Colombia rebels opaque heading into talks

[Learn from history. “Without the people’s army, the people have nothing.” Leading Lights of the past, just as the Leading Light today, teach that revolution is not simply about changing the personnel in the government. Rather, it is about smashing the Old Power, including the old state, while simultaneously creating New Power. The current state in Colombia is a tool of reactionary power. It is a tool of the United States and other the First World imperialists. It cannot simply be captured by the proletariat through elections and then used against reactionary classes. Currently, the Colombian state represents various reactionary classes and strata: comprador capitalists, semi-feudalists, etc.  It has been designed to be wielded by these classes against the exploited and oppressed classes: the impoverished workers and farmers, the impoverished petty-bourgeoisie, the impoverished slum dwellers, etc. Real revolution is not armed reformism. It is not about using armed struggle to win concessions from the Old Power. True New Power arises alongside the Old Power. This New Power contends and competes alongside the Old Power. The New Power is institutions of the exploited and oppressed, new culture, etc. and the people’s army to defend it. New Power includes a new proto-state in miniature.We recently saw how disastrous armed reformism was in Nepal. The Maoists there negotiated away their New Power in exchange for seats at the table of Old Power. As Maoists around the world cheered the sellout in Nepal for years, it was the Leading Light that led the international communist movement. It was the Leading Light that had the courage to defend the ABCs of Marxism, defended revolutionary science, when others cheered the sellout or cowardly remained silent. The Leading Light reminded the world that proletarian politics must always be in command and that real communists are Leading Lights — they make the hard, but correct choices when others stick their heads in the sand. Lenin and Mao argued with the fakes of their day just as we do with the fakes of today. As Leading Light said, Prachanda Path leads to a brick wall. The Mensheviks, Trotskyists, posers, etc. refuse proletarian leadership; they are almost always tools of reaction. They throw in with the Old Power against the New Power, against the Party. In this epoch, revolution is a protracted process, as Mao taught. As the Leading Light has added, communists need to think in terms of generational strategies. One does not even need to look to the Bolshevik or Maoist revolutions to see the failure of reformism. When FARC formed Union Patriotica to participate in elections in the 1980s, the candidates and activists were hunted down and assassinated by death squads, military and paramilitaries. FARC is a revisionist organization. Even though they are revisionist, they are still playing a progressive, anti-imperialist role. They deserve support as part of the united front, but this support should be critical. As leaders of the proletariat, we must not lie to the proletariat about the nature of revisionism. As Leading Light has said, “Uphold the broad united front against imperialism! Hold the red flag high!” The FARC is not led by revolutionary science, by Leading Light Communism. In order to make revolution today, the proletariat requires leaders who are able to understand the lessons of the past, but at the same time, move forward with new scientific discoveries. This is the task of the Leading Light: to advance revolutionary science, to find new discoveries, to develop the corresponding practices, to synthesize all of this into a coherent whole — the most advanced revolutionary science yet. Proletarian politics, revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, must be in command. Colombia is under the jackboot of imperialism. Its people live it dire poverty due to centuries of imperialism and underdevelopment. However, Leading Lights are shining in South America. Colombia demands a new future.– New Power]

Colombia rebels opaque heading into talks By VIVIAN SEQUERA


BOGOTA, Colombia — Absent from the peace talks opening in Norway this week between Colombia’s main leftist rebel movement and the government will be the guerrilla heavyweights who presided a decade ago over the last attempt to end a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives over nearly half a century.

Either they are dead, mostly killed in military raids, or believed to be in the field commanding an insurgency badly battered by a Colombian military fortified by years of U.S. financial and logistical support.

This time, most of the faces and names of the negotiators for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are little known to their countrymen. And unlike in the last talks in 1999-2002, the rebels this time enjoy no safe haven. President Juan Manuel Santos would not agree to one.

Both parties to the negotiations were keeping a low profile heading into the talks at an undisclosed location outside Oslo. There is no media access and even the hour and date of the first meeting are uncertain, though a news conference is set for Wednesday.

The rebels, meanwhile, have offered only a vague sense of what they will demand in exchange for laying down their arms, beyond land reform and guarantees of safety for fighters who demobilize.

On Sunday, about 200 people rallied in central Bogota to demand an accounting from the FARC for relatives kidnapped by the rebels and never released.

Andres Pastrana, who presided over Colombia’s last round of peace talks that ran nearly the entire length of his 1998-2002 presidency before collapsing in discord, is among Colombians who wonder why two still-powerful commanders who took part in the previous negotiations, Joaquin Gomez and Fabian Ramirez, will be absent from the Norway talks.

“The question we have to ask is: Is the FARC monolithically united behind this process?” said Pastrana, who met secretly with legendary FARC founder Manuel Marulanda in 1998 to arrange the last round of talks. “I don’t have that very clear. Let’s hope it is.”

The FARC negotiators, whose discussions with the government are to move to Havana later this month, include one member of the rebels’ ruling six-man Secretariat, Ivan Marquez, as well as Marco Leon Calarca, the rebels’ public voice during the 1990s.

Another negotiator, Ricardo Tellez or Rodrigo Granda, was seized in 2004 by Colombian agents in Venezuela but freed by the Colombian government three years later as a good-faith gesture to encourage the FARC to free all its “political hostages.”

The rebels released their last such captives in April, meeting a condition of the agreement under which secret preliminary talks began on Feb. 23 in Havana.

The only top FARC negotiator well-known to Colombians, Ricardo Palmera, is serving a 60-year sentence in the United States. A former banker, he gained fame during the last talks.

Colombia’s chief prosecutor has said that Palmera could be allowed to participate in the Oslo talks via teleconference from a prison in Colorado.

Palmera was convicted in the abduction of three U.S. military contractors whose surveillance plane crashed in rebel territory in 2003 due to mechanical failure. The three men were rescued in July 2008 along with former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt in a sophisticated ruse involving Colombian commandos posing as international relief workers.

Many of the FARC’s former top leaders have been killed by the military in raids that began tipping the conflict in the government’s favor in 2008.

Marulanda died of an apparent heart attack in 2008 just after its chief spokesman at those talks, Raul Reyes, was killed in a cross-border military raid into Ecuador that briefly brought regional tensions to a boiling point. In September 2010, the group lost its undisputed field marshal, Jorge Briceno, or Mono Jojoy, in an air assault on his jungle hideout. And Marulanda’s successor atop the FARC, Alfonso Cano, was killed by Colombia’s military last year.

The rebels’ footprint is also much diminished, though the insurgents have stepped up hit-and-run attacks in recent months, particularly on oil installations.

While the FARC operated in more than half of Colombia’s 1,102 municipalities at the height of its strength in the 1990s, its activity is now focused on just 70 municipalities, the Defense Ministry says. The FARC’s current top commander, Timoleon Jimenez, commands an estimated 9,000 rebels, a force depleted by desertions from roughly twice that number a decade ago.

Jimenez acknowledged on Sept. 4, when both sides announced the formal peace talks, the damage inflicted on his organization by the U.S.-backed military buildup that began in 2000 under Pastrana and was intensified by his successor, Alvaro Uribe, for whom the country’s current president, Santos, served as defense minister from 2006-2009.

“Let us seek dialogue, a bloodless solution, an understanding through political means,” Jimenez, 53, said in an interview published last month by the Communist Party weekly Voz.

The weekly’s editor, Carlos Lozano, says it is crucial to the FARC that if its fighters lay down their arms and enter politics they are not hunted down and killed as some 5,000 partisans were in the 1980s from the rebels’ then-political arm, the Union Patriotica.

While Colombians are weary of the decades-long conflict, the FARC’s leftist politics remains anathema to Colombia’s ruling elite. The peasant-based insurgency grew out of a 1950s agrarian self-defense movement that later fused with communist activists who the U.S. government helped suppress.

The agreement signed Aug. 26 in Havana setting the peace talk agenda says the goal will be to achieve “economic development with social justice” for the great majority of Colombians. It prioritizes access to fertile land for the rural poor, full political rights and the end of rebel participation in the illegal narcotics trade.

While the last priority is the government’s, the others are FARC goals, Lozano said. The government accuses the group of being financed by the cocaine trade.

Colombia is a land of deep inequities. Much of its countryside is controlled by cattle ranchers who in the 1980s formed far-right militias to defend themselves against rebel kidnapping and extortion.

More than 1.2 million people have been forcibly displaced in the past five years and 5.2 million people since 1985, mostly by the far-right militias, according to the CODHES independent rights group.

Sixty percent of Colombia’s fertile land is in the hands of just 14,000 landowners while 2.5 million peasants together own no more than 20 percent, according the Alejandro Reyes, director of Colombia’s INCODER land reform agency.

Former President Belisario Betancur, who attempted to make peace with the rebels during his 1982-86 term, says he’s optimistic this time around. But the 89-year-old Betancur says he’s not sure how FARC demands for a more equitable society and for attacking rural poverty can be met quickly.

“Governments can’t satisfy FARC demands by decree,” he said. “Imagine. That would be childish, a utopia.”


Associated Press writers Cesar Garcia in Bogota and Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report

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