The South American Israel

Here is a state used by an imperial power to impose its order in a region. In every sphere, with every dollar of military aid it receives from the US, the Colombian state is heading down this route. And it’s in this sense that researchers from Venezuela and the Colombian member of Congress Gustavo Petro have warned of the arrival of an Israel in South America.

Colombia’s interior minister inveighs against Chavez and Lula. Chavez responds. Next, Uribe demands that Chavez expel the guerrillas that the Colombian army claims are in Venezuela, and that Chavez stop alleged ‘cross-border terrorism’ from Venezuela. Within hours of this statement, a bomb explodes in front of the Colombian consulate in Caracas, conveniently timed to provide veracity to Uribe’s claim. We have the South American Israel, taking shape.

The analogy can go further. Colombia looks much more like today’s Israel, complete with possession of Occupied Palestine, now that the Colombian state has been able to create an interminable conflict with a growing displaced population.

Two million were displaced between 1946 and 1958 in the civil conflict called La Violencia, in which 200,000 were killed. In the past 20 years 2.5 million have been displaced. A population the size of Occupied Palestine’s is internally displaced in Colombia. It is a minority of the population, but it is a big minority.

From a great mass of people who has suffered violence for decades, and continues to suffer, come armed groups with a psychology and practice that perpetuates conflict: A conflict with its roots, its very existence, in a state that refuses to recognize and and refuses to solve problems. The state instead chooses to take advantage of the ferocity of the guerrilla enemy, ferocity generated by the very behaviour of the state, to maintain the ferocity of state and parastate violence.

It is a vicious circle that is carefully incubated, grown, nurtured, and reproduced. The massacres conducted against the Liberals in the 1950s created the guerrilla groups that frequently committed their own massacres against conservative, and sometimes indigenous campesinos (like the massacre of tiniguas in Guayabero). The state was then able to prosecute its war against the ‘bandoleros’ and besides, have at its disposition many conservatives who were seeking revenge because they were victims of the victims of the conservatives.

History repeats itself generously in today’s violence. Once again there are victims and victims of the victims and of the mourners of the victims in a growing spiral. The guerrillas recruit hundreds of youths with each paramilitary massacre. A zone is reported ‘cleared’ by the paras, but in reality the guerrilla army is growing.

The actions of the guerrillas generate new vigilantes of the state and the parastate whose chiefs are children of parents killed by guerrillas. The two groups are set: the ‘Palestinians’ and the ‘Israelis’. Like in Israel/Palestine the majority of the Palestinians and Israelis do not exercise terror, but those who do use it find enough support to keep going year after year.

The state terrorism of Colombia, like that of Israel, is legitimized in terms of a fight against terrorism, and one terror feeds the other. Today there are not only rural massacres, but also aerial bombardments that don’t just target guerrillas but kill civilians (as in Gaza or the West Bank), as they did in the well known case of Santo Domingo (Arauca) and in the less well known cases in the old demilitarized zone or in Planadas (Tolima), Cacarica, and right now in El Carmen (Norte de Santander). On the other side there aren’t just kidnappings and attacks, but atrocious bombings that, like in Israel, also kill civilians.

The authors of the house and car bombings in Colombia are not Muslims like the young suicide bombers of Palestine. They do not, therefore, go to heaven with the bombs that kill them, but their psychology and their motivation are similar. Just as similar as the psychology and motivation of an Uribe and a Sharon.

The continuing displacement of the Palestinians in the news today have their parallel in the 200-300,000 campesinos, indigenous, and afro-Colombians who are displaced each year in Colombia, to whom the endless nature of the armed conflict has torn them from their land.

The same perverse international dynamics sustain the conflict, making Colombia the Israel of the region, a country the US uses to control Venezuela and its oil (as senator Coverdell announced 3 years ago), a country used to control Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, to impose the FTAA and/or the bilateral trade agreements all over the continent.

Uribe dreams of treating Chavez like a Saddam and Lula like a Sadat. But here the analogy fails completely and the strategy of Coverdell and Uribe is shown to be very fragile.

Because the fragile South American Israel has 68% of its population in poverty, is stuck in an economic crisis that it is only very slowly recovering from at the price of multiplying its growing public debt and risking a fiscal crisis. It has heavy, growing war taxes.

Its neoliberal economic team could compete with Argentina’s Cavallo for both past disgrace and present glories. Its future depends on the willingness of Washington to assume the economic costs of this Israel before it crashes like any old Argentina or Indonesia. Uribe is betting that Washington will sustain him whatever the cost-him and the corrupt caste of leaders of the traditional parties and speculative latifundistas. By doing so, Uribe has made Colombia a danger to the whole world.

[translated by Justin Podur]

Hector Mondragon is a Colombian activist and economist, and regular ZNet commentator based in Colombia.

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