Forwarded from Anthony (on the ELN)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Oct 5 14:38:41 MDT 2000

In response to your question about the ELN [I had asked Anthony privately
about what was happening.]

The ELN is in bad shape - having been the real victim of the paramilitaries
whose strategy has been to ignore the FARC and concentrate on the ELN.

The ELN has lost about half its numerical strnegth according to the
bourgeois press here, and I tend to believe these figures for various
reasons. Apparently less businesses are paying taxes to the ELN. there have
also been many reports in the press and elsewhere of ELN defections to the
paramilitaries, at least some of which are true.

 The ELN suffered a major, major political defeat earlier this year.

They demanded a "despeje" (demilitarized zone) in a region north of Bogota
next to Barancabermeja, the oil refining center of the country and their
traditional stronghold. The Pastrana governemnt agreed to the despeje.

The paramilitaries and the "gremios" (business associaitons) of landowners
(bannana, palm oil, etc.)organized a civic paro in all the towns of the
region. A paro is like a strike, but it is not a working class strike - it
is a political shut-down of a town or city organized by any class. In this
case, organized by the local bourgeoisie against the agreement of the
national government with the ELN.

During the "paro" ELN supporters and people who did not necessarily support
them but lived in towns where they had influence were massacred.

The government backed down from the plan for a despeje, although the ELN is
still trying to get one.

[One problem about the despeje for the ELN, is that that region is a new
center of cocaine productioon, controlled mostly by the paras. This
development was made possible by the development of new strains of coca
plants which grow better in hotter climnates and at lower altitudes than
the traditioanl varieties.]

Most of the massacres committed by paramilitaries in the last two years
have been in areas of ELN influence.

As for public perception of the ELN, I think, that while it is different
than the public's perception of the FARC, it is not more influential.

The ELN likes to blow up electrical power lines. It says it does this in
protest of privatization, or to obtain a despeje (depending on the day of
the week.)

Their inconsistency causes people who pay attention to them, not to believe
their word. While their attacks serve as justification for multinational
bidders on public utilities to lower their offering price!

More important, people blame them for the power outages  that frequently
occur, especially in Medellin the closest big city to their operations.

Poor people in this country have seen some very big improvements in their
standard of living in some limited ways over the past decades. Most
important is electricty. You can go into a barrio de invasion, with open
sewers, no clean water, but hey check out the televisions and
refrigerators. Taking electricity away from the working class isn't the
most brilliant way to mobilize workers, or peasants, for that matter. (Most
of the poorest workers are really peasants who are in the city looking for
work, or avoiding warfare.)

Still, the ELN seems to make its political proposals in a way that people
pay more attention to them than to whatever the FARC is saying (which as I
said, is very little, but at great length and nationally televised almost
around the clock.)

People at least know the ELN is against privatizations,  against
corruption, and they know that the ELN is for some kind of national
constitutional convention.

One thing that should be mentioned in regard to the ELN, is that the FARC
did not support the despeje for the ELN. the FARC and the ELN have fought
together against paras and the military, and have fought against each
other. The FARC is against including the ELN in the peace negotians now
going on, one reason that - in my opinion - people do not take those
negotiations very seriously.

The ELN has lost another one of its central leaders recently (several are
in jail.)

Another thing that should be mentioned is the EPL, has just about
disappered. One front of the EPL just joined the FARC, while anohter was
recently arrested by the FARC.

More later, Anthony

Louis Proyect
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