The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The Big Picture in Colombia

Mick Hall • 21 August 2005

The furore which has erupted within the Irish media and amongst the political establishment after the Colombia Three arrived home safe and well has in the main neatly side stepped the truth about the current political situation within Colombia. Partialy this has come about due to the type of campaign those who campaigned tirelessly to bring the men home decided to conduct on their behalf, in which the campaign was fought along the lines of the men being innocent peace campaigners caught up in Colombia's less than perfect legal system. In other words, all politics were gutted from the campaign to bring the men home, especially any criticism of the US administration's role within Colombia.

Horses for courses and most would say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, i.e., the men were originally found not guilty and are now back home. However, it is difficult not to conclude the latter came about because the men had decided, after their not guilty verdict was set aside and a retrial called, not to mortgage their freedom to the Colombian legal system, hence they are now safe back home. How much of a role, if any, the Colombian Three ("Bring Them Home") campaign played in the men's return home is debatable, but what it did undoubtedly manage to do is keep the men in the public eye; no small thing in itself when they were imprisoned in a prison system with an unsavory history.

This being so, I have no wish to denigrate the hard work which was put in by those who campaigned for the three men's freedom, however, things have clearly moved on since they arrived home. Perhaps it is now time to highlight the destructive and opportunist behavior of the US administration within Colombia, which has made the current Colombian Government of President Alvaro Uribe little more than a servile client of the US Administration. If any state can be described as a Neo-Democracy, it is Colombia. Indeed some see it as the template for the Neo-Conservatives who dominate Foreign Policy in the George Bush Jnr Presidency.

On the surface it has all the trappings of a normal Democratic State: opposition and governing political parties, regular general and local elections, a legal system that at first glance appears to function in a democratic manner; and an open and free media. If one looks under all this froth, the reality is somewhat different: a brutal state-within-a-state is at work in Colombia which allows the writ of the free market, the multi-nationals and the local big bourgeoisie to run free at the expense of the majority of Colombians.

The oppressive apparatus of the Colombian State is justified as being necessary to fight the narco-traffickers and local 'terrorists'. In reality nothing of the like actually occurs, as Colombia is a society in which money talks, and money is something the narco-traffickers have stacks of to purchase the freedom to go about their business.

In the early part of the decade, the ruling Colombian elite and the Bush administration came up with a plan, known as Plan Colombia, which was supposedly designed to eradicate from Colombia cocaine production, processing and shipping, and the criminality which accompanies it. In reality, Plan Colombia's true purpose was to crush the last of the South and Central American guerrilla armies which sprang up in the wake of the Cuban revolution, and by so doing making the Americas safe once again for the multi-nationals to exploit at will without fear of opposition from trade unions, uppity peasants or human rights groups. The scale of the US involvement in Colombia can be judged by the fact that to-date almost $1.5 billion dollars have been channeled into Plan Colombia since the turn of the century. If anyone doubts that the destruction of the cocaine cartels was nothing but window dressing for a gullible US electorate, then they need to take note of the fact that despite this huge sum, the amount of cocaine coming into the USA from Colombia since the project began, far from being stifled, has increased.

Multi National Corporations have a history in Colombia of using right-wing para-militaries [AUC], which are controlled and financed by members of the Colombian bourgeoisie, large land-owners, a section of the military and the cocaine drug cartels. They use para-military's like AUC to terrorize workers into accepting sub-standard working conditions and wages.

BP and Coca-Cola spring to mind. For example, the former is facing a £15m compensation claim from a group of Colombian farmers who say that the British oil company took advantage of a regime of terror by government paramilitaries to profit from the construction of a 450-mile pipeline. Local farmers say that those who tried to stop the development were either forced by the paramilitaries to leave their homes or were murdered.

As for Coca-Cola, trade unionists like Juan Carlos Galvis, Human Rights Director of SINALTRAINAL (Colombian Food and Drinks Workers' Union) is one of the plaintiffs in a court case in the USA, where the multinational stands accused of complicity in the forced displacement, kidnap and assassination of trade unionists in their Colombian bottling plants. Again, it is common practice for the armed forces of Colombia to turn a blind eye when right wing militias in the pay of the multi-nationals kidnap and murder rank and file TU activists (See Boycott Coca-Cola campaign).

To conclude, the failure to paint a broad picture of what is actually happening within Colombia has meant the main source of news and information the Irish people have had about the situation there is that which comes from reactionary politicians like Fine Gael's Enda Kenny, plus the regular press briefing given to pliable journalists and politicians by the Colombian Government and the US Embassy in Dublin. Thus, we should not be surprised that a majority of people believe Colombia is a democratic state, defending itself against narco-terrorists [which they wrongly believe the FARC to be], whose sole purpose is to flood the US and Europe with their poisonous wares.

It is vital whenever the opportunity arises that progressive minded people bring to the attention of the Irish people the truth of what is happening within Colombia, and not just the side of the story which places the USA and its Colombian satraps in a favorable light. If this were to happen, no Irish government would even consider sending Irish patriots back to a nation in which the rule of law is the play-thing of the rich and powerful.




Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

29 August 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Historic Censorship Battle Set for High Court

Evident Steps Needs Support
Tara LaFreniere

Reading the Tea Leaves
Dr John Coulter

London death shows North policing problems not unique
Eamonn McCann

Mo Mowlam
David Adams

A Snapshot of Gerry Fitt
Fr Sean Mac Manus

The Big Picture in Colombia
Mick Hall

Fred A Wilcox

Times Are A-Changing
Michael Youlton

Blame Vulture Capitalism, not God, for Pat Robertson!
William Hughes

Fundamentalist Holyman: The Singing Bigot
Anthony McIntyre

Of Lesser Imps and Demons
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

No Victory So Sweet
Anthony McIntyre

17 August 2005

Changes Needed All Over
Eamonn McCann

Get Tough Now
Dr John Coulter

What for the Future?
Mick Hall

Why has Gerry Adams never finished Ulysses?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Bombing London is No Longer Good News for the IRA
Anthony McIntyre

The Conflict Encapsulated
David Adams

No More Second Class Citizens
Paul Little

Nothing Has Changed
Anthony McIntyre

Venezuela: Lessons of Struggle
Tomas Gorman



The Blanket

http://lark. phoblacht. net



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices

To contact the Blanket project with a comment, to contribute an article, or to make a donation, write to:

webmaster@phoblacht. net