[L-I] Re: a clip of bourgeois news on Colombia

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Thu Aug 17 19:50:34 MDT 2000

>perhaps I am too dull to see the obvious, but I am wondering, what you
>want to say by quoting a two year old article:
>- There is (was) one Colombian town, where the mainly rural based
>guerilla armies have some support from the urban proletariat ?
>- The ELN and FARC have the potential of beeing supported by the urban
>- The guerilla armies are firmly rooted within the urban poors.
>Barrancabermeja is just the rules (and not the exception) for Colombia?

Look, comrade, you really have to put in some effort to try to understand
the recent political history of Colombia. These guerrillas do not have some
kind of Debrayist metaphysic about working in the hills and shunning the
proletariat. They are there because the forces of repression will not allow
anybody with those kinds of politics to speak up in the urban electoral or
trade union arena--what is sometimes called 'civil society'. (God, I hate
that term.) There is nothing that the guerrillas would like better than to
run for office and exercise other constitutional liberties, but the last
time they tried that they were systematically exterminated. If you want a
leftist account of all this, get your hands on Jenny Pearce's "Inside the
Labyrinth", the best book on Colombia as far as I'm concerned.


The New York Times, April 8, 1990, Sunday, Late Edition - Final

Assassins Wiping Out Colombia Party

By JAMES BROOKE, Special to The New York Times

BOGOTA, Colombia, April 1

Beguiled by his ringlets, droopy mustache and premature jowls, supporters
nicknamed the 36-year-old presidential candidate ''Garfield,'' after the
cartoon cat.

But in the grim world of Colombian politics, some people had a colder view
of Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa, the rising star of the nation's left.

On March 22, Mr. Jaramillo sat with his wife, Mariela, at the domestic
terminal of Bogota's airport. A year earlier, a fellow leader of his
Patriotic Union party had been shot to death at the same airport. But Mr.
Jaramillo, who was heading to a Caribbean beach for a vacation, had decided
to leave his bulletproof vest at home.

A young man walked up, ostensibly to greet the candidate. But his newspaper
hid a submachine gun. And for the second time in nine months a Colombian
presidential candidate died at the hands of a killer, most likely hired by
cocaine traffickers, who have been linked to the country's extreme right

3,000 Members Reported Slain

The assassination of Mr. Jaramillo suddenly threw a spotlight on the slow
extermination of his political party, now easily the most heavily
victimized party in the Americas.

The Patriotic Union says 3,000 members have been killed since the party was
formed by former leftist guerrillas in 1985. Of this number, the party
counts 1,000 as ''leaders'' - members of Congress and city councils,
mayors, and candidates, including the party's previous presidential
candidate, Jaime Pardo Leal, who was slain in 1987.

In ''The Killing in Colombia,'' a study issued last year by Americas Watch,
the New York-based human rights group said, ''Everyone agrees that the
Patriotic Union has suffered most from this form of repression.''

So far this year, party members have been murdered at the rate of one a
day. In a country with three active leftist guerrilla groups, the unchecked
death-squad attacks on Colombia's largest leftist party are seen as a major
obstacle to national reconciliation.

''Since members of the FARC put down their arms and entered the Patriotic
Union, peaceful political participation has proved to be more dangerous
than armed struggle,'' the human rights report said, using the Spanish
initials for the nation's largest guerrilla group, the Colombian
Revolutionary Armed Forces.

Two Suspected by the Police

In a land of political intolerance, the Patriotic Union's original sin
appears to be its birth as a political offshoot of the guerrilla group.
Moderate leaders like Mr. Jaramillo repeatedly declared a break with the
guerrillas, condemning their use of kidnapping and extortion to raise
money. But this fine point was lost on the party's enemies, a mix of
cocaine traffickers, right-wing paramilitary squads and midlevel army

After Mr. Jaramillo's slaying, the Colombian police pointed fingers at
Fidel Castano, a reputed death-squad leader, and at Pablo Escobar, the
leader of the Medellin cocaine cartel. In separate communiques, both men
denied being behind the killing.

''I have never ordered the assassination of any member of the U.P.,'' Mr.
Castano said, using the Spanish initials of the party. ''But if a member's
true participation with the guerrillas were ever proven, we would proceed
with his execution.'' Mr. Castano is widely believed to have taken over the
armed units of the Medellin drug cartel after the slaying of the cartel's
No. 2 leader, Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, in a shootout with the
authorities in December.

Mr. Jaramillo opposed the extradition of drug traffickers for trial in the
United States as an attack on Colombian sovereignty. But despite this
stand, he is unlikely to have won the wholehearted support of the
traffickers considering his leftist positions and his party's past ties
with guerrillas who tried to extort money from drug barons through

A Theory on the Killing

A leading theory here is that the traffickers killed Mr. Jaramillo to
intimidate Cesar Gaviria, a hard-line opponent of drug trafficking who is
expected to win the May 27 presidential election. An anonymous caller who
took credit for the assassination barely mentioned the slain leftist, but
instead unleashed a stream of invective on Mr. Gaviria.

Rodrigo Losada Lora, a political scientist, said, ''With the death of
Jaramillo Ossa they wanted to send a message to Gaviria and to the

The theory holds that by killing Mr. Jaramillo the traffickers could
unnerve Mr. Gaviria, the popular candidate of the governing Liberal Party,
while avoiding wide public outrage and the kind of military crackdown that
followed the slaying last August of Luis Carlos Galan, a staunch foe of the
drug lords who at the time was widely considered the leading contender for
the presidency. The crackdown, ordered by President Virgilio Barco Vargas,
caused major disruptions for the traffickers in August and September.

At the American Embassy here, a drug expert said of the Jamarillo
assassination, ''My gut feeling is that the Medellin cartel did it.''

The man who was captured and identified as the hit man, Andres Gutierrez, a
Medellin native, has told the police little more than his fee: $750. At 15
years of age, Mr. Gutierrez is a minor and will probably be released next

Many leftists here charge that Interior Minister Carlos Lemos Simmonds set
the stage for the killing by charging in mid-March that the Patriotic Union
was the ''political arm'' of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces. Mr.
Jaramillo promptly denounced the statement as a ''death sentence for U.P.
leaders.''     Letup on Drugs Charged

Three days after Mr. Jaramillo's murder, Mr. Lemos resigned. He provoked
another furor by charging in his resignation that the Government had
softened its war on cocaine traffickers.

While Patriotic Union supporters initially accused the Government of
complicity in the slaying, Diego Montana, the party's president until he
resigned late last month, said he did not know who killed Mr. Jaramillo.

''I am not certain it was the Extraditables,'' he said, referring to a
group of top traffickers. ''They say no. Bernardo Jaramillo was not for
extradition. He was in favor of dialogue.''

He then speculated that Mr. Castano might have been behind it, saying that
Mr. Castano had taken over Mr. Rodriguez Gacha's group, which he accused of
killing Mr. Pardo Leal.

The terror apparently is taking its toll on the party's electoral appeal.
In the March congressional elections here, the Patriotic Union's
representation dropped from 14 seats to 9.

Clara Lopez Obregon, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Bogota in 1988
with Patriotic Union support, said that during the campaign ''people were
afraid to pick up ballots, were afraid to attend meetings.''

''They were afraid to be associated in any way with the U.P. because the
U.P. was being physically exterminated,'' she said.

Party Close to Collapse

Battered by the election defeats and by the slaying of their leader, the
party is now on the verge of collapse. At odds with the party's
''ortodoxos,'' Mr. Montana and the party's entire moderate leadership,
called the ''perestroikos,'' resigned on March 30.

At the heart of the dispute is the guerrilla war. The ortodoxos believe in
supporting the guerrillas of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces. The
perestroikos believe, in the words of Mr. Montana, that ''guerrilla war
does not lead to power.''

Speaking of the assassins, Mr. Montana said: ''They have won a battle
against those of us who fight for peace. They have strengthened the hand of
people who say the only way is the armed struggle.''

Louis Proyect
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