Columbia land war update: FARC bogged down in Cuba talks?

Tony Gosling tony at
Thu Sep 19 00:17:43 BST 2013

Martin Summers discussion with Temas Teani who's just back from Columbia

FARC rebels accuse Colombia of secrecy in talks
Sat Sep 14, 2013 2:17AM GMT
FARC is Latin America's oldest insurgent group 
and has been fighting the government since 1964.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) 
has accused the Colombian government of reaching 
a "secret" agreement with wealthy Colombian 
landowners, rather than talking to farmers.
On Friday, FARC negotiator Jesus Santrich made 
the remarks during the latest round of peace 
talks, which resumed on Monday and will end on 
Sunday in the Cuban capital Havana.
Santrich accused the government of Colombian 
President Juan Manuel Santos of reaching an 
agreement with wealthy landowners instead of the 
indigenous farmers in an attempt to put an end to 
three weeks of protests over the high price of 
fertilizers and cheap imports of agricultural 
products from Europe and the United States.
On September 7, farm leaders came to an agreement 
with Bogota to end the protests, which left at 
least five people dead, and caused food shortage in the country.
"I think the president should listen to the 
farmers, the indigenous, the Afro descendant 
population who live in our rural areas," said the FARC negotiator.
Talks between the FARC rebels and the Colombian 
government kicked off in the Cuban capital Havana 
in November 2012. The talks recess and resume 
every few weeks as clashes between the two sides continue.
FARC is Latin America's oldest insurgent group 
and has been fighting the government since 1964.
Bogota estimates that 600,000 people have been 
killed, and some three million others have been 
internally displaced by the fighting.
The rebel organization is thought to have around 
8,000 fighters operating across a large swathe of 
the eastern jungles of the Andean nation.

On the National Strike and Wave of Popular Disobedience in Colombia
  venezuela / colombia | community struggles | 
opinion / analysis  Wednesday September 11, 2013 
17:49 by Grupo Libertario Vía Libre
The Colombian anarchist Grupo Libertario Vía 
Libre wrote and published the following article 
in late August, in Spanish. This translation 
includes some contextual information (in 
brackets) for English-language readers who are 
not familiar with all the people and organizations mentioned. [Castellano]


On the National Strike and Wave of Popular Disobedience in Colombia

  The administration of Colombian President Juan 
Manuel Santos, now into its third year, is on its 
heels due to a growing crisis of legitimacy. 
Shaken by a storm of social unrest, the result of 
several crises that have impacted among others 
the agricultural, transportation, health and 
education sectors, GDP is slowing down and the 
first symptoms of a national economic crisis are 
visible. Large parts of the campesino, mining, 
artisanal and transportation worker sectors, 
impacted by a prolonged agricultural and 
industrial depression that originated through the 
liberalization of the Colombian economy over the 
last twenty years organized a Paro Nacional, a 
National Strike. These workers also felt the 
impact of the unequal and exclusive recovery in 
the prices of raw materials that has taken place 
in a few marginal countries during the current 
capitalist crisis, as well as the shock effect 
brought on by the first year of implementation of 
the U.S. Free Trade Agreement, to which the 
Santos administration has added 20 other new free 
trade agreements. The National Strike was 
observed in rural areas and with fragmented 
expressions sent Colombia from mid- to late 
August into a vortex of social disobedience, 
which is continuing and strengthening the 
increasing class resistance that we have 
witnessed since 2008, as well as the escalating 
cycle of protests that took place through 2011-2012.

  The Santos administration has led a political 
project of one sector of the national bourgeoisie 
that wants to convert the nation into a regional 
power, committed to U.S. imperialism but with the 
autonomy to open itself to Asia. This project 
seeks to modernize a backwards State and to 
deepen capitalist penetration in Colombia. 
Santos’ administration has initiated a Peace 
Process with the left-wing FARC-EP guerilla 
organization and a limited policy to liberalize 
some outdated oligarchic structures, especially 
in the rural areas, that opened up a wave of 
expectation and hope among the population. Yet 
due to the administration's own characteristics 
this hope cannot be fulfilled, a fact that has awakened the ire of millions.

  All this is happening as elections in which the 
administration seeks to secure its reelection are 
on the horizon; the political left pushed into 
political moderation, fragmented in the electoral 
arena, is in urgent need of increasing its social 
presence now that it faces the threat of losing 
its institutional participation.

  Santos is also developing a complex peace 
process that has put into action the only formula 
his administration considers efficient, which is 
closed negotiations, outside the country while 
the armed conflict continues. This process has 
led to an increase in the conflict, not in its 
military stalemate [State forces cannot defeat 
the leftist insurgents] but in the social 
dimension that gives us a crucial understanding 
of the pressure and participation of those on the 
lower rungs of society, so that an authoritative 
and militarist State will concede and guarantee peace.

  The sectors involved in this struggle have 
become central figures in the nation's politics 
and a center of attention for almost three weeks. 
Calling into question all of the current 
administration's policies and the neoliberal 
model with a few obscure but important 
anti-capitalist elements, these sectors are 
demanding immediate subsidies and investment 
plans linked to strategic demands like the 
defense of territory, and the campesino and artisanal economies.

  The Strike has not only overwhelmed the 
government, and security forces but also the 
[political] left and social organizations. This 
Strike has been extensive and wide open, with 
varied and unequal participation. It has been 
intermittent but forceful and has united four large waves of protest:
The artisanal and traditional miners of the 
provinces of Choco, Antioquia and the central 
Andean region of Cundinamarca and Boyaca, all of 
whom are poor and underemployed, struggling to 
maintain their jobs, threatened by a government 
that persecutes and criminalizes them in order to 
open the mining industry to multinational mining 
and energy companies. These miners started their own strike over a month ago;

Truck drivers and small owners of vehicles 
located above all in the western part of the 
country, who are resisting government plans to 
modernize their industry that would convert them 
into salaried workers and monopolize the 
companies. They also oppose policies to increase 
the price of gasoline, fuel oil and toll fees 
that have been on the rise since 2010;

Impoverished campesinos close to bankruptcy, who 
make up the most important wave of all. The 
majority are farmers from the Andean region, the 
Pacific region and the provinces of Santander and 
North Santander who produce potatoes, onions, 
rice and milk and who have been affected by the 
agro-industrial model of economic growth, the 
massive influx of foreign-subsidized agricultural 
products and the large network of middle men and 
speculators. They have continued the string of 
strikes initiated by coffee growers and 
coca-growing campesinos during the first semester of 2013;

Civic protesters in towns and neighborhoods who 
found in these protests the time and place to 
voice their own protests and demands for health 
care, housing, jobs. This includes others like 
the motorbike taxi-drivers, and those impacted by 
the winter rain floods, the inter-municipal 
transportation workers or urban youth from impoverished neighborhoods.
  As the second coffee-growers' strike was 
brought under control, the transportation sector 
divided, efforts to render the Strike invisible, 
the regional dialog strategy fell apart in the 
most conflicted regions, and in the midst of the 
breakdown of nationwide negotiations due to 
government tactics the Santos administration, 
which has used forceful but unequal repressive 
measures throughout this movement leaving eight 
unarmed protesters dead, now faces a situation 
not seen in over a generation: a national strike 
called by the popular movement that actually 
impacts this country, that had witnessed the 
silent and dramatic failures of the 2006 and 2008 
strikes organized by the Central Unitaria de 
Trabajadores, and the 2012 strike organized by 
the COMOSOCOL [COMOSOCOL was created to 
coordinate Colombian social movements and 
organizations]. The current rural-based protest 
movement has surrounded the cities, blocking and 
paralyzing provincial roads and reducing the delivery of food.

  The similarities with the 14 September 1977 
National Strike are worth mentioning. It was the 
largest mass protest of Colombia’s recent 
history, and took place during the presidency of 
Liberal Alfonso López Michelsen, whose 
administration Santos ironically commemorated in 
recent days. Sadly Clara López, president of the 
Polo Democratico Alternativo, and Piedad Córdoba, 
leader of Marcha Patriótica, two political 
movements opposed to the Santos administration, 
also commemorated the López administration.

  The comparison with the 1977 strike and its 
demands that our organization has successfully 
positioned within the current social struggles, 
allows us to analyze the similarities of both 
contexts and the frustrated hopes for reform, the 
social crisis and the initial economic crisis, as 
well as the important differences that 
characterize urban involvement and the enormous 
labor union presence that shaped the 1970s experience.

  This current movement also shares similarities 
with powerful regional strikes that took place 
during the second half of the 1980s. The current 
movement is not that large and aggressive yet it 
is more coordinated at the national level and 
with a broader or more diverse makeup. We think 
that the current movement continues our popular 
tradition of local and national civic strikes as 
an expression of current/historical discontent.

  The outlook of this movement is complex yet 
optimistic: on the one hand the strength of the 
mobilization - even though worn out - continues; 
more civic sectors have joined the protest and 
the nationwide impact continues to grow. This is 
exemplified by the smooth coordination led by the 
Mesa de Interlocucion y Acuerdo, or MIA. The MIA 
is made up of unorganized independent sectors and 
the leadership of FENSUAGRO, which is a member of 
Marcha Patriótica and Dignidad Campesina [potato, 
rice, onion and coffee growers] influenced by the 
MOIR [FENSUAGRO is the Federación Nacional 
Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria; MOIR is the 
Movimiento Obrero Indpendiente y Revolucionario; 
Marcha Patriótica is a left-leaning social and 
political movement]. At the same time a national 
strike of health workers organized under the 
ANTHOC; a national 24-hour oil sector strike that 
will not halt production called by the USO; a 
mobilization of public school teachers by the 
FECODE, the most important union federation in 
Colombia, that has called a second time for a 
National Strike - this time for September 10, and 
a call for a national strike of university 
students in October by the MANE in defense of the 
Alternative Law for Higher Education [ANTHOC is 
the national union of public sector health 
workers; USO is the oil workers' Union Sindical 
Obrear; FECODE is the public sector teachers 
union; MANE is the Mesa Amplia Nacional 
Estudiantil. The student-led MANE brought down a 
Santos-proposed education reform with ample 
social and political support last year].

  Yet the government has taken a hardline 
suspending dialogs, militarizing the regions in 
conflict, criminalizing organizations involved in 
the conflict like Marcha Patriótica and starting 
judicial processes against protest leaders like 
Hubert Ballesteros. The popular movement, in the 
meantime, shows a serious limitation because it 
does not have the organic participation of urban 
workers, in neighborhoods and workplaces, a 
sector that is highly unorganized but decisive 
due to its demographic and productive importance 
to push forward some important change at the national level.

  It is clear that despite the fact that former 
right-wing president Alvaro Uribe’s movement has 
lost its control over this popular movement due 
to its neoliberal and antimilitarist positions, 
it can still be used by the ultraconservative 
Uribe to capitalize on the discontent generated 
by the lack of communication, the lack of food 
supplies, the cells of ill-directed violence, as 
well as the fear of renewed class warfare and possible social change.

  In the current situation organized anarchists 
in Bogota have participated according to our 
limited but growing strength in some of the 
actions of agitation, solidarity and protest 
carried out in the city and the province of 
Cundinamarca, mainly in the marches that took 
place on August 19 in the city of Facatativá and 
as students and popular educators on August 29 in the National Day of Struggle.

  For our group, the lessons of the movement are 
clear: we should promote a broad campaign of 
solidarity with all people in struggle working 
for conscious and programmatic unity of the 
struggles in the rural and urban sectors 
preparing for the National Strike (Paro 
Nacional), promoting the strength of popular 
organizations and their ability to fight in those 
areas in which anger explodes and extend the protests to new territories.

  In that sense we must defend the legitimacy of 
the Strike, especially the blockage of major 
roads as the main form of struggle and popular 
political violence as a tool of self-defense, as 
we seek the participation of local communities, 
projecting the organization and the collective 
control of direct action decided upon by the base 
to contain their negative effects by that same 
base, while at the same time we help diversify 
the repertoire of actions for the eventual response.

  We believe we must work to change the Strike 
into a laboratory of our own power, generating 
and struggling for our own needs and aspirations 
for social change, increasing direct action and 
organizing among urban workers and launching our 
link with the more dynamic rural sectors, 
fighting against the Santos administration and 
the neoliberal model, as we at the same time 
deepen and open new spaces for the libertarian 
battle against Capitalism and State control.
Grupo Libertario Vía Libre, Bogotá
Translator: Jairo Marcos Restrepo 
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