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(en) Workers Solidarity #74 - Colombia 3 - wrong people in the dock

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 25 Feb 2003 13:33:35 +0100 (CET)


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The trial of the Colombia 3 has produced a frenzy
of speculation in the Irish media about whether
they are guilty or not, and how this might effect
the 'peace process'. What is all too lacking,
however, is any background to Colombia itself.
This is not too surprising. Andrew Flood looks at the
situation there and argues that it is the Colombian
state that should be in the dock. 

According to the US based NGO Global Exchange "In 2001,
nine out of every ten trade unionists who were killed
worldwide were Colombian, making Colombia the most
dangerous country on the planet in which to be associated
with a union." Since 1984 around 4,000 have been killed.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO),
the vast majority of trade union murders are the
committed by either the Colombian state itself - e.g. army,
police and DAS (security department) - or its indirect
agents, the right-wing paramilitaries.

By September of 2002 over 4.1 million US trade unionists
had voted to end U.S. military aid to Colombia. The
Communication Workers of America (CWA), for instance
stated that unions' fight for peace and against corporate
power in Colombia make them, "targets for assassination,
torture and dismemberment by the rightwing paramilitary
AUC (Colombian United Self Defense) often acting in
league with transnational corporations and official
government forces and with almost absolute impunity
from prosecution or court action."

US funding for the Colombian military and police make it
the 3rd largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the world.
In addition the U.S. government has trained over 10,000 of
Colombia's military troops at the School of the Americas
(SOA) in Fort Benning, Georgia. SOA training manuals
show that the SOA encouraged troops to torture and
murder those who do "union organizing and recruiting,"
pass out "propaganda in favor of the interests of the
workers," and "sympathize with demonstrators or strikes."

Amnesty International cites the example of "the attempted
murder of trade union leader Wilson Borja Díaz in
December 2000, in which several active and retired
military and police officers were found to be implicated.
Immediately after the attack, national paramilitary leader
Carlos Castaño admitted responsibility for it". Castaño has
been quoted elsewhere as saying "In the case of trade
unionists, we kill them because they prevent others from
working." 

The right wing paramilitaries are closely connected not
only with the Colombian state but also with western
corporations. On July 20, 2001, the United Steelworkers of
America and the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF)
filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court against the Coca-Cola
Company and its locally-owned bottling company in
Colombia, the Panamerican Beverage Company (Panamco)
alleging that management at Coca-Cola plants in
Colombia have used paramilitaries to crush unions with a
campaign of threats, kidnap and murder. The suit was
filed on behalf of a Coca-Cola union in Colombia,
SINALTRAINAL (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de
la Alimentacion).

The case was taken after Mr. Munera Lopez was gunned
down in the doorway of his mother's home in Barranquilla
during a short visit to his family. He was murdered just
days after a favourable ruling by the Colombian
Constitutional Court in his human rights case Mr. Lopez.,
was the eighth trade union leader working for Coca-Cola
bottlers to have been murdered in recent years, according
to the United Steelworkers of America President Leo W.
Gerar.

Of course all this also goes some way to explaining why
political activists visiting Colombia might feel the need to
travel on false documents. But in any case it's quite clear
that it's the Colombian state and not the Colombian three
should be in the dock. They are accused of aiding the
largest of the armed groups that oppose the Colombian
state, the FARC. Below a Colombian anarchist active in
Antimilitarismo Sonoro' writes about the roots of the
armed struggle in their country and its effect today.

"At the beginning of the 1960s several communist
experiments were born, among them the commune which
became known as 'Marquetalia'. This commune was
bombed and destroyed by the army in alliance with the
US army.The very few survivors of this massacre funded
what was later to be known as the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC). The destruction of the
commune led to the formation of several other guerrilla
groups. Among the ones that can be mentioned are: ELN
(National Liberation Army), M19 (April 19th Movement),
EPL (Popular Liberation Army), a co-ordination they tried
to form in the 1980s called CGSB (Simon Bolivar Guerrilla
Co-ordinator), and Quintin Lame (named after an
indigenous outlaw, this was an indigenous guerrilla
group).

The 'Dirty war' was crude, seriously weakening several of
these groups, which would enter peace talks and return
into civilian life, ending up as political parties. Later,
'paramilitary' groups would massacre many of the
militants of these groups, including Carlos Pizarro
Leon-Gomez, Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa and Jaime Pardo
Leal, all of them running for president in 1990s elections.
This massacre included over 3,000 militants of UP
(political party formed from M19) during the following
decade, as well as hundreds of different labour unionists,
students, teachers human rights, left-wing and social
activists etc.

This situation, which blocked alternative routes to power
for these groups intensified the war and took it to the point
it is at today, where what is being discussed is the share
of power each group is going to have. There are two sides
in struggle. Both are extremely militarist, both are
convinced that they are capable of winning the war and
both lack wide political support among the civil
population. For both, their expectation is instead a political
leadership based on economic and military strength.

Recently, peace talks with FARC have been taking place in
the southern 'demilitarised' area of San Vicente Del
Caguan. The reality is that the so-called demilitarisation
of this area is more of a smoke screen because FARC has
traditionally had complete control over this area (which is
the size of Switzerland but very poorly populated as it in
the middle of the jungle), and the state and its military has
never had a very active presence.

The current situation of war in Colombia and the
everyday decreasing credibility of the guerrillas and their
political programme have helped feed alternative
movements of resistance. These come from the idea of civil
unarmed resistance, and preach positions such as 'Civil
Disobedience' as alternative strategies. Although they are
generally reformist in nature, they have looked for creative
ways to oppose official policies.

Another example is that of the NGO's who have been
targeted by paramilitaries and who lost many of their
militants over the last decade, resulting in their
development of incredible networks of 'contra-information'
that can now be used by radical activists. 

On the other hand, the indigenous movements have a
huge tradition of resistance. Quintin Lame, an indigenous
person from Colombia, bears the record for the most times
in prison in Colombia, due to his different activities of
resistance, and an indigenous guerrilla group in the 1980s
was named after him, as mentioned earlier." 

The interview in this article is an edited version of one
from the British anarchist magazine Organise No. 54.
Read the full interview online at
http://flag.blackened.net/af/org/issue54/colombia4.html  


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