On April 18, 2002, the US Congress announced a new bill intended to raise the amounts and the involvement of military aid to the government of Colombia. The text of the bill, released with the visit of Colombian President Andres Pastrana to Washington, extends military aid that is now no longer legally limited to the war on drugs, but now extends to the war on ‘terror’ and against ‘any other threat to Colombia’s security’ besides.
The addition of ‘terrorism’ comes as no surprise to anybody: from the very beginning of Plan Colombia as a counterdrug operation, it was widely known that this was a pretext to help the Colombian government in its war against the guerrillas. The counterinsurgency flavor of the Plan has now become its open objective, thanks to the conditions created since 9/11 and the ending of the peace dialogues in Colombia. But it is these ‘other threats to security’ that are what people in Colombia call a ‘mico’, something tacked on to the end of the law.
What are, or could be, these threats? Presidents Bush and Pastrana have not hidden the agreement they have in their disfavor of the Venezuelan government led by Hugo Chavez. Their meeting was just ending as the Venezuelan coup attempt failed. Bush and Pastrana competed to make the most anti-Chavez declaration. Pastrana said that spokespeople for the FARC in Mexico had taken refuge in Venezuela without pointing out that those spokespeople left at exactly the time that Chavez was (momentarily) toppled by the coup.
The Colombian media have spent the past two years inventing unfavorable stories about Venezuela. Colombia’s general CarreÃ±o and the paramilitaries, acting as a Colombian choir for the Venezuelan coup plotters, said in the days before the coup in Caracas that FARC guerrillas were operating out of Venezuela. Business and landowning elites in Colombia have fumed against the government of the Bolivarian republic in unison with the Fedecamaras (business council) of the Venezuela’s 24-hour president Pedro Carmona.
In April 10, 2000 the US senator Coverdell said that it would be necessary to intervene militarily in Colombia– to control Venezuela! It’s highly likely that this ‘mico’ added on to the law was added in order to prepare a military aggression against the Chavez government. If the war against drugs was a pretext for a war against the insurgency, now the armed conflict in Colombia has become a pretext for an attack on Venezuela and against the Chavez government.
The attack on Venezuela would be justified in terms of ‘Colombia’s security’, and the ramifications for the region of this ‘Coverdell logic’ are horrifying. The method could be applied against the indigenous uprisings in Ecuador and of course, against a future government of the Worker’s Party in Brazil. The US government would turn Colombia into a wedge to drive into Latin America.
The new bill takes the continent back to the days of the doctrine of ‘national security’, to the years of coups and assassinations, tortures, and disappearances of thousands of brazilians, argentinians, chileans, bolivians, central americans and colombians. That doctrine that put bulls-eye targets over every unionist, peasant leader, indigenous leader and political activist. Those who would see Latin America return to these days are looking at the continent with their hair standing on end, between the ‘argentinazo’, the campesino mobilizations in Bolivia, the continuing growth of Brazil’s Landless Peasant Movement (MST) and especially the reforms in Venezuela.
In Caracas we’ve seen something that hasn’t been seen in years– a division in civil society. On one side, the oligarchy and business leaders succeeded in mobilizing a large part of the eastern Caracas middle class, 350 000 against Chavez. On the other side, a million people of the poorest neighborhoods and diverse popular sectors who live in the city’s west side mobilized to restore the Bolivarian government. The landowners tried to take the opportunity to dislocate the campesinos who had benefited from Chavez’s agrarian law, but those campesinos mobilized massively in Caracas to defend the constitutional government.
The large media found that for all its tremendous power, its reach ended with the subordination of the middle class and failed to controll the lived experience of the organized poor who defended the programs of credit for women, of school lunches, of public schools, of agrarian reforms and of an oil politics that has allowed the Venezuelan state to intervene in society again.
And this, of course, is the ‘great threat to security': the wishes of the Latin American people, tired of states that intervene only on behalf of transnational corporations and the wealthy, impoverished to the extreme by neoliberalism and the free-trade economy.
The traditional circles of power in Colombia have not hesitated at all to stab Venezuela in the back. They know that they are the Pedro Carmonas of the world. They have used violence to exterminate the political opposition of Colombia and to throw the peasants off of their lands. The Colombian regime is the laboratory of violence against the winds of change that are blowing in Venezuela and elsewhere in the continent.
Increasing military aid will not stop the insurgency, just like Plan Colombia did not stop or slow illegal cultivation, because the causes of these phenomena lie deeper, in the regime itself. The military aid to Colombia could, however, succeed in its real purpose: using violence to destroy processes of social change and the struggles of the poor in Latin America, exactly as has occurred in Colombia.
Hector Mondragon has been working all his life in social movements in Colombia. He works as an economic advisor to various indigenous and peasant organizations.