"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.
When the paramilitaries of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) arrived in San Onofre in northern Colombia in the late 1990s, they came after dark, dragging people from their homes and disappearing into the night. Soon, they did not need the cover of darkness. People were executed in public plazas in broad daylight. Women and young girls were openly raped and abused.
It’s another statistic showing up the criminal absurdity of Plan Colombia and Washington’s “war on drugs.” Last year, according to recent United States Drug Enforcement Administration sources, Peru produced about 325 metric tonnes of pure cocaine, surpassing Colombia’s output of 275 tonnes. For the first time since the early 1990s, Peru has emerged as the world’s leading cocaine producer. Bolivian production is also reportedly up. In its traditional, folk medicinal form, coca is a blessing that dispels ailments such as indigestion and altitude sickness with remarkable efficacy.
United States Undersecretary of State James Steinberg, speaking in Bogota on October 26, claimed the future relationship between Washington and its most favoured client in Latin America, Colombia, would be based on “reciprocity and mutual respect”. The stated purpose of Steinberg’s visit was to “re-launch the agenda” of US-Colombian relations” by initiating a “High-Level Partnership Dialogue”.
Thousands of palm oil workers in the Puerto Wilches district, Colombia, were on general strike on October 27. The workers were defending collective bargaining and opposing the spread of casualisation and precarious work on palm oil farms. In early August, a major company, Palmas Oleaginosas Bucarelia, refused to enter into meaningful negotiations with the agricultural workers’ union Sintrainagro for the renewal of the collective agreement. Bucarelia instead proposed to cut benefits, restrict union activity on the farm and increase precarious work through more use of outsourced labour.