Colombia

The Colombian workers and youth are trapped in a nightmare. The parasitic bourgeoisie has totally failed to curb the coronavirus pandemic, and has used the economic crisis as an excuse to carry out further cuts and attacks on the working class. Socialist struggle is needed to free Colombia from its unbearable condition.

In the early hours of 9 September, the lawyer and taxi driver Jorge Humberto Ordoñez, father of two, was murdered by two National Police agents after 16 taser discharges and a beatdown, as he begged for his life. This crime, which was recorded by witnesses, was the straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed the masses into the streets against police brutality and in demand of effective action against massacres, unemployment and the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 4 August, the Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia was filled with hope for the thousands of families awaiting justice for the crimes for which the former president and, until recently, senator Álvaro Uribe has been indicted. The court issued a sentence of house arrest based on the charges of possible witness tampering, procedural fraud and bribery. Those would be the least-serious crimes Uribe has committed.

"We are facing one of the greatest challenges in our history," said Iván Duque on Sunday, 15 March referring to the health alarm the country is facing due to the increase in cases of people infected with the COVID-19 virus. The disease, already declared as a pandemic by the WHO, has crossed the ocean and surpassed our borders to settle in Colombian lands.

In this article for America Socialista (published 17 January), Jorge Martin looks back on the tremendous ‘Red October’ that swept Latin America last year, with insurrectionary movements in one country after another. Where did these eruptions come from? What were their limitations? What lessons were learned? And what is the perspective going forward?

The situation in Colombia is advancing very rapidly after the national strike on 21 November. What was a one-day strike became a permanent and daily protest that is already a week old. The protest did not stop, despite the curfew and militarisation decreed in the capital Bogotá (and in Cali) by the reactionary Duque government. The death of the young Dilan Cruz, who was shot by a tear gas canister directly in the head by ESMAD (Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron) has shocked the country. In response, the National Strike Committee decided to call for a new national strike on 27 November and to include among its demands the dismantling of ESMAD.

In his latest podcast (recorded 25 November), Jorge Martin provides an update on the recent strike in Colombia, the month-long uprising in Chile, and the struggle against the coup in Bolivia.

On 21 November, a powerful general strike paralysed Colombia. Originally called to reject a package of measures by the right-wing government of Ivan Duque, including a counter reform of the labour laws, a counter reform of pensions and massive cuts in education, it became the focal point for accumulated anger. The strike was the largest the country has seen since 1977 and there were mass demonstrations in every town and city. The government responded with repression and threats. This only served to escalate the situation.

The second round of the presidential election in Colombia on 17 June delivered a victory for the right-wing, reactionary candidate, Ivan Duque (backed from behind-the-scenes by former-president, Alvaro Uribe), who received 54 percent of the vote (10m votes). However this was the first time in history that a candidate attacked by the ruling class as a dangerous “Communist”, Gustavo Petro, made it to the second round, and he received a very respectable 42 percent (8m votes).

On Sunday, October 2, Colombian voters rejected the agreement between the government and the FARC guerrillas “for the end of the conflict and the building of a stable and lasting peace.” Jorge Martín explains the process leading up to the referendum and what this will mean for the future of the class struggle in Colombia.

A powerful general strike took place in Colombia yesterday, involving half a million workers with rallies ion more than 40 cities around the country. The regime is facing growing opposition in spite of the brutal methods that it uses to crush any form of militancy.

Yesterday we reported on the repression of the indigenous in Colombia and the strike wave of workers in the juridical and sugar cane sectors. Today, we have received reports of further repression and a call for a national strike on 23 October against the state of emergency. We call for solidarity with the Colombian workers and peasants that are facing repression.

We have received news of a stand-off between the Colombian police and a 9,000 strong assembly of workers and peasants in Colombia in the region of Cauca. The workers and peasants are in grave danger as the state is moving in to dislodge them from the Pan-American highway that they have blockaded in the South-West of the country.

In spite of the heroism of the guerrilla fighters, what they have lacked is an understanding of the role of the working class in the process of socialist revolution. What is required is a party based on the working class in the cities that can lead the peasantry. In this struggle the guerrillas would still have a role but as auxiliary to the working class, not as its substitute.

We start today a three part article, written in June, which looks at how the various guerrilla organisations emerged in Colombia. The bourgeois media present them as merely a bunch of criminals, conveniently ignoring the fact that they arose historically as an answer to the brutal repressive Colombian state at the service of the local oligarchy and imperialism.

The death of Manuel Marulanda, the legendary leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), reopens a debate over the perspectives for the FARC and for the class struggle in Colombia. In recent months the FARC has received hard blows with the assassination of two of its principal leaders, Raul Reyes and Ivan Rios, numbers 2 and 4 respectively in the leadership of the organisation. Nevertheless, the FARC still control a good part of Colombian territory (mainly in the jungles) and maintain an active presence with more than 15,000 combatants.