This is a pretty amazing thing that anyone on the Left has won at all in Colombia. Colombia is an odd country. Although recently up to 80% of the people lived in poverty, Colombia has long been like the US and Turkey in that it has an inveterate rightwing culture.
The cultures of Turkey, Colombia, and to an increasing extent the US do not make sense because the conservatism is hostile to the vast majority of the population, especially in the former too countries. I’d argue that it’s the case in the US too.
The problem in the US is that everyone thinks they are part of the ruling class. 25% of Americans say they are in the top 1% income class. So 25% of Americans insist that they are rich! In addition, 50% of Americans say they will be millionaires one day, and this poll was taken a while back when being a millionaire actually meant something.
The rightwing has never offered the Colombian masses anything but arrest, beatings, imprisonment, abduction, rape, and murder. Indeed the Colombian oligarchy is genocidal and always has been.
They’re at least as genocidal as the Salvadoran, Nicaraguan, Dominican, Haitian, and Guatemalan oligarchies and they are more genocidal than the Argentine, Peruvian, Venezuelan, and Chilean oligarchies. In fact, the Colombian oligarch is only rivaled in its genocidal extent by the Guatemalan oligarchy.
The ruling classes of Mexico, the Caribbean, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Uruguay and not particularly murderous, nor are they genocidal. However, the Ecuadorian, Paraguayan, and Bolivian oligarchies are profoundly undemocratic and all experienced recent rightwing fascist coups supported by the US, the EU, and NATO.
In Ecuador and Paraguay, the coup regimes are still in power. Bolzonaro in Brazil was also pretty much installed by a judicial coup that the US FBI participated in. He also has profound antidemocratic tendencies. Brazil in an odd country like Colombia in that the majority of the population is sometimes or always openly fascist, murderous and authoritarian.
Since the Colombian masses never got anything from the Right, it is curious why they have always supported them. The guerrilla have long realized that the oligarchy will only give up power at the barrel of a gun, which was the reason they took up arms in the first place. The guerrillas have been fairly brutal and have engaged in some questionable tactics.
Further, oddly enough, the class hatred is not very thick there, though it ought to be. Nevertheless, the guerrilla have long has mass popular support.
Every time the guerrilla lay down their arms and tried to seek power via peaceful methods, they were massacred like flies. A while back, 6,000 disarmed FARC rebels who had formed a political party were slaughtered over a period of a few years while the US cheered this on.
The argument was that they still deserved to be killed because although they had laid down arms and formed a political party, they still “supported” the armed group. I guess down there, “supporting” the armed groups is a death sentence. That’s curious because it sounds like a thought crime to me.
The guerrilla was forced to take up arms as all peaceful efforts at change were blocked, usually by violence and often by mass violence. A candidate named Gaitan won the election in 1948 on a popular platform and was very quickly murdered by the oligarchy. This led to riots called the Bogotazo.
This was followed by La Violencia in which the Liberal and Conservative parties both formed militias and massacred each other for a decade. Over 200,000 people were killed in this bloodletting.
Some peasants got tired of waiting for the government to come out and kill them so they took over some land called Marquetalia and formed a little community there on communist principles. They were very poorly armed and mostly wanted to be left alone and opt out of the massacres. The US and Colombian media panicked and called in a Communist takeover.
US generals went down to Colombia to give the Colombians arms and assistance. The military then attacked Marquetalia under the watch of US advisors. The Marquetalians were poorly armed and there was no contest and they were simply massacred. A few of them escaped and this is how the FARC was formed in a massacre in 1964.
Camilo Torres, the archetypal priest with a machine gun preaching Liberation Theology, formed the ELN in 1965 with a pro-Cuban ideology. He was quickly killed, but his “Christian Communist” group lived on. Idiotically, the FARC and ELN and to a lesser extent the EPL Maoists spent a good part of their time killing each other instead of joining forces against the rich. Most of this was initiated by the FARC, which had morphed into a quite brutal army.
The EPL still exists to this day.
The FARC has disbanded in a peace deal and formed a political party, however, demobbed rebels have been massacred like flies in the countryside.
Hence, logically, quite a few FARC members took up the gun again. Unfortunately some of these groups were just gangs of common criminals. In one case, they switched from leftwing to rightwing and began attacking the Venezuelan government in an alliance with the Colombian military. Others seem to be little other than drug dealing gangs.
However, there are 4,000 FARC members active again, and quite a few of them have good values.
There were large riots due to the increased cost of living, cuts in social services, large increases in bus fares, electricity prices, etc. in an anti-worker austerity project. The riots turned rowdy and violent but in general were not deadly.
The police and the state responded with mass violence like they always do. Over 600 young people, mostly students, were murdered or disappeared. Many bodies appeared with gruesome signs of torture and dismemberment.
The guerrilla supported the riots but wisely decided to stay out of it instead of protecting the people against fascist violence because they did not want to allow the state to associate the rioters with the armed Left as this would give the state a huge opportunity to massacre the rioters as “guerrillas.”
From the start, the state lied and said that the riots were a Communist plot led by the FARC and the ELN, while instead they were simply an organic phenomenon from the base masses of society and the guerrilla had nothing to do with it. But if you want to kill someone in Latin America, you just label them a “guerrilla supporter” and there you go. You have a license to put a bullet in his head.
After all of those gruesome deaths at the hands of the very active death squads of the Colombian state, I was wondering when the Colombian masses would get it through their heads that there was no peaceful way out of this mess as long as this murderous oligarchy existed.
However, I saw a recent Vice show in which many of the students who had rioted had gone to the jungle and were forming armed factions of the ELN. They seemed to be a bit different than the ELN proper as they said they were against drug trafficking, whereas the guerrilla don’t really take a stand on drug trafficking and instead simply tax the farmers and traffickers.
They seemed to be bit starry-eyed and naive to me. The ELN seems to have accepted them as fellow guerrillas. In the interviews, the new guerrillas were saying that there was no way to change the system other than violence because all peaceful routes to change were blocked by the oligarchy. I was wondering when they would figure that out! I guess it took 600 mutilated and tortured dead bodies of their comrades to get it through their heads.
The Colombian state is one of the most violent far right or fascist governments on Earth, certainly in the Americas. It’s long been one of the most evil countries in the Hemisphere, if not on Earth. Anyone labeled leftwing in any way can be murdered by the state down there at any time.
So of course the US has five military bases down there, more than in any other Latin American country. The armed forces are full of US advisors and US spy satellites spy on the guerrilla for the army. In fact, Colombia is so fascist and murderous that it has even won the admiring attention of the fascist and pro-Nazi NATO and EU.
It is perhaps due to the earthshaking riots and resulting violence that finally woke up the slumbering Colombian masses that the center-left Petro had a chance at all. The Colombian oligarchy and death squads threatened Petro with death a number of times during the race. I won’t be surprised if he is assassinated. He’s not really a Leftist; instead, he is more center-left.
I’m not even quite sure of his policies! I believe he wants a peaceful relationship with Venezuela though, but if I am not mistaken, he has made some unfriendly remarks towards the Bolivarian state. It is interesting that both the Chavistas and the Colombian guerrilla refer to their project as Bolivarian, so there is a cross country link based on that alone.
Beyond that, I’m not sure where Petro stands on much of anything but compared to the murderous fascists who have ruled Venezuela since Independence, it has to be seen as a step up. Right now I think he is just trying not to get killed. How will he deal with the genocidal oligarchy and its murderous police, military, and death squads? How will he deal with the murderous paramilitaries (these are the death squads), supposedly independent but actually an arm of the state and wealthy landowners and drug dealers?
I’m a bit curious about what exactly he can get done. As you might have guessed due to the genocidal massacres the state has been engaging in since 1947, Colombia has yet to do a land reform. It’s not a mistake to say that most of the conflict down there revolves around land as it did in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Peru.
If a land reform would have been done, a lot of this violence could have been prevented. In fact the massacres are best seen as a violent, murderous latifundista class where 1% of the population owns almost all of the land and is willing to kill 100,000’s of people to prevent a land reform.
As such, I am quite curious about just what Petro can get done. In fact, I haven’t even looked at his program much. I’d say that with Colombia though, there’s nowhere to go but up.