Stop the Bombing of the Demilitarized Zone


The Colombia Solidarity Campaign condemns the Pastrana government for its unilateral decision to break negotiations with the FARC and its bombing of the zone for dialogue. We call for mobilisations to protest against this dangerous escalation of the civil war in Colombia.

Colombian Government Unilaterally Breaks Talks 

 The official peace process in Colombia ended at 12.00 midnight on 20th February. By 5 minutes past twelve on 21st February the Colombian Armed Forces began bombarding the ‘zone for dialogue’, a 16,000 square mile area in the south of the country. According to RCN (national Radio) over 200 bombing missions were carried out that night. So far three civilians have been reported dead, many more deaths can be expected as a result of the bombing.

The Colombian army is using Blackhawk helicopters provided by the USA under Plan Colombia, along with other military aircraft to attack 85 strategic targets in the zone. These attack forces have been built up over the last two years with the aid of $2 billion from Washington. They have been equipped, trained and inspired by US governments to conduct counterinsurgency warfare. All that planning is now being put into practice.

The FARC, the largest guerrilla organisation in Colombia, have had control of the demilitarised zone for the last three years since negotiations began. The talks have threatened to break down many times, but were always pulled back from the brink at the last moment. This time however, there was no reprieve and at 9.00pm on Wednesday night President Pastrana announced on national television that he had passed four decrees to end the peace process. Firstly, he ended negotiations and announced removal of the FARC’s political status. Secondly, that the demilitarised zone was terminated. Thirdly, that arrest warrants had been reactivated for FARC negotiators, and finally that the permission to set up a civilian police force in the demilitarised region had been revoked.

Pastrana gave the FARC and the civilian population in the zone less than three hours to leave, thereby flagrantly breaking the agreement he made on 21st January to give a clear 48 hours notice. Pastrana has unilaterally broken the process of dialogue.

Pastrana’s move came after the FARC had allegedly hijacked a commercial airliner on an internal flight and kidnapped the senator Jorge Eduardo Gechem Turbay on 20th February. Raul Reyes, chief spokesman for the FARC denied any knowledge of the kidnapping. The FARC responded in a communiqué published hours after Pastrana’s speech, rejecting the government’s belligerent attitude:

“Pastrana, in his speech to the nation broke-off negotiations with the FARC – People’s Army… the intolerance of the oligarchy has been a constant for almost two centuries of bi-partisan domination, and with the rupture of the talks the government once again has shown its commitment to war and against the interests of the popular classes. Tonight the bi-partisan liberal conservative rulers in a show of arrogance unprecedented in the history of Colombia called for more blood from the Armed Forces, one of the main perpetrators of state terrorism in this Latin American Country..” (Translated from EL Pais 21st Feb 2002)

Colombia’s second guerrilla movement the ELN issued a statement on 21st February that “we greatly regret this outcome because we believe that in Colombia the correct way can only be a political solution to the armed social conflict which our country and society are living through.”

No Peace Without Social Justice

Although there have been talks it was not a real process of peace or reconciliation. The Colombian state has all the while continued its dirty war through the paramilitary death squads. And so the FARC has refused to agree a ceasefire so long as the paramilitaries are allowed to operate with impunity.

But at least while the talks were in process there was some hope of a peaceful solution. Pastrana has done his best to extinguish that hope. The army’s generals egged on by the USA have been pushing for all out war. And now they have their way. We condemn the Pastrana government’s solution to the conflict, relying on US gunships to silence opposition movements.

The Colombian government claims that the FARC are ‘terrorists’ and is engaged in its own war against terror, backed by the USA in its global mission to rid the world of terrorism. The reality is different. The Colombian state is itself the principal source of terrorism and human rights violations against the people. The Colombian armed forces, the USA and the paramilitaries will now begin an all out assault on all those forces that oppose the neoliberal economic programme that has wreaked havoc on the population over the last 10 years.

Officially 20.3 % of the urban population is unemployed, but this figure is an enormous underestimate as up to 60% of adults are ‘underemployed’, that is with no regular job. The neoliberal project has driven 68% of the population into poverty, while the small elite has grown increasingly wealthy on the backs of privatisation programmes that have forced up prices for public services and sacked thousands of workers.

The same president who has been conducting economic warfare against the majority of Colombians has turned to an all out military assault on resistance. The consequences of Pastrana’s latest decision spell disaster for the people of Colombia, with conflict likely to spread across the country.

For the Colombian trade union movement the collapse of the talks is likely to lead to further assassinations of their leaders, 3,500 of whom have been murdered by state and parastate forces since 1986. For the peasants, black communities and indigenous peoples the end of the talks is likely to lead to more massacres in rural areas as the military and the paramilitaries clear the land for the multinationals.

The Colombian state backed by US imperialism is now at war, not against drugs, nor against terror but against working people whose only crime is to struggle for peace with social justice.

London, 22nd February 2002

Colombia Solidarity Campaign PO Box 8446, London N17 6NZ e-mail: [email protected]

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