BOGOTA, COLOMBIA, June 1 — The heart-attack death of Manuel Marulanda (aka Tirofijo or Sureshot), founder and leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the largest and oldest Latin-American guerrilla group, follows several recent events favoring the U.S.-Colombian government’s war policies in the region. Early in March, Raúl Reyes, FARC’s second-in-command, was killed by an air-command raid while asleep in a camp inside Ecuador. Then Iván Ríos, another top FARC commander, was killed by his own security chief to collect a huge government reward. This was followed by the surrendering of Commander Karina, the top FARC woman leader. (Apparently, the Colombian secret police threatened her daughters’ lives, a common government tactic against guerrilla leaders).
The FARC has suffered major setbacks, losing many areas it once controlled, reducing its ranks to some 9,000 fighters.
All of this has induced the Uribe government, the Colombian generals and the White House to seek a military solution to eliminate the FARC altogether.
However, the FARC might be down but it’s not out. Recent reports show its urban base increasing. Yet the government now has the upper hand. Uribe and U.S. rulers are using this to intensify attacks against its two main enemies in the region: Venezuela’s Chavez and Ecuador’s Correa (both oil-producing OPEC members).
These two are partly to blame for this. After the Colombian military’s air-command raid that killed Raúl Reyes and others inside Ecuador (with open U.S. intelligence help), Uribe and the U.S. were on the defensive since this raid was to sabotage Chávez’s plan, supported by France, to exchange Ingrid Betancourt (a French citizen and former Presidential candidate in FARC custody) and others for FARC members held in government prisons. This exchange was making Chávez and FARC look good. But amid worldwide condemnation of the Colombian government for the raid, Chávez and Correa shook hands with Uribe at a Latin-American presidential meeting in the Dominican Republic. Uribe later responded to this favor by increasing attacks on FARC and linking it to Chávez and Correa.
The Uribe government was also discredited internally because of its connection to “parapolitics” (death squad-drug dealer groups). Sixty-four politicians (51 of them congressmen or 20% of Parliament) have been linked to parapolitics; 32 are already in jail. Most are linked to Uribe.
Semana, a newsweekly magazine, commented (5/4), “In the ’80s, Pablo Escobar and his gang reached Congress, but only 5% of all parliament members were linked to him. In the ’90s, when the Cali cartel decided to subtly bribe politicians under what was known as Process 8000, only 26 congressmen ended up in jail (10%). Today, the alliance between the mafia and paramilitaries has…seen 51 congressmen under investigation (19%).”
In mid-May, 14 jailed leaders of the AUC (death squads) were suddenly sent to the U.S. for drug trials. This had a dual purpose: firstly, to clean the image of President Uribe and force the Democrats in the U.S. Congress to pass a free-trade deal with Colombia. Secondly, the death-squad leaders will only be tried for drug-dealing, not for the thousands they’ve killed (mostly innocents) in the last few years. Thus, the links of Uribe and U.S. companies (Chiquita Brands, Del Monte, Coca-Cola, Drummond Mining) to these killings won’t be exposed.
Most of the thousands murdered in Colombia in past decades are victims of the Army and its allies in the paramilitaries (trained and financed by Plan Colombia, signed by Clinton with Colombia in the 1990s). Although the FARC is labeled “Marxist,” it’s far from that. Its main goal has been to negotiate a deal with some section of Colombia’s ruling class (and possibly with some imperialist rivals of the U.S.) to preserve capitalist exploitation. Colombia’s working class and its allies don’t need more capitalism. They need to fight for a communist society without any bosses. That was the idea advanced by the small but growing PLP group here on May Day.