mas de dos décadas, que hemos hecho esfuerzos por un proceso serio, responsable e incluyente de la sociedad y hemos ratificado esa postura de manera reiterada.

Sin embargo, expresamos otra vez, que buscamos una paz que es esquiva porque ese genérico PAZ, no tiene para todos las mismas connotaciones, contenidos y esencia.

Para los pobres de Colombia, paz es justicia y equidad social, democracia real, soberanía y de manera muy particular pero profunda, el resarcimiento efectivo por los estragos de este conflicto social y armado fratricida, que ha destruido y generado profundas malformaciones en la sociedad, perdiéndose los parámetros que permite la convivencia, la tolerancia, el reconocimiento a la diferencia y la diversidad, dentro de principios éticos.

Para la clase en el poder, la paz es diferente, ella ve la paz que las mayorías reclamamos como un estado de cosas donde no se afecten sus intereses económicos y políticos, su poder, sus aspiraciones capitalistas y su futuro personal, concebidos dentro del sistema capitalista.

Lograr conciliar estas dos concepciones contrapuestas, requiere para la clase gobernante hacer concesiones, grandes esfuerzos y sacrificios, pero es el arte y el camino para construir la paz estable y duradera. Por eso la gran pregunta, ¿tiene la clase gobernante la disposición de transitar el camino hacia una paz de profundo contenido social y político?

Para los pobres de Colombia y los revolucionarios, la paz es la recuperación de los derechos siempre negados, mientras que para los ricos, la paz les exige grandes esfuerzos porque implica reconocer los derechos de todos y asumir ese reto en lo político, lo económico y lo social.

Consientes de estos escollos, debemos reiterar y hacer el llamado a comprometernos por la paz auténtica, desafiando las dificultades que existen y trabajando para que entre todas las expresiones de la sociedad y el decidido apoyo de la comunidad internacional, se pueda blindar el proceso contra los atranques por desacuerdos, como por los ataques de sus enemigos.

Hemos planteado que la llave de la paz está en manos del pueblo y la nación, el Presidente era quien debía abrir los espacios del dialogo con la insurgencia como el primer paso, ya que un proceso de paz real, es mucho más complejo porque debe interpretar todas las expresiones políticas y sociales que no se logra solamente en una mesa insurgencia gobierno.

Es entonces indispensable que ahora, todas las organizaciones populares y sociales, en su más variada composición, sean parte del proceso de paz porque, como varias de ellas lo han expresado, en este propósito nadie las va a reemplazar y solo con su participación activa, será posible hacer de la paz un proceso real, estable, duradero y profundo, que supere las causas que originaron y alimentan el conflicto y que colme los sueños y aspiraciones de la Colombia que nos merecemos todos, porque se haya superado la larga noche de más de medio siglo de conflicto social y armado, que hoy tiene a nuestro país en la más profunda crisis de su historia y en la que la guerra es el camino a la destrucción.

Entendida la paz dentro del contexto expuesto arriba, Colombia y la comunidad internacional pueden contar con el ELN para tan importante reto y aspiración.

AP: Colombian Rebels Name 2 for Peace Negotiations

[ABC News]

Colombian Rebels Name 2 for Peace Negotiations
HAVANA

By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ Associated Press
HAVANA September 6, 2012 (AP)

Colombia's main leftist rebel group named three negotiators on Thursday for October peace talks in Norway, including a high-ranking guerrilla known as Simon Trinidad who is currently imprisoned in the United States.

Mauricio Jaramillo, a spokesman and top leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, told reporters in Havana that the other two will be Ivan Marquez, a participant in past peace talks and a member of the FARC's six-person ruling secretariat, and Jose Santrich, a second-tier leader.

More negotiators will be announced later, Jaramillo said.

Dressed in civilian clothing, Jaramillo and five other FARC members fielded questions for about an hour at a convention hall in the Cuban capital.

They said the talks will begin Oct. 8 in Oslo, and they want one of their negotiators to be Ricardo Palmera, alias "Simon Trinidad," a high-ranking FARC member and former peace negotiator who was extradited to the United States in 2005 and subsequently sentenced to 60 years on hostage-taking conspiracy charges.

Asked whether the FARC is seeking Palmera's release or the rebels envision him participating by videoconference, Andres Paris, another spokesman, responded that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos would be learning of their request from Thursday's announcement and they would await a response from his government.

"You (the media) will be the bearers of this news, that the FARC has decided as a symbol of the nation and of dignity to have Simon at the negotiating table," Paris said.

The Colombian government named its five delegates to the peace talks on Wednesday.

Santos and FARC representatives announced earlier this week that they had agreed to hold talks on ending the half-century of bloody conflict in the South American nation.

The guerrillas said a possible cease-fire will be one of the first items on the agenda when the two sides sit down in Oslo, but did not specify what their position would be.

"It is tough to get into hypotheticals ... what is certain is that we are at war," spokesman Marco Leon Calarca said.

Earlier the guerrillas played a roughly edited video in which FARC chief Timoleon Jimenez, known by the nom de guerre "Timochenko," denied that the rebels have been weakened by defections and the deaths of several top leaders in recent years.

"We have never been stronger or more united," Jimenez said. "They are completely mistaken, those who try to see weakness in our tireless efforts for peace."

The Norwegian, Venezuelan and Chilean ambassadors to Cuba were also present at the convention hall representing their countries, which along with Cuba are facilitating the peace talks.

———

Associated Press writer Vivian Sequera in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.

———

Follow Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP

Powered by Drupal - Design by Artinet