Forwarded from Anthony (Colombia)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Feb 2 07:52:28 MST 2002


For those of you who read Spanish the official website of the FARC-EP 
is

http://www.farc-ep.org/

>From bad to worse: Colombia January 30, 2002

In the ten days, since the 'peace process' was miraculously prolonged 
- the FARC has launched a major military offensive. 

This offensive is signifcantly different than previous FARC 
offensives in several ways, which I will outline below. It is clearly 
meant as a message to Colomiba's ruling class, and to all of 
Colombia, about what will happen if the peace process does not come 
to an agreement by April 7.

The most important difference between this offensive and previous 
ones is that this offensive targeted the civilian population of the 
cities by destroying infrastructure - high tension electricity 
towers, and a major reservoir. Previously FARC offensives targetted 
lightly manned police stations in isolated towns, or small to medium 
sized army garrisons or patrols. 

This offensive (apparently now over) included the dynamiting of more 
than 50 high tension electric power towers, the dynamiting of part of 
the water system of Bogotá, blowing up key bridges, car and bicycle 
bombs in Bogotá, Florencia, and other cities, and 'armed paros' in 
Meta and Valle (in the eastern tropical plains to the north of the 
despeje, and to the South West of Bogotá respectively).

Some parts of the country, Choco and Meta, have been completely 
without electricity for days. Other parts, notably Santa Marta and 
Cartegena on the Atlantic coast, and four towns in the outskirts of 
Bogotá,  have imposed rolling blackouts. The price of electricity has 
gone up. The damage should be fixed in a few days - at least enough 
to allow an end of blackouts.

The response by the government has been a political offensive against 
the FARC for being terrorists who attack the civilian population. 
Militarily the government has been in a defensive and police mode.

The army has refrained from launching a counter-offensive, despite 
criticism from the far-right press and politicians. Some say this is 
because they do not have the balls, others because they do not have 
the rsources. In my opinion it is because they are smarter than the 
FARC. The army, is insync with the majority of the bourgeoisie. They 
understand that they are fighting a political struggle for the hearts 
and minds of the petty bourgeoieise and the working class of the 
cities agains the FARC. 

The simple fact is, the bourgeoisie is winning this struggle. The 
army did not launch a counter offencisve because they understand 
Clausewitz bettter than the FARC does.

The armed forces have concentrated on protecting key installations - 
especially electric power plants and reservoirs, and on capturing 
FARC units and members. 

Military road blocks have sprung up everywhere - in every 
neighborhood of every city and town, and in the countryside. Cars, 
buses and trucks are stopped at random and searched. How many arrests 
have been made is not known. At the same time the police are raiding 
the homes and apartments of people suspected of being members or 
sympathizers of the FARC.  This is reported by the press, but only in 
small articles in the back pages. Unless a FARC arms dump is 
uncovered. When that happens its front page coverage.

At the roadblocks the police are very polite and serious. There are 
signs that say "Thank you for helping".  I have been stopped three 
times now. Old cars like mine get stopped more often than newer cars. 
The police have a profile of potential car bombs.

The main goals of the FARC in the peace process, in my opinion, were 
1) to reach an agreement whereby the government would demobilize the 
paramilitaries, including jailing or killing many of them 2) to 
transform themselves into a legal parliamentary opposition party. 3) 
To gain some kind of social reform through the peace process. 

The FARC's 'Plan B' was to use the despeje to build up its treasury, 
armory, and numerical strength in case its main goals were not met. 
In that case the FARC would fight a prolonged war to take power.

The main goal of the FARC clearly has failed. 

The government used the peace process to strengthen the Armed Forces 
of Colombia, and to strengthen the paramilitaries. Despite a small 
number of arrests, and a few battles between the military and the 
paramilitaries, during the three years of the peace process the 
paramilitaries grew numerically, became much better armed, much 
better financed, and most ominously gained considerable popular 
support that they had never enjoyed before.

Although he FARC has been able to increase its military strength 
through the peace process, it has bought this at a terrible price - 
it's political influence has diminished exponentially. 

It has no strategy to mobilize the masses of  the rural poor or the 
vast majority of working class and poor Colombians who live in the 
cities - except in the armed struggle. This means that the FARC can 
only mobilize as many people as they can arm, train and feed - 
apparently about 20,000. This means they can not mobilize the other 
30,000,000 or so members of the oppressed classes of this country.

Instead the FARC is pushing the masses away from them.

Even union leaders who are publicly members of the central commmitte 
of the Communist Party have appeared on television denouncing the 
FARC's use of car bombs in the cities, blowing up of electricity 
towers, and the attack on the reservoir.

Lucho Garzon, union leader and Presidential candidate supported by 
the CP, last night denounced the paramiliary-linked Presidential 
candidate Alvaro Uribe Velez. He said Uribe Velez was no different 
than Mono Jojoy - military leader of the FARC.

7,000,000 live in Bogotá. Between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 live in 
varying degrees of poverty. However, about 75% of those people have 
running water and electricity in their homes. These are in fact the 
two great improvements in the standard of living that the working 
class of the cities have gained in the last twenty years.

And the FARC is attacking them.

Fear and apathy are the two emotions that you find in the streets. A 
couple of  mornings ago  a car bomb blew up in front of the offices 
of Caracol, one of the two major TV and radio companies. Nobody 
inside was hurt - several passerby's were injured. A couple of days 
ago a bicycle bomb blew up in front of a restaurant in Fatima (a 
working class neighborhood). Four police men were killed - and one 
five year old girl. Several other people were injured.

The other day I watched (from a distance) the police break down the 
doors of an apartment to make (what bystanders said were) political 
arrests

The latest opinion polls were published yesterday: Alvaro Uribe 
Velez, the candidate publicly associated with the paramilitaries is 
now - for the first time ever, in first place with 39%, Horacio Serpa 
- the Liberal Party social Democrat has slipped to second place with 
only 30%, Noemi Sanin, the 'right-center'independent still has 16%, 
the conservative Party candidate has only slightly more than 1% and 
Lucho Garzon the CP supported labor leader has slipped to less than 
1% (from nearly 10%). 

While this poll is certainly stage managed, it reflects the changes 
in opinion and attitude that I have witnessed among all the people I 
have contact with - people are moving to the right: leftists are 
becoming more demoralized, soft social democrats are abandoning 
Serpa, Liberals are moving from Serpa to Uribe Velez, Conservatives 
have abandoned their party completely to support Velez (who is a 
Liberal).

So, what is the Farc up to: my guess is that they are sending a 
message to Andres Pastrana. Pastrana's great hope is to finish his 
three years in office with either a peace deal, or the peace process 
still in motion with some kind of hopes in its success. 

But Pastrana can not make a deal. The reason is simple: the FARC 
won't accept any deal that doesn't really destroy the paramilitaries. 
And Pastrana's own faction includes some of the real leaders of the 
paramilitaries (first and foremost his Vice President and Defense 
Minister Bell).

The FARC's message is, in the first place FORGET IT Andres. If you 
don't make a deal, you go down with us. The FARC knows that no matter 
who the next president is, there will be no peace deal that 
dismantles the paramilitaries - Uribe Velez would never do that in a 
million years, but then, neither would Serpa.

In the second place, the FARC's message is that they will do as much 
damage as they can to the paramilitaries, and to their social base - 
this is why they have centered their attacks on Meta and Choco.

It is very unlikely the FARC's strategy will work.

If it does, there will be a peace deal on April 7.

If it does not, the war will most likely escalate around that date.

All the best, Anthony

-- 
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 02/02/2002

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