Colombia

Greece, Venezuela discuss cooperation Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has invited the newly-elected Greek prime minister to Caracas, TeleSUR English said on February 9. “I have invited Alexis Tsipras, comrade Alexis, to visit us as soon as he can, here in Venezuela,” Maduro told Venezuelan public TV. “He plans to come to Latin America. He mentioned all the pressures that he is under. Because of a savage, savage neoliberal system that has been applied in Greece.” Tsipras expressed an interest in touring Latin America, starting with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Representatives of victims of Colombia's decades-long civil war, who are taking part in the peace talks in Cuba, issued a statement on November 2 requesting more protection from the Colombian government. They were responding to death threats and warnings from right-wing paramilitary groups. The talks are taking place between the Colombian government and the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The Venezuelan National Assembly swore in grassroots leader Juan Contreras to assume the vacant post of the late deputy Robert Serra on October 7. Serra, a 27-year-old socialist deputy, was stabbed to death alongside his partner Maria Herrera in their Caracas home on October 1. Legislators also voted to ban former right-wing Colombian president Alvaro Uribe from entering Venezuela. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has accused Uribe of being linked to the killings.

With right-wing parties gaining footholds throughout the world, Colombia followed suit with the far-right party, Democratic Centre (CD) winning with a narrow lead in the first round of the presidential elections on May 25. CD won just under 30% of the vote. The election presented Colombians with a five-party choice, ranging from the leftist Alternative Democratic Pole (Polo) with Clara Lopez to the CD's Oscar Ivan Zuluaga and his major rival, incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos from the Social Party of National Unity.
Tensions between the Colombian government and agrarian workers are reaching an all-time high. Strikes that began on April 28 have helped bring the country to a stand-still and sparked student protests violently that were suppressed by police. The farmers launched strikes in the face of the government’s failure to follow through on promises made after similar strikes last August. The strikers are seeking measures to alleviate rural poverty, among other deep-rooted problems they face.
Since its founding in 1985, the Patriotic Union (UP), a Colombian leftist political party, has been victim of calculated violence from actors across the political spectrum. Colombia is the only country in the world that includes “political genocide” in its constitution. This is the label given to the violence suffered by the UP ― more than 5000 of whose members and supporters have been assassinated since 1985. This violence has meant that since 2002, the party has not had enough members to meet the threshold to legally qualify as an officially registered party.
One of the greatest novelists and writers of the 20th century has died. Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away on April 17 in Mexico at the age of 87. Commemorating the author, US-based progressive TV and radio show Democracy Now! said on April 18: “It has been reported that only the Bible has sold more copies in the Spanish language than the works of Garcia Marquez, who was affectionately known at 'Gabo' throughout Latin America.”
The 1991 Colombian Constitution is supposed to ensure the protection of all Colombian peoples’ rights and common interests. But in March, those whose role and responsibility it is to ensure the constitution is enacted turned a blind eye to the blatant political misconduct and unethical activities of the Black Colombian Foundation (FUNECO). FUNECO won both congressional seats allocated to Colombia's Black and Afro-Colombian community with two candidates, Maria Del Socorro Bustamante and Moises Orozco Vicuna, who are not Afro-descendants, or even black-skinned.
Colombia's election results are all but in and one thing is clear: Álvaro Uribe, the first ex-president to run for senate, is the man of the moment. President Juan Manual Santos's U Party may have come out on top with 21 out of a possible 102 seats in Congress, compared with 19 from Uribe’s newly formed ultra-right party Democratic Centre ― Firm Hand, Big Heart, but it is clear where the momentum lies.
Millions of Colombians are set to the ballot box on March 9 to vote for the country's Senate and Chamber of Representatives. Presidential elections themselves are not until May, but Congress elections are no less important as the left wing parties fight for space in one of Latin America’s most, if not the most, conservative-led countries.
"The war in Colombia has been ongoing for decades, with little public discussion internationally," Oliver Villar, from the University of Western Sydney and Macquarie University, told a Sydney forum on November 30. The forum was organised by the solidarity organisation United for Colombia. "The roots of the conflict, and why peace is so difficult, lie in the country's history. It is a story of US imperialist domination, and Spanish colonialism before that, which left a semi-feudal system almost intact.
Representatives of the Colombian rural poor (campesinos) began negotiations with the government on September 12, three-and-a-half weeks into an uprising against “free-trade” policies. By blockading highways and stopping work since August 19, Colombian campesinos made a dramatic statement for a fairer economy and greater independence from the United States. The central demand was and is the abolition of the free-trade agreements (FTAs) with the US and EU, and guaranteed minimum prices for their agricultural products.
An uprising of the rural poor (campesinos) in Colombia entered its 11th day on August 29. An estimated 250,000 people took part in strikes and highway blockades across the South American country's highlands, where most of Colombia’s population of 42 million is concentrated. The central objective of the uprising is to guarantee minimum prices for agricultural products, and to annul Colombia’s free trade agreements (FTAs) with the United States and the European Union.
Two spectacular banner drops on Sydney's Darling Harbour Convention Centre exposed some of the "dirty deeds" of the world's biggest mining company, BHP Billiton. Environmentalists and Aboriginal rights supporters rallied outside the company’s annual general meeting on November 29 to highlight the billions of dollars profit BHP makes annually from the dirty energy sector, inclduing uranium, coal, oil and coal seam gas.
Cocaine, Death Squads & the War on Terror: US Imperialism & Class Struggle in Colombia By Oliver Villar & Drew Cottle Monthly Review Press, New York, 2011 Dedicated to “the workers and peasants of Colombia”, Cocaine, Death Squads and the War on Terror is a serious and rigorous study of Colombian society. For the authors, both lecturers in politics at Australian universities, the book represents a labour of love, condensing more than 10 years of research.
The International Network in Solidarity with the Political Prisoners (INSPP) received the wonderful news on February 29 that Colombian labour activist, human rights defender and political prisoner Liliany Obando was to be released on bond the next day. Obando had been in jail for three years and seven months on charges of "rebellion". Obando was arrested on August 8, 2008 while serving as the human rights coordinator for Agricultural Workers Union Federation of Colombia (Fengasuagro), Colombia's largest organisation of peasant farmers and farm workers unions and associations.

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