Thursday, October 16, 2008

The following article is from the Anarkismo website, and it tells the story of recent repression in the country of Colombia.
Commotion in Colombia!!!!:

“The National Government has declared tonight State of Internal Commotion related to the problem of jusitice” [1]. Those were the words used by Álvaro Uribe, president of Colombia, to declare the State of Internal Commotion (Emergency), the night of Thursday 9th of October. The reason given was the “serious” problem supposedly facing the country because of the strike of Workers of the Legal Sector, organised in the union ASONAL. The very president who is infamous for his constant attacks against the Supreme Court of Justice, who has done as much as possible to hinder the free exercise of the Judiciary, who has done everything he could to guarantee the impunity for his associates charged of links to right-wing death squads (who had been accomplices and masterminds behind crimes against humanity), he was the same person to give a quasi-apocalyptic account of the effects of the legal sector workers “neglection”, according to which thousands of “misfits” would end up running wild in the streets. The very president who is pushing forward a reform to strengthen his grip over the Judiciary and who is a champion of the para-politics impunity, at the same time that he is sabotaging the draft law being discussed in the Senate to compensate the victims of the armed conflict (for he does not recognise that people displaced, maimed, raped, murdered, disappeared and massacred by State forces can possibly be “victims”!), he, all of a sudden, has turned into the champion of Justice!

Let us remember that the State of Internal Commotion is a legal instrument created with the 1991 Constitution as a way to limit the excessive use of the State of Emergency in the past (between 1970 and 1991 only, 17 full years were under State of Emergency)[2]. This is a sort of State of Emergency, which has to be ratified by the Constitutional Court, which is at Uribe’s feet, so it is obvious that it will follow orders from its master and the State of Emergency is likely to be approved for 90 days, with the possibility of two more periods of identical duration [3]. However, while the Constitutional Court decides, what could take over a month, the decree is in effect. In this particular case, the excuse of the government is the unavoidable need of the government to replace workers in the judiciary and to avoid people to be left free as the terms of their process expire without anyone looking after their cases because of the strike. This is done with an eye of avoiding the supposed apocalyptic scenario which Colombia faces, according to the government.

But in reality, the decree has been used as a way to break ASONAL’s strike, something which has been admitted even by the official press: “Of course, it is up to the Constitutional Court to determine if this faculty is in accordance to the requirements of the State of Internal Commotion. But that constitutional control will only be effective in a couple of months, while the decree had been applied for that time and the strike had been suffocated by this mechanism. This is nothing but a shortcut in order to avoid the existing regulations to face the supposed illegal nature of the strike in a public sector such as the judiciary (…) It will be a difficult task to justify to the international community, concerned as it is on the issue of the fundamental rights of Colombian trade unionists, this supposed consensus to crush a strike with exceptional mechanisms of public order” [4]

The State of Emergency is nothing but another way to use repression against the workers, just as it has been used in the past ESMAD (ed. riot police) to face every single conflict in Colombia, conflicts that burst in a non-stop chain reaction over the last couple of months. This shows the extremes to which the government is willing to go to suffocate a movement which is only aiming at a wage increase as stipulated by law. And repression has already started: the first disciplinary investigations started against workers on strike [5]. Needless to say, these investigations are aimed at breaking the workers unity, intimidate workers and look for scapegoats, so as to force workers into work again. The only guarantee for workers’ victory In any strike is unity: to spread panic and to play the card of the “survival instinct” in the face of reprisals, are ways of breaking it.

This measure represents, also, a new step in order to strengthen the control of the Executive over the Judiciary, for it has been a long year since they have not stopped having conflict after conflict. And it is also a way to reinforce Uribe’s road to an open dictatorship which has been silently being consolidated in Colombia; a dictatorship which is, by the way, unashamedly at the service of Big Business. In honour to the truth, this measure was not even Uribe’s idea, as he was following precise orders given by the banker Luis Carlos Sarmiento Angulo, an important businessman from Aval holding. This chain of command let clear for everyone where does power lay in Colombia and which are those interests that the State subserviently defends [6]. It is clear, also, that the State of Emergency which will give extraordinary faculties to the Executive, in mo way is intended to be a transient measure: this will remain in place irrespective from the strike and it will be applied in two phases until 2010, as the minister of home affairs and justice, Fabio Valencia Cossio, admitted [7].
Authoritarianism and People’s Struggles
The State of Emergency is an authoritarian response to the difficult scenario ahead of Uribe and the Big Business he represents: numerous labour conflicts, with oil workers, ASONAL, sugar cane cutters on strike, the latter giving a tough fight for over a month, conflicts about housing, crisis within the State because of the struggle between the Executive and the Judiciary, corruption cases and links to right-wing paramilitaries of government politicians, and on top of all this, an economic crisis that will hit hard on Colombia. The scenario is quite difficult and an iron fist is needed to control this volatile situation. But the authoritarian resort and the disproportionate use of force to suppress the strikes, will likely cause further conflicts within the very dominant block. Indeed, the State Council expressed disagreement with such a measure claiming it inadequate and hasty [8].

Workers of ASONAL, after analyzing and pondering the situation, decided not to call off the strike, what constitutes an amazingly brave decision if we take into account the difficulties ahead [9]. So the strike will keep going on until the demand of wage increase is met now and not in March 2009 as proposed by Uribe [10]. Together with the sugar cane cutters and other people’s movements, this week there will be increased mobilisation. As the spokesperson of the judiciary workers stated, decisions like this reinforce the will of the workers. Hopefully this prompts a higher degree of unity of the popular layers of society, in order to avoid the open dictatorship.

It is difficult to foresee the impact of this measure, but it is clear that the mechanisms for the dictatorship of an hypertrophied Executive are in place and strengthened, a State which is highly militarised and were the Executive has no counter-balance. We know for sure that Uribe will try to use this moment to his best advantage, at a time when the Colombian oligarchy though is still on a full speed ahead offensive against the working class, it is also running out of steam and showing the first cleavages on its foundations. It is time for the people, which are still on a defensive situation, disorganised and battered for two decades of relentless repression and paramilitary genocide, to struggle with whatever forces they have, in a realistic but not pessimistic manner, and looking for chances to take an offensive step again. To hesitate now equals a self-imposed defeat. It is necessary to prompt the unity of the various expressions of the people’s movement, from the bottom up, with an eye on the necessary and joint struggle to get as much as possible in this moment, where the people can recover some of the lost ground.

From this platform we have kept track of the authoritarian evolution of Uribe’s regime. From this platform we have called for the unity of the Colombian people for the sake of a social programme of far-reaching change. From this platform we support today, without any sort of hesitation, the struggle of the Colombian people against the State of Emergency decreed by Álvaro Uribe’s “democratic façade” dictatorship. And from this platform, as well, we call for national and international solidarity with the unions on strike, who are giving an exemplary lesson in courage and dignity to all of the Latin American people.
Down with the State of emergency!
Solidarity with the Judiciary workers and sugar cane cutters!
In support of the people’s resistance against this authoritarian system!
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.13 de Octubre del 2008
Of course the present state of emergency in Colombia comes on the heels of decades of government and right wing paramilitary murders and repression. Here's another article from the Anarkismo site, a protest against the murder of 46 men earlier this year.
Public Statement on the Extra-Judicial Execution of at least 46 Young Men in Colombia (Grupo Raíces):
by Grupo Raíces - Grúpa Fréamhacha raices2007 at gmail dot com
We, Grupo Raíces/Grúpa Fréamhacha, condemn the extra-judicial execution of 46 Colombian young men between January and August this year, as emerged on the news two weeks ago. The facts are as follows:
1. 46 young men, 23 of them originally from Sohacha and Ciudad Bolivar some of the most deprived areas of the Capital, Bogotá, were registered as disappeared by their families; however two weeks ago, it was reported that they had been “killed in combat” by the 30th Brigade of the Colombian Army in Ocaña, Norte de Santander, under the command iof General Paulino Coronado. The version of being killed in combat was shown to be untrue because none of the young men were killed, according to the coroner, any later than 48 hours after their disappearance. This time frame does not give enough time for them to have been recruited by any irregular armed group, to have been trained and then to have been sent into combat.
2. It has emerged that the Army in alliance with paramilitaries may have kidnapped the young men (tricked by offering them jobs elsewhere) and then killed them to benefit from the deed—even the Minister of Defence, Juan Manuel Santos, was forced to acknowledge that there is still an ongoing practice in the Colombian army of demanding quotas of guerrillas killed by army officers.
3. We insist that this is not a one-off case: there have been countless others murdered in similar circumstances. There are, up to the present, some 1015 cases of selective extra-judicial murders of civilians by the Colombian army since Álvaro Uribe came to power. These victims are later disguised as guerrilla fighters and reported as "killed in combat".
4. We also denounce the fact that this is a systematic practice of the government and the army in Colombia— both to cleanse the country of the opposition and also for the army to be able to show better results in the internal war that has persisted in Colombia for six decades. Indeed this is not the first time that the 30th Brigade of Norte de Santander, under Commander Paulino Coronado, has been accused of extra-judicial executions of civilians later to be presented as guerrillas.
5. We condemn the fact that all of this is happening without any strong condemnation from the EU authorities, who continue with their policy of uncritical and full support to the government of Álvaro Uribe, in spite of mounting and undeniable evidence of the systematic violation of human rights in the name of "counter-insurgency".
Grupo Raíces - Grúpa Fréamchacha
Dublin (Baila Átha Cliath), Ireland
9th October 2008
Finally, A PROTEST, due to be held later today in Ireland
Capoeira and Demonstration in Solidarity with Colombia :
by Grupo Raíces - Grúpa Fréamacha

A group of Irish and Latin Americans living in Ireland will hold a demonstration in support of human rights and peace in Colombia. The demonstration, which features an exhibition of the Brazilian martial art Capoeira, will take place outside the GPO on Thursday, 16th October at 18:00. The event is organised by Raices (Roots) Group, in collaboration with Amnesty International (Wexford), and is timed to mark the opening of a national human rights conference in Colombia, which will be attended by a delegation from Ireland.
The conference in Colombia has been organised by CoMoSoc, and umbrella civil society organisation that represents women, indigenous peoples, workers, peasants, grassroots Christians and Afro-Colombians. Events in Colombia will begin with a demonstration on the 16th, followed by the conference on the 18th and 19th. The aim of the conference is to highlight human rights abuses by the State, and to build an agenda for sustainable peace in Colombia. The Irish delegation includes Father Raymond Murray from Northern Ireland; a representative of SIPTU; and a member of Raices Group.
The background to the demonstration and conference is sixty years of armed conflict between the State and irregular armed groups, fuelled by social exclusion, poverty, lack of opportunities, unequal distribution of wealth, and an environment of political intolerance of violence. The bulk of the violence has affected peasants and the poor, and particularly those who have organised for their rights, such as trade unionists. Today out of every 10 trade unionists murdered for political reasons in the world, 9 of them are in Colombia. This is just one aspect of a sad and violent picture in a country where over 4 million people are internally displaced, 30,000 people have disappeared, and an estimated of 70,000 civilians have been murdered for political reasons since 1990.
Evidence of State involvement in violence and extra-judicial killings has grown in recent times, with links being established between supporters of President Uribe and right-wing death squads. The massacre of 46 young men in the north-east of Colombia is simply the most recent example of this state-sponsored violence.

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