The FARC, Peace and Their Allies

FARC guerrillas are movilized to concentration areas that have been willing to carry out demobilization and abandonment of weapons by the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

FARC guerrillas are movilized to concentration areas that have been willing to carry out demobilization and abandonment of weapons (by the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia- FARC). Photo by Marcha Patriótica Guaviare

By Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

30/08/2016

In June of this year, the FARC and the Colombian government announced the end of the armed conflict and on the 24th of August, 2016 they signed the Final Accord between the parties.  On both occasions the announcement was received with joy, tears, kisses, hugs and a state of rapture amongst the crowd who saw it on the screen, a great revelry.  It seemed like one of those charismatic meetings held by tele-evangelists in the USA.  Just like those meetings, there was no room for doubt, dogma demanded a blind faith in what was announced and whoever disagreed, doubted or just simply had a question or two was condemned to the eternal flames of hell.

The way in which the NGOs and the so-called “left intellectuals” have dealt with the issue of peace, is just like one of those churches, and despite some or other article or statement that talks about the need to discuss peace, discussing peace in any critical manner is what one can least do.  They wish to “discuss” peace in the same way an evangelical Christian discusses a verse from the Bible or a Muslim fundamentalist does with the Qur’an, it is reality that must be wrong and not the sacred verse, in this case the Final Agreement. But it behoves us to discuss it.

The Peace that Awaits us

What type of peace awaits us? What is the scope of that peace? And, is the Left really thinking of continuing to struggle after the signing of the peace accord?  These are questions that should concern us.  The declarations made in Havana by the FARC commander give us some clue as to what they are thinking and the path they intend taking.

In the speech announcing the end of the conflict, Timochenko, said that the armed forces had been adversaries of the FARC “ but from this day on we have to be allies for the sake of Colombia.  Its infrastructure and resources can be placed at the service of the communities and their needs, without affecting their ability to meet their constitutional role in protecting the border.”  It is not an unwitting description, the FARC really do believe that the repressive forces of the state will be their allies and also of the Colombian people.  The commander of the army held a different view of the issue and described it much better than Timochenko.

In statements made to El Tiempo, General Mejía gave us the following gem.

This is the transformation of an army that understands that it won the war.  An army that has the standing, morality and ethics to now look after the enemy of 52 years.  The UN and the FARC asked that in their regroupment coming to the end of the conflict and whilst they go through the transition from illegality to legality that Colombian soldiers protect them…

It is no humiliation for us, it is an honour because who protects them is who won the war, because who protects them is who is left holding the weapons, who protects them wears the uniform of the Republic.[1]

In other words, they protect the FARC.  To say that they are allies is like saying that the INPEC (Colombian prison service) is an ally of the prisoners held in Colombian prisons.  But the issue is deeper than that and not about who protects whom.  At the end of the day, that is merely a visible example of the reality of a defeated organisation, something the same general highlighted days later.

At the end of the 180 days in the rural zones for a transition to normality, the army that still has weapons is that of the Republic of Colombia.  The army that will continue to wear the uniforms of our homeland is the National Army.  The army that will continue to fight for the security of Colombians is the army that won the war.[2]

The general never talks about being an ally of anyone, but rather of serving the Colombian state and all that it implies.

But we have to ask the FARC if this new ally of theirs and the Colombian people is an ally in everything.  It would seem that the FARC think so.  A few days after declaring the end of the conflict, the Minister of the Post-Conflict, Rafael Pardo (the same man who legalised the paramilitaries in 1994 under the cover of the Rural Security Cooperatives, CONVIVIR) announced tax incentives for companies that invest in the so called post-conflict zones.  According to Pardo, “They are zones that the whole world knows, the zones that have been in conflict, that due to the conflict have had limited opportunities, regions such as the Colombian Pacific, for example, or Chocó or areas such as Nudo de Paramillo.”[3]

What type of company will invest in those zones, some of which are remote?  For starters, mining and oil companies.  The head of Ecopetrol has already stated that the end of the conflict will open up areas of the country for prospection that are currently off limits to these companies.  Agri-businesses will also go there, African palm and sugar companies, amongst others.  Here we are not inventing anything, the attempts by foreign companies such as Cargill and national companies such as the sugar barons from Cauca to take over land in these areas is well known and has led to long debates.  The ZIDRES  law[4] is proof of the government’s plans.  Timochenko referred to this law in his speech.  They are areas where the peasants will not be players but multinationals will.  When those companies arrive they will be protected and accompanied by state forces.  Will the army still be an ally of the FARC and the people then?  It is a question that many of the fans of the process should answer.  Also if  peasants protest against the ZIDRES breaches the peace, what will they say?  We can tell you now.  They will ask the peasants to obey the law in the name of peace.

The FARC are defining the future of social conflicts, legitimising not only the state but also its repressive apparatus that has spilled the blood of so many social leaders in the last fifty years.  But they didn’t stop there.  They also legitimised US imperialism and are preparing the country for a new, but at the same time, not so new relationship with the US and their multinationals.  There is no need to say it, but the FARC just like the NGOs and the “leftist intellectuals” already have a positive view of European imperialism, which is not new at all, even when the role of European oil companies in the conflict is well known.  In an interview given to Russian television, Timochenko said.

For us it is clear that this process has progressed thanks to the approval of the USA.  At the end of the day, it was the USA who gave a huge impetus to the conflict in Colombia. With the implementation of Plan Colombia they earmarked more than 10 billion dollars, but they also gave advisors and mercenaries that were carrying out intelligence work, advising different military units.  They got involved in the war with everything they had… alongside England and Israel and they couldn’t defeat us.

What are we witnessing?  They are involving themselves in trying to achieve peace, but that doesn’t change their nature, their [imperialist] nature is intact.[5]

He acknowledges the nature of the USA, but accepts their bonafides when it comes to achieving peace in Colombia, whilst they bombard Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.  Furthermore he believes that they and the Colombian state recognise their error in bombarding Marquetalia.[6]  There is nothing that indicates this desire for peace and the acknowledgement of one or various errors in the past.  What has changed is the “threat” the FARC represent for the US.

It wasn’t for nothing that the FARC sent a verbal message to Uribe, through Henry Acosta, which said “Tell President Uribe, that we are not interested in taking power nor in this becoming a socialist country.  We are in favour of a welfare economy with fairness and social justice.”[7]   Long gone are the struggles for land, and social justice replaces any socialist intentions.  Of course, the NGOs despite their declarations, in practice do not believe in social justice and much less in socialism and so they are very happy.  They believe in their own welfare and intend profiting from peace  just as they did from the war.

The Beginning of a New Path

Iván Márquez gives us an image of the negotiations that is not only far removed from the reality of the FARC but also negates the role that peasant, worker and human rights organisations have played throughout the last fifty years.  According to this FARC commander.

The peace accord is not an end point but a starting point for a multi-ethnic and multicultural people, united under the banner of inclusion to forge and sculpt the changes and social transformations that the majority cry out for.

Today we are handing over to the Colombian people the transformative power we have built over more than half a century of rebellion, so that it may, with this and the strength of unity, begin to construct the future society, that is part of our collective dream, with a sanctuary consecrated to democracy, social justice and the bonds of brotherhood and respect for everyone.[8]

Pretty words (and the rest of the speech is even prettier still), he should become a writer when he demobilises, but what he says is not true.  He might be right about the starting point, time will tell, although it doesn’t seem so.  However, it is not true that they are handing over a “transformative power”, as the people have always had this and the peasant and workers’ organisations have shown this many times, in strikes, protests and through the dead that they have sacrificed.  They are not beginning to construct a new society; they have been doing this a lot longer than the FARC have been.  It is funny that the FARC just like the state denies the agency of the communities that have demonstrated it time and again.

It is evident that the conflict is not over, not just because the ELN has not agreed to anything with the government, but because the social conflicts continue and the state reserves the right to respond to the mobilisation of the population through legal mechanisms (Police, Army, Judiciary) and extra-legal means like the paramilitaries.  Two days after signing the Final Accord, an A’wá indigenous leader was murdered in Tumaco and just now whilst revising this text, the news came in of the murder of three peasants in the municipality of Almaguer, Cauca, where the mining companies are trying to enter.  The “leftist intellectuals” who have observed a deathly silence on the problems of the what was negotiated, have only just begun to state that this is not the end of the conflict and it does not solve everything i.e. it solves little or nothing, but that it affords an opportunity to take a different path.  Up to a point they are right, as the armed option is now off the table for many, but a new path can only be taken if one actually wants to.  We know that the FARC are not thinking of that and there are many reasons to believe that those “leftist intellectuals”, NGOs and many social organisations are not thinking of this either.  If this were not the case, they would have said something about the agrarian accord which is limited to restating the legislation currently in force without any great changes.  Their silence since its publication tells us everything we can expect from them on this point and others.  They are loyal to the state, not the people.

The ELN and Peace

The ELN published a communiqué in which they said, first of all, that they were not covered or bound by anything in the agreements signed by the FARC.  This much is obvious; they are a different organisation with their own history, path and ideology, despite the points in common.  They also said that the accords solved nothing and whitewashed the state’s responsibility.

It is evident that the main aim of the FARC leadership is to become a legal organisation, accepting agreements that whitewash the state’s responsibility in the development of the dirty war and State Terrorism, whilst they distort the basic pillars of the Right of Rebellion.  Thus the government denies the political nature of the armed uprising and keeps intact the odious regime of violence, exclusion, inequality, injustice and depredation.[9]

The communiqué gave way to a furious reaction from the NGOs and “leftist intellectuals” whining about the insolence of the elenos to not bow to the state and to also criticise the empty content of what has been agreed in Havana.  Camilo González Posso acknowledged that the ELN’s demands are issues that have been dealt with by academics and others, but at the same time he expressed his concern that the ELN was asking for too much, something unachievable.

The ELN’s declaration expresses their disagreements with the essence of the agreements reached between the government and the FARC in Havana.  It is an open discussion in which we should go into detail on issues such as justice, participation or the reach of the reforms on rural issues, truth or the rights of victims.  If they agreed with the “basics of the agreement” the reality of the negotiations would be quite different.  It is the case that the ELN aims to achieve at the negotiating table more than the FARC gained in social reforms and negotiate the trial of the state in order that it recognise its responsibility in the dirty war and genocide, as part of a policy of official terrorism.  All of these aims could be seen as starting points for the process but they should not be seen as red lines as it is unlikely, given the circumstances, that the government would agree in Quito to a judgement against it for state terrorism which twenty years of social movements and international and national demands have not achieved.[10]

Others were more emphatic in their condemnation of the insolent elenos.  For his part, Lucho Celis, denounced the ELN in terms that would be laughable in  any other context, which show where they ngoers intend to go with peace.  They repeat the old phrase, “whoever is not with me is against me”.  According to Celis:

We have to acknowledge the ELN’s clarity in stating that they do not agree with the peace agreement, which makes them identical to Uribism.  Although they differ in their arguments, it is the case that on the extreme left where the ELN is to be found, there is a criticism and distancing from the process with the FARC, just like on the extreme right where the Democratic Centre is to be found, led by Álvaro Uribe.

… the ELN has stuck to a maximalist agenda as its path to a negotiated solution and it wants the future peace agreement to deal with all the issues that their political programme and understanding of the future believes should be changed, such as including “the necessary transformations to change the reality of the country.”[11]

Here we have a perfect example of what peace means to the ngoers, “leftist intellectuals” and other fans of the process.  We mustn’t speak of social transformations; that is maximalist and the communities that are fighting for land, against large-scale mining etc. are the mirror image of an extreme right led by Uribe.  There is one thing we should be clear about; on socio-economic issues there isn’t the slightest difference between Uribe and Santos.  This is one of the oft-repeated lies of the fans of the process that there are two models of society in discussion.  The second point, is that whether it is intentional or not, Celis engages in felon setting, just like the media have done throughout the conflict.  There is an internal enemy and if one doesn’t accept the state’s proposal then one is an ally of the enemy or bogeyman that is doing the rounds.  The new mantra is peace and it has to be repeated over and over again and be accepted without any criticism.  Everyone for peace no matter what! Hairdressers for peace, bakers for peace, but there will be no prostitutes for peace, that crown was stolen long ago by a clique of so-called intellectuals.

If the ELN made a mistake in its communiqué, it is that it came four years late.  The situation we find ourselves in, was foreseeable and some of us pointed this out very early on in the process.  If they had done this earlier, the ELN could have started a public debate on the reach of the peace process with the FARC and also with themselves.  If the “leftist intellectuals” had analysed and publicly critiqued the process, if they had fought for a an open process, if they had critically analysed the agreements, we would have a different debate today and we could propose a Constituent Assembly, just like the fans of the process assured us the FARC would not only get, but would accept nothing less. It was neither the first nor the last lie that fell from their lips.

Constituent Assembly

The idea of an Assembly is a good one, it could bring together different sectors of society, the left, and also democratic sectors, which are not to be found in abundance in the country, but they do exist.  There are currently circulating on the internet, some articles by the ex president of the Constitutional Court, Jaime Araujo Rentería, where he calls for a Constituent Assembly instead of the Plebiscite to be held on the 2nd of October.  His arguments are sound, it is more democratic, the future of the country could be discussed and unlike the plebiscite it is not a setting where we have to accept or reject everything.  However, the government rejected that idea a long time ago and the FARC immediately caved in on this point.  It is worth pointing out that the problems that exist in the process with the ELN have to do with their insistence on participatory mechanisms for the people.  The FARC, however, as good Stalinists, don’t have any major problem with excluding the people.

However, a Constituent Assembly does not drop out of thin air.  It has to come from a process and popular demand.  But this peace process took place behind the backs of the people and there aren’t really any popular demands but rather the demands of the NGOs.

The Plebiscite

So, there will be a vote on the Final Accord to take place on the 2nd of October.  Or that is what we are told.  The reality is more complex.  There is no real alternative to the Final Accord, there are no real options to the plebiscite, it is a yes to bring the shooting match with the FARC to an end or a no in order to continue with that conflict.  It is Hobson’s choice, this or nothing.  The people will probably vote yes, after all, who wants a war?  But in practice there will be no vote on the content of the Final Agreement, there will be no discussion of this.  And just as well! It guarantees impunity for the military, a definitive no to an agrarian reform and complete impunity for the businessmen who financed the paramilitaries or gave the order to kill, just to name three things.  If Colombians had to vote on the content it would be very problematic.  There are unions such as Sinaltrainal that disagree with various parts of the Final Accord, but say they will vote yes and they call for a Constituent Assembly.  Furthermore, they state that this does not mean they accept the social policies of the state and the Santos’ government or that they accept the violation of their rights, just because it is included in the agreements.

It is telling that after four years negotiating in Havana, the country is not going to vote on what was agreed, but rather about bringing the shooting match with the FARC to an end or not.  The left and social organisations are not debating the merits of what was agreed, because they know there is little or nothing that is good in it.  There is no greater condemnation of the negotiations of the last four years, that in the end nobody cares about them when it comes to voting.  The scale of the defeat of the FARC can be seen in the irrelevance of the content of the accords in national life.

The end of the FARC’s militarism is welcome, but the reformism that replaces it is not at all gratifying.

By Gearóid Ó Loingsigh -goloing@gmail.com

30/08/2016

____________________________________________

[1] El Tiempo (24/08/2016) ‘Cuidar a las Farc no es humillación, es el triunfo sobre el enemigo’ www.eltiempo.com

[2] El Tiempo (29/08/2016) ‘El ejército que quedará con armas es el de la República de Colombia’ entrevista con María Isabel Rueda www.eltiempo.com

[3] RCN (17/06/2016) Habrá incentivos tributarios para empresas que inviertan en zonas de posconflicto”: Consejero Rafael Pardo. www.rcnradio.com

[4] RT (29/08/2016) Detrás de la noticia: Entrevista exclusiva con Timoleón Jiménez ‘Timochenko’, con Eva Gollinger www.rt.com

[5] Jesús Pérez González-Rubio, Semana (25/08/2016) La paz es el camino, www.semana.com

[6] Discurso de Iván Márquez, La más hermosa de todas las batallas www.pazfarc-ep.org

[7] ELN (08/08/2016) Por La Paz, La Resistencia Continúa: Declaración De La Dirección Nacional Y El Comando Central, del Ejército De Liberación Nacional www.eln-voces.com

[8] González Posso, G. (08/08/2016) El ELN y La Paz Completa, www.indepaz.org.co

[9] Celiz, L.E. (17/08/2016) Las condiciones del ELN para negociar: ¿convicción o estrategia? www.pacifista.co

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