[WW] Plan Colombia: 'Declaration of war'

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at SPAMtao.ca
Tue Nov 7 23:34:20 MST 2000

Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Nov. 9, 2000
issue of Workers World newspaper



By Andy McInerney

A revolutionary process is unfolding in Colombia today.
There are two aspects to this process.

On one side are the forces fighting to transform Colombian
society into one that genuinely reflects the interests of
the vast majority of the country's 40 million people. These
forces are spearheaded by the armed insurgencies, the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia- People's Army (FARC-
EP) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

On the other side are those forces fighting to preserve the
exploitative social system that has reduced half of the
country to abject poverty. These include the Colombian
political and economic elite and their armed forces, along
with their paramilitary death squads. Their principle backer
is the Pentagon.

The focal point for this process for the past 20 months has
been the talks between the Colombian government and the FARC-
EP, held in the zone of five municipalities centered at San
Vicente del Caguan. The government withdrew its troops from
this zone in December 1999 as a precondition for the talks.

The FARC-EP has used the talks to publicize its program of
social change. Tens of thousands of Colombians who had never
had a voice in Colombian society--labor unionists, peasants,
women, students--have taken part in "Public Audiences" to
express their views on the shape of a "New Colombia."

Today, the fate of these talks is very much in doubt. The
main threat to their continuation is "Plan Colombia," a U.S.-
backed proposal of military and economic aid designed to
bolster the Colombian government in its war against the
revolutionary insurgencies. The Clinton administration has
already earmarked $1.3 billion in counterinsurgency
equipment and training--including the planned deployment of
200 Special Forces "advisers."

The FARC-EP, the ELN and broad layers of Colombia's popular
movement have called the Plan Colombia a "declaration of


On Oct. 25, despite expressing misgivings about the military
emphasis of the plan, the European Union approved $321
million in non-military aid toward Plan Colombia. The amount
fell short of what Colombian President Andres Pastrana had
lobbied for.

The FARC-EP insisted that any social aid should be channeled
through the table of dialogues that is taking place at San

"We demand that the aid be given directly to the table of
peace talks and that those resources be strictly controlled
and invested in plans for social development, not in
financing the war envisioned in Plan Colombia," FARC-EP
spokesperson Andres Paris said on Oct. 26.

At a recent hemispheric meeting held in Manaus, Brazil, U.S.
representatives failed to convince Latin American Defense
Chiefs to build a regional alliance to back the
counterinsurgency war in Colombia. But Washington has made
some notable inroads.

One has been the Ecuadoran government's agreement to allow
use of the air base at Manta for flights over Colombian
territory. The U.S. has also strong-armed the Salvadoran
government to build a "Forward Operating Location" to allow
espionage flights from that Central American country.

Both these initiatives have generated protests.

While Washington continues to try to generate international
support for its war plans in Colombia, there are signs of an
impending Colombian government military initiative. In the
southern province of Putumayo, right-wing death squads
working in collusion with government troops have begun to
carry out attacks on the civilian population. This is
undoubtedly aimed at preparing the ground for the "push to
the south," spelled out in Plan Colombia and tentatively
planned for the beginning of 2001.


In the midst of this tense situation, the Colombian
government organized local elections for mayors of the
country's over 1,000 municipalities on Oct. 26. Elections in
Colombia are routinely marred by corruption and fraud.

In the last municipal elections in 1997, both the FARC-EP
and the ELN called for boycotting the elections. This year,
although neither group would take part in the elections,
neither said they would obstruct the voting. The Communist
Party ran candidates, either in its own name or in coalition
with other leftist movements.

Candidates with a record of corruption or complicity with
the armed forces were not permitted to run in areas where
the FARC-EP has a strong presence. This policy provoked an
alarm from the ruling class media. "Behind Colombia's
election hoopla, rebels wield power," was the headline of
the New York Times on Oct. 26.

Death squads targeted local candidates deemed "too close" to
the left. They assassinated 21 candidates and kidnapped at
least 60 others. This was a haunting echo of the period
following the Uribe peace accords in 1984, when government-
organized death squads wiped out virtually the entire
Patriotic Union party.

The talks between the FARC-EP and the government have
provided the Colombian people a political space not seen in
over a decade, despite the growth of death-squad violence.
It has been matched by a rise in the mass movement, like the
August general strike by public sector workers that shut
down the major cities of the country.

The growth in confidence by the Colombian workers and
peasants is now in direct opposition to the cycle of war
that the Pentagon's Plan Colombia will make inevitable. As
U.S. "advisors" inevitably become combatants--and then
casualties--in the revolutionary war, calls here for greater
U.S. intervention will increase.

Activists in the United States need to prepare now to combat
the escalating cycle of military intervention in Colombia.

- END -

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