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COLOMBIA IS LIKE VIETNAM

by Miguel Urbano Rodrigues Saturday, Aug. 24, 2002 at 6:17 PM

Many years passed before the great majority took notice that the revolutionaries of Vietnam fought for all humanity. One day something similar will happen with the FARC. The real enemy is the same. In another context, the women and men of the guerrilla movement of comandante Manuel Marulanda find themselves involved in a struggle that transcends the tragic Colombian scene. Resisting, they fight also for humanity.

ANNCOL is pleased to provide our readers with an English translation of an essay written by veteran leader of the Portuguese Left, and former member of the European Parliament, Miguel Urbano Rodrigues. Miguel Urbano is a writer and a journalist and was for many years Editor-in-Chief of the Portuguese daily "O Diario".

22.08.2002 (By Miguel Urbano Rodrigues) In the last days two events of enormous political significance have called attention toward Latin America as an epicenter of struggles that defines the road of humanity.

On August 7th Alvaro Uribe Velez assumed the presidency of Colombia under the protection of a gigantic military apparatus. In the same hour mortars and rockets exploded in the center of Santafe de Bogota, hitting a wing of the presidential palace, la Casa de Nariño.

On the 8th, in Caracas, the Supreme Court of Venezuela issued a verdict refusing to judge as coupmakers four generals and admirals that directed the coup d'etat of April 11th against president Hugo Chavez.

Both events were reminders, illuminating the old debate about strategies for taking power, the transition to socialism and forms of struggle.

The decision of the judges of Caracas, although expected, was received like a gush of cold water by president Chavez and by many in Venezuela that support the Bolivarian Revolution. It illuminated with a strong light the illusions of those that there still believe in revolutionary transformations of society realized through institutional channels. The verdict in Caracas sounded in Latin America like a requiem to the peaceful road. The opposition appears to believe now in the tactic of exhaustion, trying by all means to push the country toward a chaotic situation. If president Chavez does not rectify his strategy, does not reject including the eventuality of a new coup.

The bombs of Bogota - independently of who was responsible for the operation- made a reminder to millions of people that in this era of absolute hegemony of the United States imperial power, a guerrilla transformed into a people's army has survived in Colombia for nearly four decades demonstrating that armed resistance to the major army of Latin America, armed trained and financed by the United States, is possible .

In Washington the alarm provoked by the news from Colombia extinguished the euphoria resulting from the good news from Venezuela. In the White House and the Pentagon they have not forgotten that taking power is the long-terma strategic objective of the FARC.

Up to the moment that I write, the FARC has not prounounced about the events of the 7th. But this position is not surprising because the guerilla movement does not usually issue communiqués about actions of this type.

The government, as was expected, immediately attributed the responsibility for the explosions that made Uribe's taking of office headlines in the international media to the FARC.

URIBE: "What a fiasco!"

People standing close to Uribe when he was informed that the presidential palace had been hit by the bombardment afterwards told the press that Uribe had panicked.

His fear is understandable. He tried to transform the possession of office into a ceremony of international projection. He found himself surrounded by chiefs of state and of governments. From Spain, Aznar sent the heir to throne.

The armed forces had guaranteed that security was total. A military police apparatus never seen before in Bogota had established a protective cordon in the center of the capital, covering strategic locations. More than 20.000 soldiers from the army and police made up the operation that included elite troops trained to operate in urban areas.

Combat planes and helicopters flew over Bogota from early dawn. All commercial flights in the airspace of the capital had been suspended between 3 and 5 in the afternoon. A North American spy plane provided by the United States participated in the security operation. The media tranquilized the population.

Nevertheless, the unimaginable occurred. Some invited foreigners were reminded of operations of Vietnamese commandos in Saigon in the climax of the war against the United States.

Uribe did not obtain the effect he wanted with the pomp of ceremony and his contradictory speech. Apart from the palace there were also bombardments of the military college of cadets and the administrative seat of the government.

Uribe proposed mediation of the U.N. while underlining that he only accepts the negotiation with the FARC starting from an initial cease-fire that would produce a defenseless guerrilla movement. In other words, the peace, according to him, starts with the surrender of the adversary.

The foreigners invited had an exceptional opportunity to draw conclusions of the day’s work.

The bombardment caused victims. People who had nothing to do with this ongoing great historical conflict died. These deaths caused grief in the whole world. But the efforts of Washington and the Colombian oligarchy to use the events of August 7th as an emotional instrument in the campaign to present the armed insurgency as a terrorist threat cannot invert reality.

Colombia is, in this beginning of the century, in a scene of a conflict in which sometimes it becomes difficult to trace borders between the tragedy and the saga. Only in Vietnam do we encounter precedent for all that occurs there. I have written this previously after living for weeks with the combatants of the FARC in a guerrilla camp in the jungle. And I return to express this conviction. There are no slanders that can muffle the revolutionary commitment of the FARC in their large struggle of four decades for a democratic and independent Colombia, a renewed country that corresponds to Bolivar´s proyect of liberation.

The Confession of the General

The offensives of the FARC in the last weeks have confirmed that the organization, fighting in 60 fronts, today has a military power that is recognized even by the official army, who attributes more than 20000 combatants to the FARC. The succesful operations in many cities allows moreover the conclusion that its network of urban support has grown and fortified much during the last year.

In a communiqué broadcast in the country and abroad, the Central General Staff of the FARC-EP made it clear that it is the government who impeded the exchange of prisoners proposed by the guerilla and demanded by the people.

Uribe arrives in this way to the presidency in a context in which his triumphant bearing is contradicted, day after day, by the facts of real life.

Decorated with the Order of Military Merit, the Cross of the Air Force, and the Star of the Police, the new president promises victory over the FARC if they do not submit to his conditions, if they do not hand over their arms, surrender.

He speaks with the arrogance of a Caribbean Cesar without uniform. While he announced imaginary future triumphs, the general Tapias (who for years was the strong man of the regime) confessed in an ambiguous speech, before abandoning the supreme command of the armed forces, that the war against the FARC can only end at the negotiation table, then he doesn’t see any solution that is not political for the war.

The millions arriving from the U.S. have allowed the Colombian oligarchy to assemble the most powerful army in Latin America and an air force with fire power superior to the Brazilians and Argentinians combined. But Tapias, when he was stepping down, publicly recognized that the FARC cannot be destroyed militarily, not even with the dollars of Plan Colombia.

A Million Snitches

Colombia is, because of its natural resources, one of the richest countries in the American continent. But it is ruined. Even the daily paper El Tiempo, a mouthpiece of the liberal oligarchy, recognizes with bitterness that all has deteriorated in the last years. The balance sheet of Pastrana’s term of office is catastrophic. Uribe’s begins with mortars and rockets exploding in Bogota.

More than 60% of the 42 million Colombians live in poverty. 9 million survive on less than a dollar a day. 10 million are unemployed. The external debt surpasses 42 billion dollars. The outlook is so somber that even in the US Congress voicesare heard lamenting the squander of 2 billion dollars in programs to combat narcotrafficking, including funds previous to Plan Colombia. Why this protest? A member of the House of Representatives gave the answer: the area of plantations of coca and poppy are today greater than what existed when the Congress approved Plan Colombia.

The war absorbs more than 35% of Colombia's national budget.

Pastrana now washes his hands like Pilate the Roman. For him the hour of rest has arrived. He prepares to deliver magisterial lectures to the world and enjoy the delights of his properties in Spain.

Uribe, his successor, was called the peacemaker by his followers during the election campaign. It is not by mistake that he has been compared to Israel's Ariel Sharon. He is a fascist politician. As governor of the Antioquia department, he fostered the paramilitarism there.

The announced decision by the defense ministry to create, in order to help the army, an auxiliary body of 100.000 soldiers and police has put Uribe's spirit of peace to the test. Uribe found this number insufficient. He announced the contracting of a million auxiliaries to the police, described as "informers". Neither Hitler, Mussolini, Salazar, Franco, nor Pinochet all together had so many snitches.

Interviewed about his initiative, Uribe praised it in public declarations for the El Tiempo newspaper. He called it an important contribution to peace.

This is the style of the new president of Colombia.

Many years passed before the great majority took notice that the revolutionaries of Vietnam fought for all humanity. One day something similar will happen with the FARC. The real enemy is the same. In another context, the women and men of the guerrilla movement of comandante Manuel Marulanda find themselves involved in a struggle that transcends the tragic Colombian scene. Resisting, they fight also for humanity. (Translated by Nathalie Alsop)





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