As the death toll of social movement leaders in Colombia nears 400 over the last two years, one must seriously call into question the ability of the Colombian government to secure peace as it promised by signing the historic Peace Accords with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia (FARC).
As Juan Manuel Santos shines his Nobel Peace Prize on his farewell as president, he leaves Colombia in a position eerily reminiscent of the early 1980s when political assassinations carried out by ultra right-wing death squads coordinated with the government were rampant. Such is the case in this very moment as the murder of leftist activists since the election of Ivan Duque, a protege of the ultra rightist ex-President Alvaro Uribe, has reached an average of one per day in just over a month.
The emergence of a fascistic group calling themselves the “Aguilas Negras” (Black Eagles) and their public statement that they wish to “cleanse” Colombia of all leftists reminds us of the kind of terrorism practiced by Uribe and supported, often coordinated, by the US government in the early 2000s.
It is important to note that Inspector General of Colombian has publicly stated that the level of coordination of the killings of social leaders reveals connections with the military of Colombia.
Much of the deaths involve two key pillars of the Peace Accords: land reform and reintegration of FARC members into Colombian society and politics.
Throughout the past 30 years, the so-called civil war between the Colombian government and the FARC has created the opportunity for massive land seizures by the big land oligarchs and drug cartels. That land is to be returned under the Peace Accords signed in November 2016. That is currently under violent dispute as much of the political violence, intimidation, and murders target social leaders who are trying to coordinate and advocate for campesinos, indigenous Colombians, and Afro-Colombians to re-take what was stolen during the war.
On top of that, much of the FARC-controlled territory was chosen strategically by them because foreign and national capital had wanted to extract minerals and oil in those places. But some of the land is to be under community or campesino control now.
The result is that the death squads of paramilitaries have returned to enforce the rule of the oligarchs.
The second pillar of FARC re-integration has seen the murder of over 50 FARC members who laid down their weapons at the signing of the Peace Accords. It is being made brutally clear that the revanchist forces within Colombia do not want the integration of the FARC into Colombian society and politics.
What’s more, another key pillar of the Peace Accords is being delayed as over 600 ex-combatant FARC members are still in prison awaiting their release. The FARC released their small number of captives, and yet the Colombian government will not release theirs.
Here we must mention an immensely respected FARC leader, a left wing leader within the group, Jesus Santrich. He was going to take his seat in the Colombian Senate, as part of the Peace Accords ensured the FARC 10 seats, but the US government, with the State Department, CIA, and DEA, concocted bogus drug charges and attempted to extradite him to the US in April. This violated the Special Justice Court created by the Peace Accords and after his long hunger strike and lots of public pressure, the Colombian government gave him an injunction to hold him in country. It remains to be seen what will happen to Santrich. We must hope his fate is not that of FARC leader Simon Trinidad who currently sits as a political prisoner inside the US Empire’s supermax prison.
The Nobel prize of ex-President Santos has another pock mark on it as his administration oversaw the inclusion of Colombia as a member of NATO. For the US and NATO to have access to Colombian bases in this historical moment certainly means continued imperial violence in Latin America.
We have just witnessed the influence of the US via Colombia on their neighbor Venezuela. The Bolivarian Revolution and the Venezuelan people were attacked by assassins just a week ago when two small, explosive-laden drones were piloted to kill President Maduro and top military commanders.
Through the cooperation of the Venezuelan people and the hard work of Bolivarian Intelligence, they quickly uncovered the designs and actors with a clear line back to Bogota, Miami, and Washington. It was only a couple of weeks ago when Santos told a reporter that Maduro’s “days are numbered.”
Santos will be remembered by the Venezuelan people and its allies as an assassin who attempted to kill their leader, their revolutionary process. But that, like all previous imperial interventions, has been vanquished by the the masses of Venezuelans and their government.
We must keep vigilant watch on the affairs of Colombia, because as the Peace Accords go, so too does Colombia and the next domino US Imperialism wants to knock over: its neighbor, Venezuela. The presidency of Ivan Duque will test the resolve of the progressive, democratic, and revolutionary forces of Colombia.
The people have already responded with massive protests on his inauguration day with over 87 cities and towns in mobilization. They deserve our solidarity and action for those of us inside the imperial beast.
Jim Byrne is an anti-war organizer and solidarity activist in Tucson, Arizona.