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Proletarian issue 23 (April 2008)
Colombian people’s army fights on despite setbacks
“In Latin America we see a positive turn towards the revolutionary left, with the leadership of governments that are anti-imperialist, progressive, independent, Bolivarian* and moving towards socialism. Colombia will not be the exception. We are in the midst of conflict with an ultra-right, fascist and paramilitary government. We are proceeding along the same road; nothing and nobody will impede that.” Commander Raúl Reyes, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
Latin America’s longest-standing national liberation army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), suffered a double blow in March at the hands of enemy forces operating under the direction of US imperialism.

In a move that sparked widespread outrage and led to unprecedented diplomatic and political tension in the north-western corner of the continent, Colombian president Alvaro Uribe ordered a murderous air attack on a FARC encampment located a mile and a half inside neighbouring Ecuador.

Uribe, Washington’s most craven lackey in the region, initially claimed that the bombs were launched from the Colombian side of the border, but his own defence minister almost immediately admitted that there had been an illegal violation of Ecuadorian airspace.

In any event, the air raid was followed up with a blatant incursion by Colombian ground forces, who were sent into Ecuador to recover the bodies of 17 FARC soldiers killed in the assault.

In a major setback for the freedom fighters, one of those who died was comrade Raúl Reyes – a member of the liberation army’s seven-strong Secretariat, its international spokesman and its de facto chief of operations. Killed alongside Commander Reyes was comrade Julián Conrado, a senior officer attached to FARC’s General Command.

The reaction of Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa to the Uribe regime’s act of criminal aggression against his country was not long in coming; nor was that of one of Colombia’s other neighbours – the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela headed by Hugo Chávez (with whose consistent anti-imperialism and staunch pan-Latin American internationalism regular readers of Proletarian will already be familiar).

Presidents Correa and Chávez both suspended diplomatic relations with Bogotá, kicking Uribe’s ambassadors and support staff out of their respective capitals. For its part, the Venezuelan government went a step further by mobilising the infantry and armoured units stationed along its frontier with Colombia – and Chávez angrily denounced Uribe as a willing stooge of Washington’s neo-colonial project in Latin America.

That the Venezuelan government’s assessment of the current Colombian regime is completely correct was proven – if proof were needed -- just days later when news arrived that a third top FARC leader had been killed on the orders of Uribe and his US-imperialist backers.

Comrade Iván Rios, with Raúl Reyes a member of the liberation army’s Secretariat, died not in combat but rather at the hands of his own ‘security’ chief – a despicable coward and traitor who shot this well-respected revolutionary in the back of the head in exchange for £1.25m in blood money stumped up by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

FARC, whose first leaders were drawn from the central committee of the Communist Party of Colombia, launched its armed struggle on behalf of the country’s toiling masses in 1949 against the backdrop of a bloody civil war being waged between rival sections of Colombia’s capitalist class.

In that war, it was the comprador element (those who wished to continue making their profits by servicing US imperialism) that finally won out over the national bourgeoisie (the grouping that aspired to a purely Colombian capitalism freed from US domination).

There could be no clearer evidence of the continued domination of Colombia by the friends of US imperialism, the comprador bourgeoisie, than the ‘election’ to the presidency in 2002 – by fewer than 25 percent of the already heavily circumscribed electorate – of Alvaro Uribe, the son of a particularly odious landowner and well-known cocaine trafficker.

Under Uribe’s Washington-sponsored reign of terror, Colombia has seen:

•    ‘Plan Colombia’, a brutal, no-holds-barred, CIA-led war against the national liberation movement – prosecuted under cover of a multi-billion dollar (but practically non-existent) campaign against the drugs traffickers;

•    the assassination of trade unionists, community leaders and progressive intellectuals and their family members by government-sponsored paramilitary death squads;

•    comprehensive privatisation, with gold and silver mines flogged off to foreign multinationals -- and BP, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum now owning more than two thirds of Colombia’s oil industry (in which seeking to organise a trade union is punishable with a prison sentence);

•    seventy-five percent joblessness or under-employment, with 68 percent of Colombians living in what even the supine United Nations describes as ‘absolute poverty’.

With Uribe and his US imperialist masters continuing to call for the ‘complete extermination’ of FARC, it is no coincidence that the recent incursion into Ecuadorian territory comes at a time when the freedom fighters have unilaterally released a number of prisoners of war, following negotiations brokered by Hugo Chávez. For its part, the Colombian government has said that FARC prisoners in its hands – as well as those belonging to the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) – “will not be released until the insurgency is completely crushed, if then”.

Meanwhile, a Latin American summit called following the Colombian government attack on FARC forces based in Ecuador appeared to have partially defused the resulting regional crisis but, as Proletarian went to press, there were suggestions that an Ecuadorian civilian had been killed in Uribe’s bombing raid – throwing any short-term solution into doubt.

Here in Britain, leaders of the sizeable Colombian émigré community in South London have confidently declared that the Bogotá regime’s days are numbered. Like us, they know that FARC retains control of significant parts of the country – and they point out that, in those areas where the liberation forces hold sway, the freedom fighters have established civil administrations which rely on the power of the people and seek to build a (necessarily limited) form of local socialism.

“The US puppet dictatorship is driving more and more peasants and workers into the arms of the revolution by the day, week and month,” say our London-based Colombian friends, and “despite any and all setbacks, the people and their army of national liberation will triumph. History is on our side, and we are on the side of history.”

How can we disagree? The communist position must be unequivocal:

Down with Uribe’s neo-colonial puppet regime!
Victory to the people’s war in Colombia!
Forward to national liberation and socialism!



Endnote:
* Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), ‘The Liberator’, led the series of armed struggles that successfully freed half of Latin America from Spanish colonial rule in the first part of the nineteenth century. Present-day South American revolutionaries often invoke his name to stress the historical continuity of the workers’ and peasants’ ongoing fight for their emancipation.
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