By Luis Jairo Ramírez H. 


[Translated by Steven Fake, CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN Volunteer Editor.]

The government of President Santos, his media makeover and demagogic ads on the so-called five engines of growth, land restitution, and the key to peace, signal symptoms of intoxication, not only in the ruling elites but in certain political and social sectors of the country, until recently stigmatized, which show signs of harboring illusions about the benefits of the regime.

After four years of Andrés Pastrana, who allowed paramilitary infiltration throughout the country and installed Plan Colombia; followed by eight years of an administration that will be ranked as the worst in the history of the country, with its “democratic security” and the putrefaction of institutions, its illusory paramilitary demobilization, the fiasco of Law 975 of 2005, its para-politics (collusion with paramilitaries), the 3,000 extrajudicial executions by the army, better known as “false positives,” the “chuzadas” (a 2009 phone tapping scandal) and surveillance by the DAS (the Administrative Department of Security) of the opposition, corruption elevated to unprecedented levels, and a succession of criminal acts. This balance sheet full of Uribe-induced misery appears to have led some to resign themselves to conform with a mere change of style. Thus Santos repeats ad nauseam that his government wants to continue the democratic security, now falsely called “democratic prosperity.”

The change in style of the new government includes co-option – a strategy to win, neutralize, or divide sectors critical of the establishment. This task has been assigned to Mr. Angelino Garzón, Vice President, also in charge of the official guidelines for human rights, for which purpose his office has at its disposal juicy projects and offers of new customers and gifts.

One of the first announcements of the Vice President has been convening a National Conference on Human Rights. However, the event has raised all sorts of questions and debates about the government’s true intentions. 

The announcement calls to mind a similar call at the end of 2007, made by Mr. Pacho Santos, former Vice President, to set up a "National Human Rights Plan," an objective with which we agreed. However, there were different interests.” The government reduced the negotiation process to a mere formality: the desire to show the international community that progress was being made in overcoming the crisis of human rights and, incidentally, getting the green light to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The human rights organizations have a different concern: achieving the establishment of clear and verifiable steps to overcome the human rights crisis and international humanitarian law in the country, obtain commitments for truth, justice, and reparations, and to advance the restoration of dialogue towards a political solution to the conflict.

These two goals collided in reality. The government claimed to have an agreement on paper but maintained intact the policy of "democratic security", which amounted to the perpetuation of violations of the rights of the population. Time proved us right. There was no desire for human rights. What came later were “false positives,” the revelations of the “chuzadas” scandals, and the monitoring of human rights defenders, trade unionists, and opposition leaders. Several family members of victims that struggled to recover their land were killed. Paramilitarism remained rampant in alliance with military brigades, battalions, and so on.

Now history repeats itself. At the same time that an official human rights conference is conjured up, troops bomb and strafe the civilian population in the areas of Plan Colombia: Tolima, Arauca, and other regions. They hold 7,200 peasants, indigenous, teachers, and even human rights defenders imprisoned in subhuman conditions, accused of rebellion and terrorism. The state prolongs the anguish of the families of the over 50,000 disappeared, without investigating their whereabouts. Again, there is no correspondence between the official statements and facts.

Meanwhile, the permanence of paramilitarism is useful to government plans. At the same time that the Senate has a law for the victims and land restitution pending, the government revives the massacres and assassinations in Córdoba, Sucre, and Arauca, and hundreds of threats by the Black Eagles, Urabeños, and Rastrojos (all paramilitary-drug gangs) reach organizations and community leaders everywhere without the police doing anything to dismantle the paramilitaries. The great contribution of the government to this problem is concealment; now calling the paramilitarism "Bacrim” (emerging criminal bands).

While the victims claim truth, justice and reparation, the Ministry of Agriculture, Incoder (Colombian Institute for Rural Development), and the ruling coalition in parliament perform all sorts of tricks to avoid any restitution of land or agrarian reform. The larger government objective is to deliver 12 million hectares to the multinational mining companies for exploitation, with dire social, economic, and environmental consequences, as evidenced by the wasteland created by Santurban in Santander. Likewise, land is being given for the exploitation of hydrocarbons and agro-fuels.

The government’s intentions are far from real agrarian reform. The current proposals do not in any way affect the concentration of land in a few hands. It is utopian to think that the return of property to those who were dispossessed is possible under the conditions of conflict that endure. In the shadow of the new official style and populist discourse of human rights, a new form of dispossession of the land is taking place, now legalized by the law of victims, the National Development Plan, and the package of laws that Congress is discussing.

Among some social sectors, the debate is reopening about the scope of dialogue with the government, fostering illusions about the “mediation” of Angelino Garzón, as if he were something other than the government. In fact, what is happening is a form of ‘institutional therapy’ through appeasement, as happened with the strike of truck drivers, and a method for managing the human rights crisis without resolving it. 

As you can see, the official Conference of December is not accompanied by definite indicators or measures that allow one to conclude that the government is on the path of a bloodless solution to the conflict, or dismantling of the paramilitaries, or recognition of the rights of victims.

The recent fifth meeting of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes pointed out that this Conference seeks to create division among the victims, labor unions, and social and human rights organizations. It therefore follows that the order of the day is to stop attempts at division while strengthening the unity of action of the popular sectors to mobilize for the conquest of land, peace, and democracy.


(This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.)

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