In the first quarter of 2008, a strong political shift has emerged, which allows the local and global rightwing and multinational corporations to regain their positions and boost their offensives. This shift is not limited to Colombia, which represents its centre, but extends to countries like Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru, essentially affecting the entire region.
If there ever was a balance between the FARC and the Colombian Armed Forces, over the last few months it has fallen heavily in favour of the state. The guerrilla has lost all possibility of negotiating a humanitarian accord under favourable conditions, it cannot maintain military or political offensives, it has been intensely discredited by the population, and it lacks sufficient national and international allies. Even given this reality, the most probable scenario is that the FARC will continue on, with diminished capacity and a likely fragmentation among its leaders and fronts, a situation suggested by the outcome of the liberation of the 15 hostages.
The strategy employed by the Southern Command and the Pentagon, as expressed through Phase II of Plan Colombia, contemplates neither the definitive defeat of nor the possible negotiation with the guerrilla. Removing the FARC from the scene would be bad news for the imperial strategy of destabilization and re-colonization in the Andean region, which Fidel Castro has defined as “pax romana.” This project cannot be realized without war, be it direct or indirect; which is to say, without permanent destabilization as a form of territorial and political reconfiguration in this strategic region, which includes the arc of Venezuela, Bolivia and Paraguay, passing through Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
On one hand, it is about clearing the Andean region to facilitate the current multinational business model (open pit mining, oil and gas exploitation, biodiversity, monocultures for ‘biofuels’) which requires the appropriation of common goods as much as it does the displacement of the populations that continue to live in these spaces. We are not facing so-called “normal” capitalism, which was capable in a given moment of establishing alliances and agreements which gave life to benefactor states based on the triple alliance between the state, national businesspeople, and unions. Instead, this is a financial-speculative-accumulation-by-dispossession model, which substitutes negotiations with wars and the extraction of surplus value by appropriating nature. In other words, this is war capitalism in an age of imperial decadence.
This system assumes the form of criminal or mafia capitalism in countries like Colombia, not only because it functions well through war and theft but also because war and theft form its central nucleus, its principle form of accumulation. This explains the close link between private war companies, which in Colombia employ two to three thousand mercenaries, or ‘contractors’ as they are now called, and the paramilitary state, headed up by President Álvaro Uribe, situated in an alliance between paramilitaries and narco-traffickers.
In Colombia, there are three forces that have faced off against the current state of affairs: the guerrilla, the political left of the Polo Democrático Alternativo and social movements. The first believes that they can win through weapons or negotiate with this new power. The Polo Democrático rejects the role of Washington and of multinational corporations as designers and beneficiaries of the paramilitary mafia state, and thus overestimates the margins of democracy. Social movements, for their part, have massive difficulties in emerging out of local and sectarian struggles and are not in the condition, at present, to position themselves as alternative actors.
Phase II of Plan Colombia is the mechanism used in designing this militarist state, and in this moment, is seeking to consolidate it. Now that the FARC do not represent any major risk for this project, the objective of drawing out the conflict over the long term becomes clear. Far from opening spaces for negotiation, as is the desire of the left, the message over the last few months has indicated a single way forward: neither peace nor surrender will guarantee the lives of guerrillas. They either fight and resist, or wait for their extermination, as happened at the end of the 1980s. The idea is to hit the territorial heart of the guerrillas in order to displace them towards border zones with Venezuela and Ecuador, where Plan Colombia II aspires to convert them into instruments of regional destabilization.
For this reason, Venezuela and Hugo Chavez have adopted the strategy of reducing tensions with the Uribe government. It is not an ideological question, as some analysts claim. That argument is fine in coffee shops and academic circles, but of little value when the subject matter is the survival of projects of social change. If the imperial project is consolidated, the entire region will suffer from polarization, and it is from there that the urgency to deescalate the conflicts stems, as much in Colombia as in Argentina and Bolivia.
Neither will an eventual triumph of Barack Obama change things. It may temper the most authoritarian strains of ‘Uribismo’, which explains the extreme nervousness of Bogotá and its solid alliance with John McCain, the Republican candidate. What is certain is that the plans of the Southern Command do not depend on who is in the White House, and that their aim is to promote comprehensive actions that convert the region into a stable, impregnable bastion for the maintenance of US hegemony.
In sum, the imperial elites aspire to use physical armed force to regain their decadence in the re-colonization of Latin America. In moments like this, only popular mobilization and action through political channels can weaken the offensive coming from the North.
Raúl Zibechi is a Uruguayan journalist, professor and researcher in the Latin American Franciscan Multiversity, and an advisor to various social groups.
(Translated by Dawn Paley for the La Chiva Collective, a Colombia solidarity group based in Western Canada.)