An Architect of the Left and what is Left to be done in Colombia

Manuel Rozental
Campbellton, New Brunswick, February 12, 2006
A great piece by Jorge Robledo from MOIR inspires this note (see below In Spanish). In essence, MOIR is one of the political left parties that have lead Alternativa Democratica, initially a group of 7 parliamentarians of the left whose transparency and committed work earned them more credibility than all the rest of congress. Among these 7 is Carlos Gaviria, current presidential pre candidate, who will face Antonio Navarro, a former M-19 commander who has become a longstanding congressman with a huge machinery known as Polo Democratico, said to be of the left but more likely a centre left not too clear on opposing the neoliberal model. In a brilliant move, under the democratic guidance of Robledo, Alternativa Democratica developed a programmatic and political platform for Colombia inspired in an opposition to the neoliberal policies and a solid agenda of a distinct left. Based on this programmatic platform, it invited Polo Democratico to join AD. After many difficulties this was achieved and now, the explicit agenda of the new Polo Democratico Alternativo is the agenda of AD: an agenda for social transformation with sovereignty, resistance and opposition to US and neoliberalism and unity of the left. Once people select the presidential candidate between Carlos Gaviria and Antonio Navarro on March 12th, a united left will go to the polls against Uribe and against a liberal candidate. In other words, there will be two sides: the side of the model with Uribe and the Liberals pretending to be opposition and the true opposition with Navarro or Gaviria for the PDA.

Signs of Change being Manipulated

Although the polls keep showing Gaviria and Navarro with less than 4% of the vote and Uribe with 48%, Uribe's "popularity" is falling even in these manipulated polls. These figures have to be examined in light of recent events in Costa Rica. The most interesting lesson of Costa Rica's election is precisely that the neoliberal front runner Arias, who was expected to sweep a win against the centrist Otton Solis, came tied or even may have lost to him. Rather than Arias, the defeat in Costa Rica was for the "Democracy Promotion" poll and propaganda based strategy. Like in Venezuela, they failed because they fabricated the lies and the believed them. In fact the polls had the intention of creating a feeling of impotence on the electorate so that people would either vote for Arias or abstain facing the inevitable win of the neoliberal candidate and of the technocratic model aimed at implementing "free trade" and dismantling Costa Rica's social security structure. The result was that more than 35% of people abstained, which is very close to the number of votes Solis and Arias each obtained. A lesson for Costa Ricans: do not believe the polls, they are technically designed to make you not vote or accept as inevitable the recipe of the "democracy promoters". Had they not accepted the manipulation, it is likely that most of the abstained 35% would have elected Solis.

A lesson for Colombians: the neoliberal corporate imperial "democratic" model is not invincible, therefore URIBE AND THE LIBERALS ARE NOT THE INEVITABLE WINNERS; the polls are lying to call upon the cultural electoral establishment-educated impotence of Colombians into abstention or a vote against Uribe rather than a vote for PDA or for a real Colombian left defined by a program of opposition and alternative to corporate capital.

The development that illustrates the weakness of the (democracy promotion neoliberal) traditional technocrats facing the PDA left in Colombia is that the very day that PDA was formed as a united democratic left under the AD program for social transformation against the imperial model, the liberals, headed by former OAS Secretary General and neoliberal hawk Cesar Gaviria (now President of the Liberal Party), announced his party would join PDA in a "struggle against Uribe and for a United Left in Colombia"(these statements, outright lies, coming from the neoliberal par excellence who introduced structural adjustment to Colombia in his 1990-94 term as President calls himself left and opposition); "Democracy Promotion" in action. The establishment is threatened by the unity of the left under a program of opposition against the corporate establishment. The threat is strong enough for them to try and co-opt the PDA and they count with the support of a sector of Labor.

PDA in Growing Pains faces the usual suspects and its own challenges

In this context, Navarro announces his resignation as pre-candidate on a Friday and offers support to Carlos Gaviria (an extraordinary gesture that would have positioned an even stronger united left against Uribe, the liberals and the model). By Monday, Navarro decides to run again, hence, the referendum for the left is on for March 12th. This is the background for the attached piece by Jorge Robledo, an architect and academic by profession and the "architect" of the new democratic partisan left, AD and PDA. Robledo, who has lead a brilliant battle against the Free Trade negotiations and the US imperial policies from the senate being recognized as the most popular and effective congressman in Colombia, writes this piece about the way in which decisions have been made to establish the lists of candidates for the PDA (left) to congress. Former liberals as Maria Emma Mejia, a minister of Education and Foreign Affairs under Samper (Liberal), were proposed to head the lists of the left and were democratically rejected. This rejection was manipulated by the "democracy promotion" media and political machinery to point at the pretended sectarianism of the PDA and the left. Robledo responds to this (well known) manipulation pointing at the fact that the left has a right and an obligation to face and confront differences and conflict like everyone else and to resolve them democratically as they did in an exemplary manner and that the accusers, who would never vote for the left are attacking it as sectarian precisely because they fear its democratic strength. If Carlos Gaviria wins in March and PDA has a strong showing in the Congressional elections on March 12th, Uribe and the Liberal's "Democracy Promotion" game as official and opposition parties within the same model will be exposed as one and the same and become susceptible to being defeated by popular vote. As Robledo explains, what is at stake here is the opposition to the model, to neoliberalism, for sovereignty, social justice and social transformation. Defeating the inherited and well educated culture of impotence that has taught Colombians to vote within the establishment and not against it, is what is at stake now. PDA, AD and the work of this "architect" for social justice and true democracy deserve all of the attention and every bit of support. For the Spanish speakers, I have attached Robledo's piece, which you will now be able to place within the broader context.

“Walking the Word”: Democracy and Sovereignty is the People.

Finally it must be said that the constituency of the partisan left in Colombia are autonomous social movements and organizations with their own political and social agendas on the ground, or masses of impoverished and disenchanted citizens who have been alienated from an electoral machinery where one chooses between the models of the model and faces repression, exclusion and death regardless of who the winner is. The Colombian State and its Governments are established instruments of the enemies of the people in favor of a permanently imposed imperial agenda "in the name of democracy". The feeling most committed Colombians have is that democracy is created in practice through resistance and alternative construction from the ground and that electoral processes usually hinder and at most might open (limited and well controlled from above) spaces for the bottom-up practical design of the other possible and necessary country. The real democratic battle is being fought in the streets and on the fields, where many, including indigenous people, afro-Colombians, women's movements, peasants, labor and others are weaving the other state in different ways. As long as a new united left respects and allows these acting majorities to consolidate and represent their own agenda, a new Colombia is "walking its words". The "architect" is successfully helping to design a process in electoral and legislative spaces which is grounded on the agendas of diverse social movements and organizations, for these actions from the ground to reach government and remain true to their identities and mandates. The path to freedom from bellow is indeed long, difficult and mostly still under the tight grip of the empire through established and well funded repression and war, corporate and US money, legislation and propaganda.

Jorge Enrique Robledo, Bogotá, febrero 10 de 2006
Después de lo mucho que han dicho quienes no militan en el Polo Democrático Alternativo (PDA) sobre lo que ocurrió con su lista al Senado, vale la pena dar la versión de un miembro de la organización. Y explicar qué debe ser la izquierda democrática según quienes militamos en ella y no de acuerdo con lo que quisieran nuestros adversarios, porque el colmo sería aceptar que en el ajedrez de la política nacional algunos se arrogaran el derecho a mover las piezas de los dos lados del tablero.
En reunión de la Mesa de Unidad, la máxima dirección del Polo, María Emma Mejía presentó un documento de respaldo al Ideario Programático, a las normas organizativas y al mecanismo para seleccionar el candidato único a la Presidencia, compromiso que obtuvo, como era de esperarse, respuesta positiva de todos los asistentes. A los pocos días y con el aval de Lucho Garzón se planteó su aspiración al número uno de la lista al Senado, puesto para el que hubo otros candidatos: Gustavo Petro y Jorge Enrique Robledo. Luego, excluí mi nombre para facilitar el acuerdo, Petro obtuvo el respaldo mayoritario y María Emma decidió retirarse, postura que por unanimidad se le solicitó no adoptar. La decisión democrática de la directiva del PDA sobre el primero en la lista generó malestar en la minoría del Polo Democrático Independiente (PDI), que intentó cambiarla, pero a la postre acordó someterse.
Estos hechos, que si se analizan sin prejuicios no dan para censurar al Polo, le sirvieron para alborotar a algunos que nunca votarán por este, pero al que le reclaman lo que nunca les han exigido a las agrupaciones que sí han contado con su respaldo. ¿Por qué es una aberración que en una organización política haya puntos de vista y aspirantes diferentes? ¿Por qué censurar que la mayoría de su dirección decida? ¿Por qué no pueden algunos de sus miembros expresar su desacuerdo con una decisión? Seriedad, hay que pedirles a ciertos comentaristas. ¿Por qué más bien no resaltan que el PDA superó, unido, un desacuerdo? ¿Por qué no ensalzan que no tiene propietario? ¿Por qué no se descubren ante las decisiones democráticas de unos dirigentes que fueron acatados? Que quienes son avisados en política y se oponen al Polo no se disfracen de amigos para hacerle censuras oportunistas. Y que quienes a pesar de tener dudas sí comparten su propuesta de cambiar profundamente a Colombia afinen su capacidad de análisis y entiendan que no hay organización de los seres humanos en la que no se presenten diferencias. ¿O acaso no se debate, se vota y se acata para elegir al Papa?
Ciertos comentarios sobre la contradicción que se presentó por el orden de la lista desnudaron otro tema de importancia: que lo que mortifica a algunos, y hasta los enfurece, es que el programa del Polo refleje los puntos de vista de la izquierda democrática y no los de los neoliberales, concepción que se resume muy bien en su defensa de la soberanía nacional y en su oposición al TLC. Y entendido quedó que estos tuvieron la ilusión de que el reparto de los números modificara el rumbo del PDA, cosa que, como se ha visto, nunca se planteó a la hora de ordenar a los candidatos.
Que quienes macartizan con el “radicalismo” del Polo y su “falta de amplitud”, precisen: ¿no hay que ser de principios en la crítica a las políticas que hambrean y les arrebatan cualquier posibilidad de futuro próspero a los colombianos? ¿La organización debe ser tan amplia que quepan hasta los partidarios del TLC y el neoliberalismo? ¿Su sueño debe ser ganarse el aplauso de Hommes y la cúpula uribista? ¿Debe asumir la viveza de criticar con posiciones de izquierda y ofrecerse para gobernar con las de derecha? ¿De lo que se trata no es de cambiar la vida de la gente sino la de los dirigentes?
Que los pueblos de América están hasta hartos del actual modelo económico y social constituye una obviedad. Lo que se discute es si esa repulsa debe conducir al cambio de los responsables de esas orientaciones y, con ellos, de sus programas, o si, simplemente, hay que aprovecharse de la crisis para sustituir a los que mandan hoy, pero para gobernar con las mismas políticas.
Coletilla: ante la renuncia de Antonio Navarro a su renuncia, en buena lid habrá que ganarle la consulta del Polo, de forma que Carlos Gaviria sea su candidato único a la Presidencia.
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