The Peace of Extractivism In Colombia
By: Raúl Zibechi
The struggle between the guerrilla and the State was a true war of classes in Colombia. The young campesino liberal Pedro Marín became Manuel Marulanda when the violence, started by the assassination of the head of the Liberal Party Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, April 9, 1948, forced him to flee into the woods to save his life. The Bogotazo, the popular urban uprising in response to the crime, was the epicenter of a war between conservatives and liberals that in 10 years reaped the life of 200, 000 Colombians.
Poor campesinos were not included in the National Front that in 1958 sealed the peace between the conservative power and the liberal “doctors” of the cities, because the war was made to steal their land and disorganizing them as a class. In order to survive they became guerrillas, created self-defense and, with time and disillusion, became communists. In 1966, the FARC was born from those confluences, opening a new stage in campesino struggles.
Military offensives failed and facing the territorial expansion of the armed organizations, two moments for negotiations were opened. Under the presidency of Belisario Betancur (1982-1986) there was a truce within the framework from which the Patriotic Union was formed, in 1985, in which the Communist Party was included. The new force obtained five senators, 14 deputies and 23 mayors, but in the following years was practically exterminated by paramilitaries, soldiers and drug traffickers. Thirteen deputies and 70 council members, 11 mayors and several thousand were murdered. During the government of Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002) a “zone for detente” was created at the Caguán River, which encompassed four municipalities and 42, 000 square kilometers. At the same time, in 1999 the government signed Plan Colombia with the United States, which subordinated Pastrana’s policy to it and inclined it to renew the war.
On this occasion, everything indicates that the general agreement for ending the conflict and the construction of a stable and lasting peace between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC, with the explicit possibility of “the abandonment of arms,” can put an end to the war. It is possible the other armed group, the ELN, will be incorporated into the negotiations.
The new relation of forces in Colombia, the region and the world make possible that an end to the 60-year war is coming.
The first is that Colombian society has changed profoundly in this half century. We’re dealing with a majority urban population, whose principal demand is not land, but housing, which desires the end of the conflict and participates in social movements that are impacting the principal cities, where the conservatives and liberals no longer govern. The second is that the dominant classes, whose best expression in these times is President Santos, accumulate now around the extractive model (hydrocarbons, mining and mono-crops), no longer by means of plundering of the campesino. The map of extractivism is one of armed conflict. Dedicating a part of the gigantic war budget to infrastructure works is urgent for lubricating the flow of commodities and to continue attracting investments.
The end of the conflict makes another war visible: the multi-nationals against the peoples. The Constitution of 1991 recognizes the ancestral territories of indigenous and Afro-descendents under the name “shields.” More than 600 indigenous shields have been created that occupy one third of the Colombian territory and are the zones of expansion of extractivism. The third question is the change in the relation of forces. The Colombian Armed Forces have been strengthened and have an elevated capacity for combat. The FARC have been weakened, they cannot win on the military terrain and they lost legitimacy. The economic, cultural and social changes moved the axis of the social conflict to the cities. In rural areas the FARC fell out with the indigenous, which are the principal force that resists the extractive model. The fourth are the new geopolitical winds. The South American countries do not want conflicts. Venezuela is more preoccupied by managing its economy. Brazil tends bridges to Colombian entrepreneurs and Brasilia seeks to consolidate the presence of Bogotá in the Unasur. The Mercosur countries, which can be expanded with Bolivia and Ecuador, gamble on winning the economic competition with those that belong to the Pacific Alliance (Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia).
The United States is repositioning its Armed Forces in the Pacific to contain China and does not seem in a position of opening new war scenarios in other parts of the world. It is possible that the Pacific Alliance, situated in the bilateral FTAs, begins to have a more active role in US diplomacy than Plan Colombia, without supplanting it as a “final solution” to its hegemonic decline. It will depend on who occupies the White House in January.
Finally, it must be understood that the principal enemy of Santos is not Hugo Chávez or the FARC, but rather Álvaro Uribe. As well as the soldiers that interceded in boycotting the previous peace processes, Uribe needs the war to stay afloat. Santos has, as Alfredo Molano points out in an excellent article titled Be Quiet! (El Espectador, 1º de setiembre de 2012), a demolishing argument: sending him on a DEA plane to the United States.
For the movements, the end of the war is not peace, but the continuation of the struggle in a more favorable scenario. In full conflict, confronting repression and death, they were capable of carrying out big mobilizations, like the Social and Communitarian Minga of 2008, impelled by the Nasa communities of Cauca, and of getting the Congress of the Peoples underway, where multiple collectives came together. Now they are prepared to continue, “walking the word,” defending their territories from the multi-nationals. The “peace of extractivism” approaches and with it comes a new cycle of struggles of those from below.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
English translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Friday, September 7, 2012