The Irresistible Advance of Militarization

para leer en español:

 The Irresistible Advance of Militarization

By: Raúl Zibechi

The recent approval of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Colombia and the United States reaffirms the militarist policy of Barack Obama’s government towards Latin America, as the principal path for resolving the economic crisis and the decline of global and regional hegemony. Ironies of life, the FTA impelled by the conservative George W. Bush was unfettered after five years by the Congress, under the “progressive” Obama, demonstrating that when we’re dealing with imperial and multi-national interests there is no substantial difference between the two US parties.

President Juan Manuel Santos declared: “it is the most important treaty that we have signed in our history,” although it is going to drown small farming production, as already happened in the countries that signed those agreements. Nevertheless, as the Colombian journalist Antonio Caballero points out in his column entitled “The Impalement” (Semana, 15/10/ 2011), the treaty is in reality “an act of submission” that deepens the role of the regional gendarme of Colombia.

We are faced with a clear option by then elites in favor of an “armed neoliberalism” that permits increasing profits and at the same time blocking social protest. This model, which is now being applied with success in Guatemala and Mexico, and that tends to overflow towards the whole, is the political regimen adequate for promoting the “accumulation by dispossession” that David Harvey analyzes in The New Imperialism (Akal, 2003), although the British geographer does not specify in his works the type of State that corresponds to this mode of accumulation.

Colombia exhibits the region’s largest officially recognized military expense, which amounts to almost 4 percent of the GNP, duplicating in percentage that of Brazil and almost three times greater than that of Venezuela, although other sources elevate it to 6 percent. Currently, the Colombian Army has 230, 000 members, the same quantity as that of Brazil, which has a surface seven times greater and four times more population. The disproportion with respect to its neighbors Ecuador and Venezuela is enormous, although the media persist in showing that the real threat to regional peace comes from Caracas.

Under the two governments of Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) campesinos were dispossessed of 6 million hectares and there were 3 million displaced. To the policy of privatizations by his predecessor (telecommunications, banks, oil), Santos now adds the re-prioritizing of the economy oriented to the exploitation of minerals, gas, coal, gold and oil, and the expansion of the agro-exportation of soy, sugar cane and African Palm. The one part of capital that “invests” in those businesses comes from paramilitarism and drug trafficking, which have united weapons and stolen goods.

Colombia figures among the 10 most unequal countries in the world. With the labor reforms, businessmen no longer even pay for extra hours (overtime). Health and education suffer cuts to swell the war budget and privatization wants to advance on the universities, despite the wide student mobilization. For that function “armed neoliberalism,” the prodigal son of Plan Colombia, now crowned with the FTA.

To the inside, Plan Colombia is plunder and militarization to stop resistance. To the outside, it converts the country into the principal platform of the Pentagon’s military policy. A study by the Center for Investigation and Popular Education (Cinep, its initials in Spanish) points out that under the two Uribe governments social mobilization was the world’s highest in the last half of the century: almost four times more conflicts per year than in the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, and 50 percent more than in that of the 1990s.

The war and the militarization have been started precisely in the departments (states) that present the greatest social resistance, which are also in those where the advance of the extractive megaprojects is most intense. The war that Plan Colombia promotes, whose benefits will be decanted by the FTA, is to free territories for the accumulation of capital. It’s worth considering the linkage between war and neoliberalism, violence and accumulation, to comprehend that we’re dealing with the model, although it is dressed up by an electoral media dispute every four years and declarations against drug trafficking and the guerrilla.

But the model tends to overflow throughout the region. On September 27, Paraguay’s Chamber of Deputies voted for the state of emergency for 60 days in two states (departamentos): Concepción and San Pedro, the poorest, and in which the campesino movement led some of its most important mobilizations. The excuse is fighting the Paraguay People’s Army (Ejército del Pueblo Paraguay, EPP), a group that according to the attorney general has 10 members. The measure that enables the armed forces to act as internal police had already been adopted in 2010 for 30 days in five departments, without detaining any EPP member.

Abel Irala, of Serpaj, attributes militarization to the productive: “Agro-business needs to advance over drug trafficking lands, and in that conflict militarization plays in favor of soy. The campesino that plants marijuana is the last on the ladder, and the woman, when they put her in prison, she sells that land to get out of prison, and it is sold to the soy farmers.” The Coordinator of Human Rights denounced that there are 500 social militants processed, that torture is more frequent and that the justice system uses the charges like “disturbing the public peace,” for realizing marches that do not cut out routes, and “sabotage,” to the road blocks, that carry a sentence of 10 years in prison.

It is no accident that Colombians are the military advisors of Paraguay’s repressive forces. “Armed neoliberalism,” with or without the FTA, does not recognize ideological borders and proposes to annihilate or domesticate the anti-systemic movements. In the midst of the deep crisis that we live in, there are excessive signs that those above gambled on hard and pure al militarism.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, October 21, 2011

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