[WW] U.S. Fans War Flames in Colombia

red-rebel red-rebel at SPAMsupanet.com
Thu May 25 04:59:27 MDT 2000





-------------------------
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the June 1, 2000
issue of Workers World newspaper
-------------------------

U.S. FANS WAR FLAMES IN COLOMBIA

By Andy McInerney

Recent events point to the danger of a massive escalation
of right-wing violence in Colombia.

Since January 1999, Colombian President Andres Pastrana
has publicly committed his government to talks with the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples Army (FARC-
EP). These talks are supposed to address the issues
underlying Colombia's 50 years of civil conflict.

Opponents of the talks are waging an all-out campaign to
derail this effort. They advocate an intensified military
campaign against the armed people's insurgencies--
inevitably combined with an escalation of paramilitary
death-squad violence.

The latest attempts to jettison the talks come as more and
more people--both in Colombia and around the world--are
seeing the type of fundamental changes that the FARC-EP is
proposing. They also come as the Clinton administration
pushes a massive infusion of military aid to the death-
squad-ridden Colombian Armed Forces and National Police.

GOV'T CAMPAIGN TO DISCREDIT FARC

On May 15, a group of armed men attacked the country
estate of Elvia Cortes near Chiquinquira in northeastern
Colombia. The group attached a sophisticated explosive
device to her neck, demanding $7,500 to remove it.

The group fled when government forces arrived at the
estate. But Cortes was killed when the bomb exploded as
government forces attempted to remove it.

In itself, the killing was not out of the ordinary.
Kidnapping and extortion by criminal gangs and bandits are
widespread in Colombia. What made the event stand out was
the immediate effort by the armed forces and the Colombian
press to link the attack to the FARC-EP.

Details of the gruesome killing were splashed across the
front pages of Colombian newspapers. Army General Fabio
Bedoya and Defense Minister Luis Fernando Ramirez publicly
named the FARC-EP responsible. President Andres Pastrana
unilaterally suspended an international conference
scheduled for the end of May, claiming that "the activity
of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia must change."

Even leaders of the Catholic Church joined the hysteria.
Bishop Hector Garcia called on Pastrana to suspend the
talks on the basis of the killing.

Not a shred of evidence linked the FARC-EP to the attack.
No previous incident involving the FARC-EP had the same
characteristics. The explosive device was far more
sophisticated than anything used in a FARC-EP attack.

The FARC-EP emphatically denied the attack. "I, along with
the leadership of the FARC-EP, condemn this murder and I
confirm that it is not one of our methods and that none of
our people operate in this zone," said Commander Ivan Rios.

"We vigorously deny that this was committed by any member
of our organization," said FARC-EP Secretariat member Raul
Reyes.

The FARC-EP blamed "enemies of peace" for the attack. "It
would be more serious for the government to tell the
country it is turning its back on its policy of talks
because of President Clinton's public demands or because
the pressures of Colombian militarists are very strong,"
the FARC-EP Secretariat announced in a May 17 communiqu,.

In fact, the government began to back down from its
unfounded charges within days. On May 17, Colombia's
Attorney General Camilo Gomez announced that evidence
"speaks of the possibility that a different group committed
the murder."

By May 22, Gomez--who is also Pastrana's high commissioner
for peace--announced that "every day it is more clear that
it was not the FARC."

But the accusations show clearly that there are forces in
Colombia--undoubtedly backed by the Pentagon--who want to
see the current talks scuttled.

Why is there opposition to the current talks? Simply put:
the FARC-EP has gained the most. The revolutionary
insurgency has been able to show the Colombian people and
the world that they are the ones most interested in a just
peace, and that they have a program to carry it out.

INSURGENCY ALLOWS WORKERS POLITICAL SPACE TO
CONFRONT
BOSSES

In the zone where Pastrana withdrew government troops as a
safe zone for the talks, crime has fallen to nearly zero.
Killings that were routine during the government's
influence no longer occur. FARC-EP troops have carried out
public works programs, improving the region's
infrastructure.

The FARC-EP now transmits radio broadcasts throughout
Colombia to inform the population about the progress of the
talks. It has broadcast a series of laws. Law 001 on
agrarian reform promises the expropriation of foreign
corporations and unused land. Law 002 imposes a "peace tax"
on foreign businesses and on Colombians with assets over $1
million.

The insurgency has announced the "Bolivarian Movement for
a New Colombia," a political arm that will take part in the
mass struggle in Colombia--although in a clandestine way
until there are sufficient guarantees for the movement's
safety.

The group has been able to hold several public audiences,
allowing the Colombian people to bring their concerns to
the dialog table. Consider this account of one such
audience:

"On the first day of presentations the audience listened
to union leaders criticize government and business leaders
alike over their economic policies, but when the business
leaders took the floor, things began to spin out of
control.

"`Twenty-two million Colombians are out of work,' union
members yelled at Sabras Pretelt, head of the country's
largest retailers' group.

"As soon as Pretelt finished, he and his colleagues--the
15 most important business leaders in Colombia--returned to
a bus and left the demilitarized zone, which is
administered by the guerrillas. The few businessmen who
stayed heard [FARC-EP leader Ivan] Rios call on the
government to freeze attempts to privatize state-owned
companies, a plea that drew a standing ovation from the
union leaders." (Washington Post, April 20)

Clearly, the tide in Colombia is turning.

In addition, the FARC-EP has gained international respect.
A team from the FARC-EP and the government toured Europe in
the beginning of the year. The conference that Pastrana has
tried to cancel, scheduled for May 29-30 in the
demilitarized zone, was to have taken up the issue of
illicit coca production and strategies to confront the
problem. Representatives from 19 countries, including the
United States, were planning to attend.

At the same time, the Clinton administration is working
overtime to pass a $1.7 billion aid package, mostly
destined for the Colombian armed forces and police.

Facing widespread evidence of the Colombian military's
connection with paramilitary death squads, the U.S.
Congress has made some amendments to the Clinton package
for "human rights" guarantees. However, such measures were
also taken in the days of the civil wars in Nicaragua and
El Salvador. They allowed liberals in Congress to
disassociate themselves from the counter-revolutionaries
and their bloody repression of the masses, while allowing
arms and intelligence to flow freely.

The Pentagon clearly hopes that the huge infusion of
material, troops--under the guise of "advisers"--and
intelligence can tilt the balance back toward the pro-
International Monetary Fund regime in Bogot . Pastrana and
the Colombian generals hope that concessions now will buy
them time to regroup their failing military. They have
thrown their lot in with U.S. intervention.

The process that has opened up in Colombia clearly favors
the people's movement in that South American country. The
National Liberation Army (ELN), another revolutionary
insurgency, has secured an agreement to hold a National
Convention in a demilitarized region in northern Colombia.
This prospect, should it come about--it is already heavily
under attack by the paramilitaries and their military
allies--would put the government even further on the
defensive.

As the revolutionary process continues to develop, the
prospects for a powerful movement of international
solidarity--especially in the United States--will expand.

                         - END -

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