Colombia: Massacre in pacifist peasant community exposes nature of far-right Uribe administration

A vicious attack on the Peace Community in San Jose de Apartado left 8 people dead, including women and children. Witnesses reported that armed men who identified themselves as part of the 11th Brigade of the Colombian army were involved. The brutal actions of the army, and the government's denial of any involvment has led many to demand an enquiry into the matter. It is clear, no matter the outcome of any investigation, that the workers and peasants of Colombia can only rely on themselves for defence.

A vicious attack on the Peace Community in San Jose de Apartado left 8 people dead, including women and children. The massacre, committed on February 21, targeted Luis Eduardo Guerra, leader of the Peace Community, his family, and other members of the pacifist group. Witnesses reported that armed men who identified themselves as part of the 11th Brigade of the Colombian army arrested the community leader along with seven other members of the community. Those arrested were then taken to a farm where their mutilated corpses were later found.

The dramatic events have pushed the UN to intervene in the affair and demand that the Uribe government investigate the crimes (AP March 3, 2005). Meanwhile the Army, through senior officers and the Minister of Defence himself, deny any kind of involvement on the part of the military in this massacre.

The existence of the Peace Community in San Jose de Apartado clearly shows that a layer of peasants are fed up with the guerrilla groups in Colombia but also that they are not willing to side with the vicious Colombian army. This community has renounced the violence of both sides of the armed conflict in the Latin American country. The victims tried to isolate themselves from Colombia's 40-year-old conflict by barring armed groups from entering their territory. However, even in the remotest areas of the Colombian jungle it is not possible to escape reality.

The slaughter in San Jose de Apartado is a new episode in the scary increase of violence that has taken place over the last year. At the end of 2004 Marxist.com reported on the rising levels of violence and threats issued against the student, labour and peasant movements in Colombia (you can see the article here). During President Alvaro Uribe’s first year in office, officials in Washington and Bogotá, along with the bourgeois media, repeatedly trumpeted the “successes” of the administration’s security strategies. They rushed to point out the decrease in killings, kidnappings and forced displacement, claiming that the military had seized the initiative and had the guerrillas against the wall. Recently, government officials and the media have been far less keen to show the most recent statistics pertaining to Colombia’s conflict, which show that the situation has deteriorated dramatically over the past year.

This massacre exposes once again the brutal agenda of the United States for Latin America, using Colombia as their base of operations. US imperialism’s plans to shape Colombia as the Latin American version of Israel are not a secret. In other words, US imperialism needs a local state with a puppet government in order to police a continent that is becoming as problematic as the Middle East. Over the last 3 years, this need has become vital to the geo-strategic interests of the US administration and US companies with a heavy presence in the area. On top of the forty-year guerrilla struggle, the US now faces another serious threat just next to Colombia – the masses entering the class struggle in the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

The endless assassinations and slaughtering of peasant and labour movement activists in the last fifteen years show that US imperialism and the Colombian oligarchy will stop at nothing to smash the seriously wounded social and labour movement. They are the obstacle in the path of their ruthless plans of widespread privatisation and militarisation of the area.

The slaughter in San Jose de Apartado shows once again that the Colombian workers, peasants and students cannot trust a vicious and far right government to protect them. It is nonsense to ask the wolf to protect the sheep. The Uribe Velez administration, like the Pastrana administration before it (former Colombian president who had a slightly softer approach than Uribe Velez), have never been interested in the protection of trade unionists or community leaders. The US is not funding one of the most powerful military machines on the continent to protect “the victims of violence”. The FARC has recently been widely discredited by their drug peddling activities and thuggish methods. After 40 years of guerrilla warfare and a dismissive attitude towards the political activity in the cities, the guerrillas have proven to be incapable of assuming the task of defending the communities and the organisations of the labour movement. While we welcome any kind of enquiry and investigation into the massacre, we must say that only popular and workers’ militias with democratically elected officers controlled by the trade unions and the community can provide self-defence to the workers, peasants and students. This is the only way that crimes like the massacre in San Jose de Apartado cam be avoided.