Forwarded from Anthony (Colombia news)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sun Feb 18 16:43:33 MST 2001


Hi Lou:

More News From Colombia

1. Pastrana says he has "proof" road blockades are organized by
paramilitaries and drug dealers.

Thursday, President Andres Pastrana denounced the blockades of three major
roads in the North of Colombia, saying they were organized by
paramilitaries, and drug dealers. The road blocks cut the two major
highways linking Bogota with the Atlantic coast, plus the highway between
the oil city of Barancabermeja, and the provincial capital of Bucaramanga.
About 15,000 people, mostly poor farmers and farmworkers from the area are
particia[pting in the roadblocks organized ostensibly to protest the
government's intention to grant a "despeje" to the ELN.

A fourth roadblock, of seveal hundred people, with the same political
program and character, is cutting the highway between the capital of hte
province of Tolima, Ibague, with neiva, another provinical city. This
roadblock is in protest of the offer by the governor of Tolima to have part
of his province used as a despeje for the ELN, if the planned zone near
Barancabermja does not work out.

There is no doubt that the roadblocks are organized by the paramilitaries,
and that they are NOT a mass peasant movement against a despeje for the
ELN. The "gremios" (business guilds) of the large farmers in the region are
tightly organized, and control virtually every aspect of life in the
Magdelena Medio. The local politicans and priests are in their pockets, and
the local 'protest' organizations opposing the despeje (ASOCIOPAZ, etc.)
are simply another name for the members of the Gremios. The gremios
publicly admit financiing the AUC of Carlos Castano.

Farm trucks, with armed guards provided by Castanos organization, come to
the large farms and to village plazas to pick up farm workers and residents
to transport them to the blockades. Refusal to particpate is not a serious
option.

2. On Friday President Pastrana authorized the use of "rational force" to
remmove the roadblocks in Magdelena Medio. He also launched an internal
government investigation into the 'complicity' of unnamed government
officials in the blockades.

3. The Presidential election season here has opened, 15 months before the
first round of elections are scheduled. Four candidates are routinely
mentioned - all are building campaign organizations, though nknown have
foramally announced. They are:

Noemi Sanin, a poltitical 'independent' who was the spoiler in the last
presidential election who - together with the FARC - helped Andres Pastrana
win the election against Horacio Serpa, the leader of the social democratic
faction of the Liberal Party. Sanin has siad that she is an admirer of
Alberto Fujimori, but that she is also against the corruptio of the two
traditional parties here (pretty interesting trick). She has the behind the
scenes support of Cesar Gaviria, former President of Colombia, architect of
the current constitution, and current president of the OAS.

Horacio Serpa. Leader of the social democratic faction of the Liberal
Party, Liberal Party presidential candidate defeated by Pastrana in last
election. Now supports Pastrana's peace efforts wholeheartedly. Close to
important sectors of organized labor including the oil workers and the
teachers.

Alvaro Uribe Velez, leader of the right wing faction of the Liberal party,
former governor of Antioquia (of which Medellin is the capital). Velez is
now the most important critic of the peace procss from the right. While
claiming to support negotiations, he does not support continuance of the
despeje, nor does he support adding Tirofijo's towel to the collection of
the national museum. Uribe never mentions the name of the FARC, ELN or any
of their leaders without using an adjective such as 'criminal', 'assasin',
'kidnapper'. Uribe was until recently an open supporter of paramilitaries,
and now is the strongest supporter of including them in the peace
negotiaitons.

Luis Eduardo Garzon, leader of the "Social and Political Front" founded by
the CUT (Centro Unitario de los Trabajadores, Colombian central union
federation)claims to be the candidate of the left who stands for
"depolarization". He says, "... among all the calls to war from diverse
sides, and the existence of interests to polarize society, the Social and
Political Front offers Colombians the proposal of depolarization,
convergence, and non-violence, with a clear rejection of war. For
ourselves, it is clear that  the future of Colombia will pass through
dialogues and negotiations as media for the resolutions of our problems and
in no manner whatsoever continue the national confrontation."

His colleague in the leadership of the CUT, Angelino Garzon, currently
serves as Labor Minister in the Pastrana government.


Louis Proyect
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