Colombian Front for Socialism

By Maria Cristina Gutierrez

We are printing below a speech delivered by Maria Cristina Gutierrez, a national representative of FECOPES, the Frente Colombiano Por el Socialismo (Colombian Front for Socialism), in February of this year in San Francisco, at an open public forum. —Socialist Viewpoint

Brothers and Sisters, Comrades and friends;

We would like to thank you for coming here tonight to this presentation about our country, Colombia. There have been so many lies and misinformation that it is imperative to clarify and tell the truth. We FECOPES were born in the ’80s to respond to the need for political solidarity with the people of Colombia and to tell the people in the United States of North America the truth about the revolutionary movement in our country. When the peace agreement was signed and the needs of the movement changed, many of our people went back home and a few remained here to continue our work for Colombia at another level. But, the current conditions have forced us to take a new look and to begin once again the struggle to inform the people of the U.S. about the cruelty of the narco-paramilitary government of Alvaro Uribe, which is supported and maintained politically, economically, and militarily by the government of United States of America.

Since 9-ll the government of the U.S. has been successful in putting forward the idea that anybody who fights for justice or equality is a terrorist and especially, if there are guerrillas, like in Colombia. But what really concerns us is that so-called liberals in the U.S. go to Colombia for a week or so and come to talk about the political situation of our country, and with self-acquired authority denounce the existence of the guerrilla movement. In essence these liberals are uniting with the government of Uribe and the U.S. Denying the existence of 20 thousand and more men and women that have been fighting for socialism in Colombia for at least 40 years is political suicide. Even more, to try to explain the existence of 12 bases in Colombia and the total takeover of seven of those military bases by U.S. without talking about the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) or the ELN (National Liberation Army,) is an illusion. It is naiveté.

This is why FECOPES members got together on December 31 of 2009 to regroup ourselves in New York, Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco.

As we said before, with all the lies and misinformation about Colombia, we find it necessary to speak of the history of our country since the time of independence from Spain, which was in the 19th century.

In Colombia the state apparatus was never consolidated in a true national state. The bourgeoisie of Colombia has always sold out and is submissive and dependent on other external powers. First the oligarchy sold out to the English, and afterwards to the United States. Our natural resources had always been given away to the foreigners. There was never a policy of national development or an agrarian reform. We are talking here about the few families that run Colombia (five percent of the population owns and controls 90 percent of the country), and sold out the interests of Colombia to foreign powers. Colombia is a country of 46 million people. Colombia has all kinds of climates. It has access to the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. It is a rich country. Its natural resources could take care of all our people without any problem. According to studies done in Canada, Colombia is among the ten countries in the world with the most natural resources, such as gold, copper, coal, manganese, oil, water resources, as well as still-unclassified species of plants and animals. Unfortunately, our history is one of exploitation. First came the Spanish, who colonized, brought slaves, murdered the Indians, and made not only Colombia, but all of the Americas, with the exception of U.S. into colonies.

Simon Bolivar together with Ricaurte San Mateo Sucre, Nariño, and others were the liberators of Colombia and four other countries from Spanish rule. But in Colombia they were betrayed by Santander, who opposed and fought the whole concept of “La Gran Colombia,” the unity of five different countries—Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela—in Latin America as one great nation. Santander represented the interest of the rich and they needed a country to exploit, own and sell to the U.S.

In l940 a split took place between the liberal and the conservative oligarchy, the conservatives representing the landowners and the liberals representing the industrialists. There were horrible massacres taking place in the countryside, and Jorge Eliecer Gaitan decided to run for president. At the beginning, he believed in the liberal party as a solution, but as time went on he realized that something new needed to be created and he began to talk about the unity of the workers regardless of political party including the socialists. He paid dearly for it. He was murdered by the ruling class on April 9, l948; and the biggest revolt took place in Colombia. The masses took to the streets and for almost a week the government was unable to run the country, but there was no political party or organization that could take over and lead the masses to state power. The government took control once again and the infamous “epoca de la violencia,” time of violence, started in Colombia. During this time both parties utilized the peasants to fight their fight and in ten years 300-thousand people were killed in the most horrific ways. The representatives of the oligarchy murdered the peasants by cutting off their heads, arms and legs. They call this the t-shirt cut. They cut people’s throats and opened a hole in the neck and stuck their tongues through the hole and called it “the tie cut.” They tied women and children against trees and punched little holes all over their bodies and let them bleed to death. The peasants organized themselves into guerrilla units of self-defense. And it is from these guerrillas of self-defense that “Las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia” (FARC) was born. This organization was born out of the necessity of the Colombian peasants to defend themselves and as a result of the revolutionaries and communists who went to organize in the middle of that massacre. This guerrilla was born out of the need of the people to defend themselves from the atrocities that the Colombian government was committing. The guerrilla movement continued to grow and not only the FARC but also the M19 (19th of April Movement,) the ELN, and also political parties such as the communist party, the Maoists, and la Union Patriotica, the different social organizations in defense of human rights, in defense of political prisoners, indigenous people, and a very combative trade union movement.

The guerrilla movement in Colombia has become an everyday thing for the Colombian people because the government was forced to enter into negotiations with the revolutionary and workers movements and that made the guerrillas a strong political force in the country. Because of this, between l994 and l998 the bourgeoisie of Colombia began to realize that it was possible for them to lose power. This analysis can be found in documents of the right wing such as the “institute Rangel.” In l996 the bourgeoisie developed the dirty war on a great scale, and it is under these conditions that the Plan Colombia was designed. The 12 bases were built and reinforced because the plan was to defeat the revolutionary movement, and in order to achieve this objective they needed to develop a branch of the armed forces of Colombia directly subordinated to the U.S. army, stationed at the Panama base, specifically the Special Forces unit, the Green Berets, which are the ones leading this process.

Another factor we must remember is that since l974 Colombia has been ruled by presidents that are very good friends of narco-traffickers Alfonso Lopez Michelsen, Virgilio Varco, Cesar Gaviria Trujillo, etc. Each president since l974 has been getting closer and closer to the narco-traffickers, but it is Uribe in 2002 who not only is a close friend, but who actually is a narco himself. The U.S. knows the origin of Uribe. The DEA has a list of the 103 important narco traffickers in Colombia and Alvaro Uribe is number 82 on this list. It is with the blessings of the U.S. that the Colombian government has legitimized the drug traffickers and made them part of the government, giving them political positions as governors, congressmen, mayors, etc. Now these criminals are running our country and the pact of death between state, government, army narcos and paramilitaries (death squads) took place and that is who is running our beloved Colombia to this day. The paramilitaries do the dirty work for the military. They rape, torture, and murder indiscriminately. Once the communities of peasants have been murdered, the military moves in to the “clean” territory. By clean they mean that the paramilitaries have killed the trade unionists, the teachers, the agrarian leaders of the area. Their names are the first ones on the list of the paras and narcos.

These mass killings have resulted in a displacement of four million peasants to this day. More than six-hundred-thousand acres of land have been stolen from the victims in the last eight years. That is how the paramilitaries have become agribusiness men and women and “latifundista,” monopolizing the land of thousands of disappeared. In Colombia every day seven to 12 people disappear. In the last 20 years 50-thousand people have disappeared. We have had more people disappear than during the dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile. A few days ago a mass grave was found with two thousand unidentified bodies, people who have been murdered by the military in the region of Meta, 200 kilometers from the capital, Bogota. The military claim they were guerrillas but the people claim that they were trade union leaders, community workers, peasants and human rights activists. We have learned about this and other clandestine graveyards through the confessions of paramilitaries who have joined the controversial law of justice and peace, which guarantees that the paramilitaries will receive only a symbolic sentence. A few days ago the para military, John Jairo Renteria, declared to the judge that he and his people buried at least 800 people in Puerto Asis, in Putumayo. He stated, “we had to dismember those people, all the para-militaries have to learn to do that, and many times we did it to people that were still alive.”

The Colombian people have tried to change things through the electoral system, but what happened?

The government responded with brutality and murder.

La Union Patriotica for example became a political party made of people from different tendencies, students, trade unionists, etc.

The thing they have in common was that they believed in social justice and believed that they could win it by the electoral process.

The response of the state was to murder five thousand of its members.

In Colombia 20 thousand children died for lack of drinkable water; one thousand women die every year giving birth; 44.7 percent of the pregnant women are anemic; there are more that 7,500 political prisoners; 49.2 percent live under the poverty level; they get paid the equivalent of $1 dollar per day; l4.7 percent live in conditions of extreme poverty and homelessness; in rural areas poverty is 68 percent.

The children’s numbers are extreme: 45 percent of the children are poor and 17 percent are homeless.

Fifty percent of the people have no access to healthcare. Unemployment is 25 percent and 35 percent are underemployed.

Brothers and sisters in Colombia have a ruling class that is savage, that has used torture and murder to silence anybody that disagrees with them. The government and its assassins continue murdering thousands of peasants, stealing their land and giving it to the multinationals to produce agro-combustibles by only planting the African palm.

The lack of diversity of food growing makes food extremely expensive. The conflict of Colombia is far from being resolved. It has reached its peak with the installation of the seven bases in Colombia that are there to continue trying to destroy the guerrilla movement and all dissidents, and now has a new objective—the destruction of progressive governments like Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

The Colombian government has signed an agreement with the U.S. that guarantees that the international tribunal cannot prosecute U.S. personnel for crimes committed now or in the future, giving total impunity for the rapes and murders committed by the U.S. forces in our country, confirming that we are nothing but a neo-colony of the U.S.

This is our history! The history of a country run by narcos and paramilitaries, a history of death, yet I have to say that our people continue to struggle, in the unions, in the churches, in the indigenous towns, in the schools, in the universities, but also in the guerrillas. It is easy for us to say from here that the guerrilla movement is not valid, that is wrong, that we have to fight only nonviolently.

I ask you brothers and sisters: Do you know what it is to have five thousand members of your organization killed?

Do you know how it feels to find out that family and friends have been dismembered and buried in a common grave and to not be able to find them? Fifty thousand people in my country are looking for its loved ones. I ask you: How did you achieve independence from England? For that matter, how did we all achieve independence from Spain in Latin America? And the rest of the world?

We have the right in Colombia to fight for our freedom by any means necessary as Malcolm X said it once. It is sad how we in the left have been manipulated by the bourgeois media, that now every movement of liberation is “terrorist” and “drug dealers.” It wasn’t that long ago that we marched in support of the Sandinistas, the FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization.) It wasn’t that long ago that we knew who the terrorists were—the United States of North America and its puppet governments of the world.

The government of Colombia has issued a threat to those that in anyway try to vindicate the FARC. It gave an order to all its embassies and consulates to act slow but surly and to get rid of us, and we say to them, “Do what you must do.”

But we won’t be silenced. We are here to rededicate the struggle of the trade unionists, but we are also here to vindicate the armed struggle of Colombia. We say to you here tonight, “The arm struggle of Colombia is an integral part of the struggle for freedom, democracy, and socialism in Colombia.” We say to the FARC and to the ELN, “We love you for your persistence, for your commitment, for the love that you have for our country and our people.” We say to you that we will tell the truth about you. Anywhere and everywhere we say to you: