A People's Peace for a Country without Owners
The comments that followed the article on the Kaos website, by two anonymous/pseudonymous commenters, APCritico and Maria Madrugada, included what might be considered internet trolling were it written in another context. In the context of Colombia's civil war, however, in which accusations of belonging to the insurgency by the state, or of belonging to the state by the insurgency, have led to assassinations of activists, these comments are far more insidious. APCritico accuses the indigenous organization of being in the service of the regime, while “Maria Madrugada” says that ACIN is advised by the CIA.
In a situation where the combatants are able to meet and hold a dialogue, in which activists like Rozental and Almendra put their own names to a statement calling for people's movements to hold to an autonomous position facing these dialogues, the filthy accusations of anonymous or pseudonymous internet trolls do not deserve much consideration. Here, too, Rozental and Almendra provide an example of how to continue attempting constructive dialogue despite repeated attempts at disrupting it.
Rozental's answer to some of these trolls is as follows, posted on May 20, 2013 on Kaos en la Red:
“The indigenous movement and ACIN have both made their positions on FARC very clear, in relation to the Movimiento Social por la Paz and the other issues discussed in the text. It is obvious that their positions are different in substantive ways than our own (Rozental and Almendra's), even though we also agree in other ways. We did not write the text expecting everyone to agree with what we wrote.
These accusations and threats that have been made as a result of this text constitute a negation of the right to free expression and a threat to our physical integrity and our lives. There is no basis for these accusations against me. Let us put an end to this intolerance. We are in disagreement, but let us have the debate. Don't eliminate us in the name of peace and social justice. Please read the ideas and arguments and let your own ideas and arguments also be welcome.”
Rozental's answer is, as often the case, far more tolerant than is warranted.
In our view, these anonymous, cowardly internet trolls are not making any contribution to peace in Colombia. They should crawl out from under their rocks, have the courage to write under their own names like Rozental and Almendra have, and see how their arguments hold up in the light. – Justin Podur and Mike O'Tuathail]
“In Colombia we don't have displacement because there is war. There is war so there can be displacement.” This quote from Hector Mondragon suggests the character and strategic objectives of terror and war in the service of capitalist accumulation that has been imposed on Colombia. We understand war and terror, wherever they come from, to be instruments of dispossession against the people. The beneficiary of this war and terror is transnational capital in its goal of taking territory and wealth, and controlling labour.
We hope that the negotiations between the armed insurgency (FARC for now, but likely ELN as well) and the Colombian government will conclude rapidly with a signed agreement that will guarantee a definitive and permanent ceasefire between the parties. The current balance of forces in this negotiation should be examined in light of the strategic objectives of capital and its dynamics in Colombia on the one hand, and in light of the indigenous and popular struggles on the other. This will help to place us in context and help the popular forces avoid a trap that will help capital in its objective to continue to dispossess people, this time in the name of peace, while continuing war and terror by other means. This text presents some arguments in the spirit of the Minga of Social and Community Resistance (1) when we tried to transform “a country with owners and without peoples into a country with people and without owners” (2).
The economic model sets the terms
Colombia is a “product-country” (3) with enormous natural wealth and a strategic location. The country transfers this wealth to the groups that control transnational corporate power. Recent Colombian history has been determined by the strategic objectives of capitalism in crisis. Terror, propaganda and the politics of the state have been designed and implemented all with a view to the benefit of transnational corporations and concentrations of capital. The central organizing principle of this project is “free trade”, executed under the coordination of a series of “free trade agreements” (FTAs) and Plan Colombia (PC). In essence, through the FTAs and the PC, corporations have become protected individuals with legal rights. Through a combination of biopolitics and geostrategies (4), economic and productive activities, the social imaginary, territories and institutions have all been subordinated to the logic of extraction of wealth in conditions of systematic displacement and exploitation, with the legal and illegal profits transferred to the holders of transnational capital.
In the past five decades, the legislative agenda and development plans of successive governments have culminated in a legal-institutional framework for dismantling rights and liberties of the people in order to guarantee extractivist and corporate interests to prepare the ground for the FTAs. Growing and solidly argued opposition has been steadily ignored, and the FTAs have come to supplant the Constitution of 1991, effectively becoming a set of supra-national constitutions (5) that put Colombia and its people under the thumb of global corporations. This juridico-legal conquest would not have been possible without putting the whole country under violent coercion (terror), with a process of consensus-building (through propaganda). At the service of accumulation, jungles, country sides, river valleys, cities, and slums have been transformed into labour colonies and camps in a permanent state of terror under the control of armed groups and mafias. Under the pretext of a war on drugs and a war on terrorism, coordinated from the Pentagon, the phases of Plan Colombia were rolled out, putting the state at the service of “free trade”. The result: the extension of the armed conflict and terror throughout the country, displacement of millions of people and one of the most serious humanitarian crises in the world, the “flexibilization” of the labour force, and the submission of the country's labour force, savings, and resources to extraction, speculation, and transnational business interests.
Terror and violence guarantee and orient political control of the state in local areas to impose the legal-institutional agenda of “free trade”. They have also been fundamental to the consolidation of territorial control for accumulation. A sophisticated propaganda strategy legitimates this model of conquest, fabricating a false story of a democratic country that follows the law while eliminating or isolating those who propose an alternative view. The propaganda generates resignation and a consensus around “realism” in this “Colombia Model” (6), based on the idea that “there is no alternative”. Once the model is sufficiently consolidated, global capital can dispense with resistance and alternatives – the conditions for negotiation with the insurgency are in place.
In this context, Alfonso Cano, the assassinated Commander in Chief of the FARC, sent a peace proposal which, in its essence, is the agenda for negotiations that are currently underway in Havana. The agenda adopts the overall framework of “free trade” without proposing the transformation of this wealth-concentrating, corporate model. In retrospect, it is evident that while FARC and the government negotiated the agenda, movements, organizations and processes of resistance and opposition and the indigenous and popular struggle, adjusted their agendas in the same orientation. The Minga of Social and Community Resistance and the Congress of the Peoples that gave birth to the Minga were weakened. The original Mandate (7) ended up subordinated to other themes that were debated in Havana (8). All of this indicates that the economic model has been shielded from scrutiny in order to make the negotiation possible.
Looting Colombia: The dispute for power
Transnational capital has its national counterparts, exclusive groups dedicated to the transfer of value to transnational corporations. These groups constitute Colombia's power elite, who sustain their control over natural wealth, the work force, and the country's savings. This is the Colombian state, whose elites assume that their well-being is the well-being of the nation and that their right to rule is unquestionable. This is not, however, a monolithic or homogeneous sector.
The struggle to reach the heights of privilege and control institutions for one's own benefit is hard, and in the Colombian case, particularly cruel and violent. To dominate territory, the government, and the people, high levels of coercion are required, as is the establishment of consensus. This structure of power, based on exclusive privilege, has created a permanent contradiction between what is legitimate and what is legal, the criminalization of survival and the legalization of criminality in the service of power. The structure and social dynamics are violent and promote violence as a condition to maintain the concentration of power. The powerful shield their privilege behind corporate-imperial support, their affluence, terror, propaganda, and policy in their benefit. The traditional bourgeoisie, constituted into the “ruling class”, are hereditary dynasties (like former president Andrés Pastrana and current president Juan Manuel Santos, etc.) who are obliged to compete and ally with emerging classes and groups (like former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez) to control resources, markets (legal and illegal), territories, and forces (military and paramilitary).
Mafias have been consolidated at high and low levels. These hierarchical organizations have the capacity to dominate the country and remake it in their image. All of this is hidden with discourses, rituals, and habits that generate the appearance of civility, democracy, and respect for the law, honour, and open debate of ideas and arguments. In fact respect for institutions is enshrined in systems of selection and exclusion as well as social norms of subordination. In order to rise through the hierarchy, all types of corruption and terror become acceptable. To sit at the table with those who control power in this “product-country” of transnational capital creates a dispute between enemies to try to create a fragile, temporary balance of alliances that may be momentarily convenient. This is the exercise of power in Colombia: the conflict over loot between the few who manipulate institutions for their own benefit, with every kind of pretext and argument (peace, democracy, development, progress etc.). From the perspective of these groups, the negotiating table with the insurgency is simultaneously an attempt to get to power through a peace accord and a dispute between those who calculate that if they allow the insurgency a small space, they can continue to consolidate their permanent war framework and defend their own section of the loot against those who insist on a ceasefire or those who insist on destroying the insurgency completely, all with the same end goal of privileges for themselves in mind.
Re-legitimization with conditions and splits
The March for Peace on April 9, 2013, the day of the victims, was called by the Santos government and the traditional bourgeoisie, as well as by the insurgency and those close to them. The march demonstrated the capacity and the correlation of forces in favour of the negotiations. Its success paved the way for the installation of a negotiations table between the government and the other major armed insurgency active in Colombia, the National Liberation Army (ELN) (9). The fascist sectors led by Uribe declared their opposition to the march and to the negotiation, which they argued offered impunity to bandits and criminals, promoting terror and war. Probably the majority of those who marched for peace would not identify with those who called for it on the opposite side, but simply for an end to the armed conflict. Despite the conditions of privacy and discretion, the dialogues have opened space for a limited debate on themes normally excluded from the political agenda: agriculture, the concentration of lands, the peasant reserve zones, guarantees for political participation, the rights of victims of armed conflict, respect for rights and liberties that continue to shrink, and others. These openings are beneficial, but their scope is limited.
If the government can control the ultra-right wing forces and guarantee its own stability, while the insurgency wins a minimum of guarantees and reforms in exchange for its formal insertion into the institutional dynamic as a politico-electoral organization with a significant base, the result will be a growth of power and of the content of the political debate, under the current model of “free trade”. The establishment will re-legitimate itself through the insertion and incorporation of new actors, and those reforms which do not threaten it, it will consolidate. The negotiation appears before some sectors of society as an opportunity that must be taken advantage of in order to not be left out. Peace is converted into an electoral prize and an opportunity to rise through the ranks, but it is also a distant and uncertain promise, to try to change things from within. For others, it is an intolerable threat. The negotiations take place in the middle of a war in which the state, without fully destroying it, has demonstrated its effectiveness to find and eliminate high commanders of the insurgency. The perpetuation of terror and war, the potential dismantlement and decomposition of part of the insurgency into criminal bands and the consolidation of local and national mafias has established a suffocating culture that pressures the population to demand results and accept with resignation whatever agreements might be possible even if they are far from what is necessary.
The minimum conditions for a permanent, definitive ceasefire from the establishment perspective include, for example, maintaining or increasing the pre-ceasefire armed forces budget, re-launching the war with new pretexts, guaranteeing the interests of transnationals and protecting the economic monopolies including agriculture and speculation in land, at the expense of redistribution and social investment. Indigenous and popular movements that have been mobilizing against the model independently of the armed actors have opted to modify their transformational agendas in order to participate in the negotiations with politico-electoral and reformist proposals. Under these circumstances the danger of transforming the peace accord into a re-distribution of loot through ceasefire must be recognized. The risk is to those victims of the conflict who have demanded their rights and proposed mechanisms for truth, justice and reparation within the accords.
Neither the state nor the armed insurgency can build peace on behalf of Colombia
The various organizations constituting the armed insurgency, emerging over the past 50 years, are a response to the illegitimacy of the Colombian state and the regime it serves. The FARC, born as a peasant army, brought together victims in self-defence and for the protection of their communities from the violent aggression perpetrated by state forces at the service of landowners and external interests. This army suffered alongside the people and was also a victim of the effects of public policy and propaganda as well as terrible actions of the Colombian armed forces and death squads backed by the Pentagon, all of which have left terror and impunity as indelible marks on Colombian society. It is worth remembering the extermination of political movements like the Patriotic Union (UP), and the hundreds of massacres committed against Colombians and their organizational processes of opposition and resistance. These massacres demonstrate how the regime responds to those who opt to leave armed struggle or pursue popular struggle without weapons altogether. Unfortunately, this “People's Army,” for decades now, is both a victim and perpetrator of violence. It has become one more bully, particularly in the territories where its presence is strongest.
In the context of war and in its eagerness to recruit and finance its way to power, the FARC have subjected the Colombian people to the law of their weapons, impositions, authoritarianism, sectarianism, and numerous acts of cruelty and terror. Their rhetorical ends are contradicted by their actions, which are also contrasted by the many proposals and mobilizations put forward by others from below, from collective processes, from the notion of territorial autonomy and self-government engaged in resistances, transformations and alternatives to the economic model. The FARC reject ideological and political freedom, and while confronting state forces, they also act against indigenous and popular processes. Subjected to the consequences of a prolonged war and pressures emanating from changing circumstances and dynamics pressing upon the rigidity and intolerance, which are themselves by-products of a revolutionary war that emerged from a very particular context, the FARC call out, pursue, declare military targets and make victims of those who they, in principle, should be protecting: impoverished communities and those engaged in popular struggle. Far from protecting popular initiatives of transformation and resistance, they have tried to submit them to their politico-military organization. In doing so, they become another factor in the war against the people, generating yet another pretext for strategies aimed at securing territories for extractivist interests through terror and repression, for the submission of people and their territories to the service of capital. Capital thus achieves a strategic target: it makes the war, involving whoever, and then brandishes it as an instrument for the dismantlement of popular resistances and the paralysis of autonomous and transformative indigenous and popular insurrection, which is, in turn, riddled by the crossfire of the armed insurgency and the regime. Consequently, communities in resistance have called for the FARC to take their war elsewhere, insisting that the insurgency has lost legitimacy as a spokesperson for popular struggle in Colombia.
They rob us through war; they shouldn't rob our peace.
What must be negotiated are the conditions for a definitive and permanent ceasefire, putting an end to the war between them and against the people. Agreements must ensure that the people recover what is theirs, that they do not lose more autonomous spaces for struggle than that which has already been restricted through terror and war and that which could be even further limited by the “peace” of the regime. The solution to the social and political conflict that generated the war exceeds the capacity and legitimacy of those who sit at the negotiating tables as well as the scope of their agreements. Neither the state nor the insurgency have the legitimacy to represent and negotiate peace in the name of all Colombians. Colombia, its transformation, its people and their peace do not figure into the negotiations between the state and the insurgency. The country cannot and should not be negotiated at these tables as long as participation is closed to other sectors of its society. Those of us excluded will now and forever be subject to the demands of the armed actors and their interests as well as the structural conditions imposed by the economic model through those negotiations. The recent Coffee Growers’ Strike demonstrated this as it spread across the country, putting in evidence the crisis of the economic model and the state and their futility in addressing it as well as a path for autonomous resistance and transformation from the grassroots: peace is freedom of the land and its peoples.
The ceasefire agreements, once ratified, should respect and generate minimum conditions to promote inclusive, autonomous, participatory and far-reaching processes of construction for another Colombia, returning once again, to the path initially proposed by the Minga of Social and Community Resistance, the Congress of the People, and many other social and popular struggles. Within a much needed process of mobilization and collective construction of another-country, the State-under such transformation and the insurgency, as a political movement, have their rightful place within Colombia. But to pretend that Colombia can fit within the realm of the State-Insurgency negotiations, under current conditions, or to try to fit the transformed people´s country agenda and the social and popular movements into the Negotiating Table, would not only complicate and hinder the on-going negotiations but these processes would be forced by the dynamics into legitimizing the existing regime and economic model, generating false expectations and frustrations, un-willingly helping to consolidate the current mafia style and terror based structures of political-territorial control, dividing the country in loot while incorporating new bourgeoisies with new transformative discourses, into the extractivist economy. The fascist sector would take advantage of all these complications, confusion and delays to regroup and act as it is already, through terror and death to dismantle any hope for a successful negotiation and the beginning of a peace process from below.
The requirement that cannot be met
Peace demands that an outraged and ravaged Colombia reclaim from first the state but also from the insurgency the requirement to respect their victims. This gesture of humility, generosity and greatness does not, thus far, seem to fit into the agenda of these negotiations. Someday, they will have to understand and assume responsibility for their crimes and the consequences of their actions. But under the premise of a social order that is patriarchal, egotistical and arrogant, we cannot ignore seeing what must be transformed: the same social order that led them to usurp, enslave, and eliminate all that is collective and held common in the interest of accumulation, up to and including life itself. Someday, they will have to be prepared to sincerely apologize to Colombia and ask that they be included in the collective construction of another country.
They will also have to engage seriously with truth, justice and full reparations to each and every victim, to Never Again (!) return to lies without consequence. This is a fundamental condition for peace and a concrete outcome of transformational struggles. As indigenous and popular processes struggling against “a country of owners without people” and for a “country of people without owners,” we fully support a definitive and permanent ceasefire between the state and the insurgency, because we know it to be an essential, early step towards the peace of the people, a collective achievement that comes from below and not from the exploitation of capital.
We call upon “those who put us between two machismos, both of which turn their backs on [...] Mother Earth – [while one] machismo shouts and performs actions of war, violence, brute force and recruits for their death our sons and daughters of harmony, [the] other machismo condemns us to kneel before the mandate of the powerful, using pragmatic reasoning and powered by authoritarian and selfish desires--” (10), to listen to our people, our communities and our Mother Earth so that this other word that is silenced comes from the shadows and becomes the path that we need for what we determine to be our peace. Once again, we insist that we support the process towards a negotiated ceasefire, and we hope that the agreements are signed soon, so that such a step would permit us to get closer to the freedom we need to walk the word and take action in accordance with Mother Earth, without patriarchies, transnational corporations, illuminated elites and vanguards, extractivists, mental and territorial monocultures and yet more death agendas at the service of greed. We demand that the ceasefire lead to peace for everyone.
The fundamental basis of this text gathers the contributions and positions of members of the indigenous communities of Cauca, indigenous communications collectives from various regions across Colombia, and some representatives of indigenous and popular processes. The authors especially wish to recognize the contributions of several members of the Tejido de Comunicación y Relaciones Externas para la Verdad y la Vida of the ACIN (Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca). Responsibility for the final content of this text is the sole responsibility of the authors.
Written by Emmanuel Rozental and Vilma Almendra for Revista Contrapunto, Centro de Formación Popular del Oeste de Montevideo, Montevideo, 2013.
Emmanuel Rozental is an activist, writer, and militant of indigenous and popular movements. He was the first coordinator and founding member of the Tejido de Comunicación y Relaciones Externas para la Verdad y la Vida.
Vilma Almendra is a social communicator and journalist. She is a member of the Nasa-Misak communities of Northern Cauca, Colombia, and a founding member of the Tejido de Comunicación y Relaciones Externas para la Verdad y la Vida of the ACIN.
(1)Para contrastar la agenda de 5 puntos de la Minga modificada ver. Vieira, Constanza. Los 5 puntos de la agenda con Álvaro Uribe siguen vigentes. 2008-10-26. http://www.ips.org/blog/cvieira/?p=206 . Consultado 2013-04-10
(2)Diálogo con el ELN más pronto que trade. El Espectador 2013-04-10. http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/paz/articulo-415022-dialogo-el-eln-mas-pronto-tarde . Consultado 2013-04-10
(3)Francisco Santos, tal como Uribe, pide no marchar el 9 de abril. El Espectador, 2013-04-07. http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/articulo-414514-francisco-santos-tal-uribe-pide-no-marchar-el-9-de-abril consultado 2013-04-10
(4)La paz con las FARC costaría 18 billones de pesos. RCN Noticias, 2013-03013. http://www.canalrcnmsn.com/noticias/ministerio_de_defensa_prepara_estrategia_si_se_logra_un_acuerdo_con_las_farc Consultado 2013-04-10
(5)Santos anunció guerra contra “Ollas” del país. El Tiempo, 2013-04-01. http://www.eltiempo.com/colombia/bogota/ARTICULO-WEB-NEW_NOTA_INTERIOR-12719853.html . Consultado 2013-04-10
(6)MOVICE. Propuestas mínimas sobre verdad, justicia, reparación y garantías de no repetición. 2013-03-06. http://www.movimientodevictimas.org/images/archivos2/folleto1A_1_68.pdf . Consultado 2013-04-10
(7)Ver, González-Posso, Camilo. Desde el Cauca, desarmar la guerra. 2012-07-24. http://www.censat.org/articulos/10024-analisis/10519-desde-el-cauca-desarmar-la-guerra. Consultado 2013-04-10
(8)Montoya Suárez, Aurelio. Las razones estructurales y coyunturales del Paro Cafetero. Entrevista, equipo Desde Abajo. 2013-03-22. http://www.moir.org.co/Las-razones-estructurales-y.html . Consultado 2013-04-10
(9)Rozental, Emmanuel. La crisis de ellos es en sentido inverso a la nuestra. En Palabras para Tejernos, resistir y transformar en la época que estamos viviendo. Gutiérrez, Raquel Ed. Pez en el árbol. Septiembre de 2011. Páginas 179-202
(10)Almendra Quiguanás, Vilma. La paz de Mama Kiwe en libertad, de la mujer sin amarras ni silencio. En Palabras para Tejernos, resistir y transformar en la época que estamos viviendo. Gutiérrez, Raquel Ed. Pez en el árbol. Septiembre de 2011. Página 146