The response of the President has pitted the real Alvaro Uribe against the country in the same way that he pitted himself against human rights and agrarian reform in his speech of September 8. The chatty, provincial charm is gone. It has been replaced by the whip of a thoroughly mediocre rancher who had already promised punishment for the ‘few enemies of his perfect regime’. Today he shouts threats of new taxes and new miseries in every direction.
Every trick in the book was employed to make people vote in the referendum: economic offers to voters; a demand by pro-Uribe businesses that their workers show certificates that they voted; a day off work for state workers who voted; a decision by the Electoral Council making null votes valid. None of them worked. Instead, the Colombian people handed Uribe a massive ‘NO’ to his plan to demolish fundamental constitutional rights. The plan continues, however, with the constitutional reform bills now being presented to the Congress. The Congress, nearly at the same time as the referendum, rejected the proposal that would have permitted Uribe’s re-election.
Lucho Garzon — oil worker, ex-president of Colombia’s Union Central, the CUT – is now the mayor of Bogota and a great tribute to the worker’s struggle against those who triggered the devastating offensive of Uribe’s government from the day it commenced its mandate. it is a tribute to the workers against whom Uribe applied his ‘labor reforms’, his privatizations, his liquidations of enterprises, his wage cuts and freezes.
We cry with him. We remember Jaime Pardo, Orlando Higuita, Teofilo Forero, Manuel Cepeda, Jose Antequera, Miguel Angel Diaz who was disappeared. This is the saddest part of this victory: to know that we won’t be able to count on so many hundreds of irreplaceable people in the days ahead. Because the days ahead will be hard: Uribe, in naked aggression, against the rights of the people.
The people want to open a new route to peace: this was especially evident in the election of Angelino Garzon as governor of Valle with 61% of the vote. Angelino is a symbol of a negotiated, political solution to the conflict, a solution he has spent his life’s work looking for, and his election means that the people have understood that Uribe’s war demogoguery has taken the country to the brink of disaster. In Medellin, where the highest percentage of the population voted for the referendum, the centre-left candidate of the opposition to Uribe still won the mayoral election.
The popular victories of October 25 and 26 are an oasis in the middle of difficult days. We are still far from our destination. We lost a lot in the first disastrous year of Uribe’s government. In 2003 workers lost $2 billion dollars because of Uribe’s reforms. Telecom and the Agrarian Reform institute have been liquidated. Ecopetrol has been converted from a public enterprise. 100 more unionists have been killed. Hundreds of indigenous, campesino, and union leaders have been detained in every corner of the country.
Meanwhile, the accord pardoning the paramilitaries is being prepared. So are a set of dictatorial constitutional reforms, floods of taxes with simultaneous cuts to transfer payments to departments, municipalities, indigenous reserves, to pay debt service and war costs. A bilateral free trade agreement is being negotiated with the US. Uribe won’t be diverted from his project.
[translated by Justin Podur]