Statement on 4 Feb Demonstrations against the FARC from the Colombia Solidarity Campaign
Social movements warn that 4 February demonstrations will polarise Colombia and “lead to prolonging the internal war in our country, and close off the possibility that the actors involved will humanise the armed conflict”.
The round of demonstrations against the FARC to be held in Colombia and abroad on 4 February are not simply a spontaneous initiative of ordinary citizens, as they are disingenuously portrayed. 4 February has become the focus of an orchestrated campaign to manipulate international opinion away from backing a negotiated, humanitarian agreement as the most hopeful means towards a peaceful settlement to the country’s armed conflict. Rather than a celebration of citizen power 4 February is a tragedy in the making.
The Colombia Solidarity Campaign urges
that attention be paid to the voice of the political opposition, to social
movements and victim groups who consider that 4 February is a dangerous
and polarising initiative that could wipe away the tentative steps towards
a humanitarian agreement between the government and the FARC.
The opposition party Polo Democratico Alternativo and the CUT trade union federation will be holding their own demonstration on 4 February calling “For the Humanitarian Accord: No to war, No to kidnappings”. The Polo makes clear that its attitude cannot
“be assumed to be either supportive of the FARC, kidnappings or crimes against humanity or supportive of the government of Alvaro Uribe, which it opposes unequivocally for its authoritarian and regressive nature”. (The Polo’s full statement is attached.)
Diverse social movements in Colombia are refusing to participate. The Colombian University Students Association, ACEU states:
“we, [the] university students…… will not march for the war as we are convinced of [the viability of] a political and negotiated exit to the social and armed conflict. As university students, we believe in the importance of debate, discussion and the construction of alternatives to the present regime. We invite all Colombians not to play the game of these war propositions and still wait for calls to march by mass media and the national government to eradicate poverty, the hunger that kills many children of Colombia, illiteracy, etc.
The School Teachers Association of Antioquia – ADIDA – “will not participate as the demonstration is about a false dilemma that the government is now posing to the Colombian people”. The association explains that although ADIDA rejects the armed struggle,
“neither is it willing to yield in the confrontation with a war-like and clientelistic government which is suspected of links with the paramilitaries. To the detriment of resources for education, health, sanitation and drinking water, today the regime maintains a budget which has the highest level of funds dedicated to war in the world – 6.3% of the GDP.”
Perhaps most tellingly of all, an array of organisations representing socially oppressed groups including the national indigenous movement ONIC, the popular women’s organisation OFP, the Process of Black Communities PCN and the CNA campesino alliance warn that the 4 February demonstrations
“will lead to prolonging the internal war in our country, and close off the possibility that the actors involved will humanise the armed conflict” (full statement attached).
There is grave concern that the 4 February
demonstrations will be made use of to extinguish all hope of a humanitarian
accord in the foreseeable future.
URIBE ATTEMPTS TO SCUPPER HUMANITARIAN AGREEMENT
It is important to locate the 4 February demonstrations in the context of the fast moving developments since August 2007 when Colombia’s President Uribe invited Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in to mediate in the armed conflict. Working with the families and Senator Piedad Cordoba, Chávez was able to facilitate talks with the FARC that culminated on 10 January 2008 with the guerrilla group releasing Senator Consuelo González and Clara Rojas, aide to former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, into the custody of the International Red Cross and the Venezuelan authorities. With goodwill from the principle actors, this initial success could have opened the way to a more comprehensive agreement covering the exchange of imprisoned guerrillas for kidnap victims.
But there is no goodwill. Under pressure from the US, Colombia’s president Uribe has dismissed the mediating efforts of Hugo Chávez, preferring instead his close ally the Catholic Church hierarchy, backed up by an international group consisting the governments of France, Spain and Switzerland. The three European countries have corporations with substantial investment interests in Colombia, and are expected to adopt a more pro-Uribe line than a group composed of Latin American governments.
Yet the reality is that Chávez’s involvement was a critical factor in releasing the two hostages; without Chávez it is hard to see the gulf of distrust between Uribe and the FARC being bridged.
Uribe is hell bent on a military confrontation rather than negotiated solution. His order on 26 January 2008 to the Colombia army to encircle the camps where the FARC hostages are held has radically diminished the possibility of further humanitarian exchanges.
Yolanda Pulecio, mother of Ingris Betancourt,
condemned Uribe for putting her daughter’s life in even further danger.
Relatives of the politicians and military hostages held by the FARC have
made it clear they will not participate in the 4 February demonstrations
for fear of inflaming the situation for their family members.
THE STRATEGY OF STATE TERROR INTENSIFIES
Colombia is not a functioning democracy, the right to opposition is severely limited, and opponents are routinely intimidated and killed by a combination of official and unofficial means.
The principal unofficial threat comes from extreme right-wing paramilitaries. The government claims that the paramilitary umbrella AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia) has been disbanded, but a new generation of groups know as the ‘Black Eagles’ operate with impunity across the country, exerting a continuing and real threat of assassination against members of the social movements and the political opposition. Taking but one example, the children of Coca-Cola workers and SINALTRAINAL trade unionists– Luis Eduardo, Jose Domingo and Nelson Perez and Union president Javier Correa – have been threatened with assassination unless their fathers give up their demands against the corporation.
The paramilitaries are well connected with the politicians closest to Uribe. No less than 40 uribista Congress deputies are implicated with nexus with the AUC. Uribe’s cousin and close collaborator, ex Senator Mario Uribe, is one of them. According to the investigating judge, Uribe telephoned him insisting that the case be dropped. Uribe denies making this call, but continues to intimidate the Supreme Court whenever it considers accusations against him. In another outstanding case, paramilitary leader ‘Tasmania’ alleges that he consorted in a murder plot with Uribe. And prosecutors have found that Jorge Noguera, Uribe’s appointment to head the DAS national intelligence service held ten meetings with paramilitary leaders and passed to them complied lists of trade unionist and academics to be assassinated.
Since Uribe came to power in 2002, human rights groups report that the Armed Forces have been responsible for 908 extra-judicial executions of civilians up to 2007, a figure expected to exceed 1,000 victims soon. Iván Cepeda, the son of an assassinated opposition Senator, notes that many of the victims are ‘false positives’ – individuals that the Army claims were ‘terrorists’ killed in combat, but who were later shown to be civilians dressed up in guerrilla clothes to justify their assassination.
Another substantial part of the killings are civilians assassinated or disappeared whilst in custody. This renders especially worrying the report of monitoring group Human Rights First that
“in the last month, a wave of arbitrary detentions of activists has swept Colombia, putting the lives of community leaders and members of non-governmental organizations … in danger”.
Journalists are continually threatened, and Uribe’s political henchmen especially vilify alternative media outlets. Desde Abajo magazine is the latest victim of a campaign of stigmatisation, which because it does not support the government has been falsely labelled as supporting the FARC. In Colombia this is a green light to assassination for all those associated with the publication.
These are but a few examples, illustrating
a pervasive strategy of violence and intimidation. Uribe is the executive
heading up a strategy of state terror.
The Colombia Solidarity Campaign condemns the 4 February demonstrations as a manipulation of the pain and suffering of the victims caused by both sides of the armed conflict.
We urge anyone who is genuinely concerned with ending terrorism in Colombia to closely examine the record of the government, the armed forces under its command and its paramilitary auxiliaries.
Above all at this time we appeal for international
public opinion to listen to, be guided by and support Colombia’s social
movements who are united in seeking a humanitarian agreement.
London, 3rd February 2008
Declaration on the March of February 4 by the Polo Democratico Alternativo
For the Humanitarian Accord: No to war, no to kidnappings
Bogota, January 28 2008
The Polo Democratico Alternativo calls a Day of Action for the Humanitarian Accord, against war and kidnappings on February 4 at 11am and invites you to join the initiatives of the CUT [trade union federation], FECODE [teachers union], the Mayors of Bogotá, Cali and the Governors of Nariño, Santander and Cesar.
The Polo Democratico Alternativo judges it urgent in the present circumstances to announce its position without hesitation, since the march announced by the media can be interpreted in different ways. The Polo will not allow that its attitude is assumed to be either supportive of the Farc, kidnappings or crimes against humanity, or supportive of the government of Alvaro Uribe which it opposes unequivocally for its authoritarian and regressive nature.
1. We can’t accept, the false dilemma the public and the international community face – you’re either with the Farc or the government of Uribe.
2. We condemn without hesitation kidnapping and all other crimes against humanity committed by the Farc, illegal acts against the dignity of the person and all his/her rights such as autonomy, freedom, the right to not be submitted to cruel and inhuman treatment and to not be deprived unjustly of family and proximity to loved ones.
3. We condemn with equal force all the illegal armed groups, insurgents and paramilitaries, whose atrocious crimes, had they been shown in dramatic images like the recent photos of those kidnapped by the Farc, would have produced the same sentiments of repulsion and condemnation.
4. We denounce and condemn with indignation and sadness the ignominious conditions in which 4 million displaced people live, a product of the violent “clearance” of their lands by paramilitary groups and, occasionally too, by the guerrillas.
5. We denounce and condemn with even more vigour and indignation the horrendous crimes committed by the state’s forces, monstrous actions like executing innocent campesinos, teachers and trade unionists, who are then presented afterwards as fallen insurgents in combat.
And we condemn them with more force because they reveal the appalling inversion that occurs when those that have a responsibility to protect people morph into their merciless executioners.
6. All the above betrays the existence of an armed conflict that has scarred the country for more than 40 years, denied maliciously by a government that continues to hide the war’s existence in order to avoid an exploration of its causes and to present the military response, atrocious on many occasions, as Colombia’s contribution to the global war on terror.
7. We argue then that the explicit or implicit dilemma presented as immovable offers us a third option: the social state based on law, under a participatory democratic model, expressed in the 1991 constitution that this government has set about destroying and that the Polo has adopted, and belongs to its egalitarian philosophy, as its road map.
8. We have the firm conviction that only through the honest recognition of the existence of the conflict and admitting that there is in its origin social and economic factors that we have to tackle urgently, is it then possible to undertake the direction that will put an end to the conflict.
9. We affirm that the legitimate exercise of State force must be preceded and accompanied by a proposal for talks directed at recognising, without reservations, the grave errors committed by the actors and to conjoin efforts to build a just society in the framework of a renovated State, as distinct from today’s iniquitous and violent society.
10. We believe that until the yearned for end of this inhuman war we are suffering is achieved, it is essential to enter humanitarian agreements to mitigate the cruel effects of the armed confrontation, giving effect to the Geneva Conventions and Protocols and to our own Political Constitution, whilst at the same time demanding that all the kidnapped civilians (hostages) in the power of the irregular armed groups are freed, as demanded by International Humanitarian Law.
11. The Polo thinks that in the prosecution of these objectives the international community, the friendly countries and particularly our neighbours may assist in accompaniment, good offices and mediation with careful respect to the sovereignty of the country; and with a careful and respectful treatment towards those who agree to play this role.
12. As we see that these are not the reasons or objectives of those convening the [4 February] March, that has a strong resemblance to being official, we have resolved to demonstrate on the same date but at another time with all the organisations and people who share our perspectives, as represented in the following slogans:
No to War!
Pronouncement of Social Organisations on 4 February
Bogotá D. C., Colombia, 30 January 2008
Because we, who are more than a million voices, are for a political and negotiated solution to the social and armed conflict in Colombia … we will not march on 4 February!
The below signed social organisations and
movements are against the continuation of the war and we emphatically reject
all forms of infringement of the rights of persons, communities and organisations
by those involved in the armed conflict; for that reason we consider that
the march convened against the FARC will lead to prolonging the internal
war in our country, and close off the possibility that the actors involved
will humanise the armed conflict.
We believe that it is important to keep advancing to deepen the humanitarian agreements in existence, for example the humanitarian exchange that is implored by the families of the kidnapped and by millions in Colombia and other countries. We express our solidarity with the families of the kidnapped and we endorse their demand that there are not military rescue attempts as this will aggravate the risk to the lives of their loved ones.
As organised popular sectors, we decide not to join the block that will on 4 February proclaim its rejection of the FARC, not because we are in favour of this armed group, but because it is clear that this day of action is an attempt to polarise opinion in favour of the war policy of president Alvaro Uribe Velez and not in favour of a political solution to the conflict.
We invite all the organised popular sectors in Colombia and abroad to go forward united towards the configuration of an independent and autonomous political actor, and that we find creative forms with impact in society that show that we are much more than one million, those of us who want peace with justice, an integral political solution to the conflict, and, in the immediate term, humanitarian agreements that reduce the cruelty of the internal war which has for the last 40 years shed the blood of the Colombian people.
National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia