During the last month the Colombian army and the paramilitaries have increased their campaign of threats and assassinations against trade union leaders. On October 30 death threats were issued against various members of SINTRAUNICOL-University Workers’ Union. Jose Joaquin Cubides, General Secretary of the agricultural workers’ union in Arauca, was killed on November 7 in Fortul, Arauca.
Also from Arauca reports have come out denouncing the use of the local civilian population as human shields in skirmishes with guerrilla groups. In Arauca the victims of the army and paramilitary operations are counted in their thousands. It is also in Arauca where we find the largest contingent of US troops. It is believed that 328 people were killed and 5,714 people were displaced by military operations in Arauca in 2003 alone.
All this violence is not an accident. Arauca is a department that shares a border with Venezuela. The Colombian oligarchy, with the advice of the US administration, has not hesitated to use Colombian bases to attack and terrorise the population on the other side of the border to undermine the revolutionary process that is taking place in Venezuela. Arauca is one of the main bases from which they wage all these reactionary provocations.
On November 8, students, teachers and parents held a protest against the privatisation of state education in Cauca. Police attacked the protest with tear gas and rubber bullets. Various people were hospitalised. Others, like the parents of one student, were dragged away by the police and it is not clear what has happened to them.
All this is nothing new. The Colombian Police, Army and the AUC (the main paramilitary group) have been engaged in these kinds of activities for decades. However, with Uribe in office the situation has become even worse. After the failure of the “carrot and stick” approach exercised by Pastrana (former Colombian president) US imperialism has supporetd Uribe, a far right leaning politician.
Uribe Velez, who studied at Harvard and Oxford, started his political career as the Mayor of Medellin (the second biggest city in the country). He was removed after three months by the central government to avoid a scandal regarding his ties with the drugs mafia.
It is not an accident that Colombia is considered the most dangerous country for trade unionists. The Colombian ruling class and their masters in the US administration do not want any kind of resistance to their plans for widespread privatisation and their militarisation of the area, known as Plan Colombia.
As different analysts have pointed out, the Plan Colombia (recently renamed Plan Patriota) is the military side of a plan which involves the removal of any obstacle to the operations of mainly US companies. One of the latest companies to make big profits from this increasing militarisation of the country is Harken Energy. On November 12 the Colombia Journal Online pointed out the following:
“On November 4, the Texas-based company announced the signing of a new oil exploration and production contract in Colombia. The company is closely linked to President George W. Bush who served on its board of directors from 1986 until 1990.”
The other side of the plan is the financial one. Alongside these repressive measures we also have the IMF counter-reforms in return for loans. But the causes of the problem are not only economic. In the last five years Latin America has become a very unstable area. Almost every single country has been shaken by revolutionary or pre-revolutionary situations. Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Venezuela are amongst them. This is a very dangerous situation for US imperialism. US imperialism has been looking for a country that can play the same role that Israel plays in the Middle East. They need a loyal policeman in the area and they will not hesitate to spend all kinds of resources to achieve this goal.
That is why the Colombian oligarchy is pursuing a policy of complete annihilation of the labour movement in Colombia, together with any other protest movement. If anyone had any doubts about the real nature of US imperialism, all you need to do is look at what it is doing in Colombia.
They go around the world lecturing others on democracy, declaring different governments as “rogue regimes”, and in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan they have not hesitated to militarily overthrow these regimes. But what they bring is not democracy. Far from it. They bring more death and destruction, and terrible suffering for the local people.
In Colombia they are doing the same in a more or less covert manner, but it is fundamentally part of the same operation. Latin America is too important for them. It is the duty of all fighting workers and youth around the world to protest and raise the issue of the plight of the trade unionists in Colombia.