Hey Anthony...[WW] Colombia/ Farc/ELN gains

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at SPAMtao.ca
Wed Feb 7 00:58:18 MST 2001


...What do you think of this?

-------------------------
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Feb. 8, 2001
issue of Workers World newspaper
-------------------------

AS U.S. TRIES TO STOP IT:
PEOPLE'S STRUGGLE GAINS GROUND IN COLOMBIA

By Andy McInerney

Are the Colombian government and its U.S. backers prepared
to embark on total war against the people's movement? That
question hangs in the balance with the deadline--now February 4--for
the government to extend the cleared zone that has been used
for talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-
People's Army (FARC-EP).

Two years ago, after a string of political and military
victories by the FARC-EP, the Colombian government was
forced to begin talks with the country's oldest insurgency
to address the social causes of the decades-old violent
struggle. During this process, tens of thousands of
Colombian workers, peasants, students, and community leaders
were able to confront the government openly with their
demands and hopes for a new Colombia.

An essential condition for these talks has been the
Colombian government's withdrawal of all military and police
units from five municipalities in central Colombia. This
"cleared zone" is the only region of Colombia free from
death-squad violence.

In December, President Andres Pastrana extended the
withdrawal from the zone until Jan. 31. On Jan.30 he again
extended withdrawal but this time only for five days. This
new deadline is when Pastrana may decide to try to re-invade
the zone.

Sectors of Colombia's ruling elite and military high command
are clamoring to end the dialogs with the FARC-EP. While
significant ruling-class elements there still see the talks
as necessary--leaders of the ruling Conservative Party as
well as the head of the National Manufacturers Council
support extending the zone--Pastrana did deploy 3,100 troops
on the border of the zone in the week prior to the deadline.

The FARC-EP has stated numerous times that the end of the
zone would be the end of the dialog process. "In that case,"
warned FARC-EP Commander-in-Chief Manuel Marulanda,
"everything ends."

Despite Pastrana's saber-rattling, few believe that
Colombia's official armed forces is a match for the FARC-EP.
"The Colombian army does not have the capability yet to
conduct a successful all-out offensive," noted a report by
the U.S. think tank Stratfor. The Jan. 25 New York Times
quoted a U.S. "Congressional analyst" saying that "he
believed that the army was not ready to engage the rebels in
a large-scale operation."

What is driving Pastrana toward a military confrontation
that cannot be won? The $1.3 billion Pentagon military aid
package to the Colombian government, part of the so-called
Plan Colombia.

The U.S. government completed its shipment of 33 Huey attack
helicopters on Jan. 28, days before the deadline. Sixteen
more advanced Blackhawk helicopters are to be delivered in
July.

Nearly 500 U.S. military troops are on the ground in
Colombia, with elite Special Forces troops positioned just
18 miles from the combat zone, according to a Jan. 24
Associated Press report.

A massive military operation by U.S.-trained
counterinsurgency troops opened up in the southern Putumayo
province this month. Pilots indiscriminately spray peasants'
crops with deadly defoliants.

This offensive coincides with a paramilitary death squad
onslaught across the country--coordinated with the Colombian
army--that massacred 210 people between Dec. 16 and Jan. 19.

Survivors of the Jan. 17 massacre in El Chengue described
Colombian army helicopters monitoring the town in the days
before and the hours after the massacre. The military also
followed a now-standard practice of sealing the area,
allowing only the death squads into and out of the zone.

This is the impact of Plan Colombia.

A ZONE FOR THE ELN?

At the same time that Pastrana was backing away from the
talks with the FARC-EP, his government announced progress in
moving toward official talks with the National Liberation
Army (ELN). The ELN is a smaller revolutionary insurgency
that has been fighting the Colombian government since 1964.

Like the FARC-EP, the ELN has demanded a cleared zone to
hold talks. In informal meetings with government
spokespeople, the two sides have tentatively agreed on a
zone in northern Colombia near the oil-producing city of
Barrancabermeja. However, paramilitary groups allied with
big landowners in the area have waged a terror campaign
against the zone.

Whether or not such a process takes place remains to be
seen. If such a process did open up and progress was made
toward a National Convention, as the ELN is proposing, it
would be another step forward in putting the Colombian
government on the defensive politically.

Progress toward this end will depend ultimately on the
strength of the ELN in relation to the government, both
politically and militarily. The advances made by the FARC-EP
have been due to their position of strength in the process.

But the timing of the government's agreement to a zone for
the ELN--officially announced on Jan. 29, two days before
the deadline for the FARC-EP's zone--puts the Pastrana
regime's credibility very much in doubt. The Colombian
government is clearly trying to divide the revolutionary
forces, pitting the "good" insurgency (today, the ELN) that
is willing to make "reasonable" concessions against the
"bad" insurgency, the FARC-EP.

The ELN and the FARC-EP, despite different histories, share
a desire for a revolutionary transformation of Colombian
society to favor the country's workers and peasants. In the
early 1990s the two groups talked jointly with the
government as part of the Simon Bolivar Guerrilla
Coordinating Committee. The two forces still work together
on specific military missions against government troops. But
tactical differences have so far prevented the two from
proposing a united dialog process with the government in the
current situation.

DANGER OF DIRECT U.S. INTERVENTION

The danger of direct U.S. intervention in this volatile
political crisis grows daily.

The new U.S. president, George Bush, is trying to deny the
prospect of U.S. troops on Colombian battlefields. "We have
to be very cautious not to send too many troops and have
them get involved in combat," Bush told reporters on Jan.
26. "There is a fine line between training and combat. I
support training and aid." (Miami Herald, Jan. 27)

That is an echo of Clinton's "This is not a new Vietnam."

The deployment of U.S. troops into combat against the
Colombian people, should it take place, will not be because
of the will of individual politicians or generals. It will
be a result of the cycle of intervention required to
maintain political and economic exploitation over Colombia
and Latin America--a fundamental feature of U.S.
imperialism.

Should the Colombian government decide to invade the zone
cleared for talks with the FARC-EP, it will face a powerful
political and military opponent with the backing of millions
of Colombian workers and peasants. It's own spokespeople--in
Colombia and in Washington--admit that it cannot win. That
will require U.S. troops to come to the rescue of the
corrupt, death squad regime.

Should the Colombian government decide to extend the zone,
it opens the possibility for a rupture within the ruling
elite, with one side fearing the "apocalypse" of a total war
and the other counting on U.S. military aid to expand its
rule of terror. Such a split--a mortal danger in a period of
revolution--could only be mediated by U.S. political
intervention, backed by U.S. troops.

The possibility of a solution to the Colombian struggle that
favors the interests of the workers and peasants there will
depend on the determination and clear leadership of the
revolutionary insurgencies in Colombia combined with the
strength of anti-war and solidarity forces in the United
States and around the world.

- END -

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-------------------------------------------
Macdonald Stainsby
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