By Alejandro Reyes Posada, EL ESPECTADOR, March 20, 2023


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

You can see a change in the conduct of the Armed Forces at demonstrations of social protest, as the Petro administration does not authorize shooting at the demonstrators that surround and restrain the soldiers and police confronting them. They use dialog and negotiation as the preferred methods of dealing with social conflicts, conflicts increased and extended as the public becomes exasperated by the growing difficulties in surviving the environmental destruction of their territories. They are impatient with the delay of social changes they have been promised.

The conditioned response to social protest has followed the same pattern for decades. It’s to identify whether the ones behind the protest are subversive groups, in order to apply armed repression. That will bring two gains, discrediting the subversives as the ones responsible for the social disorder, and at the same time, repressing the protest in order to defend the interests they must protect. The other part of the conditioned response to protests is the package of promises of investment to calm down the energy, even though with these promises, they are incubating the next cycle of protests because of their failure to carry out the commitments they made.

The Petro administration has changed the script for confronting social protest and this change provokes disagreement by the big interests that support the status quo, such as the petroleum companies who ask that their exploration contracts be suspended because of lacking guarantees of public order. We shouldn’t forget that for decades the multinationals have been accustomed to hiring brigades, and paying their expenses, to protect their wells and installations from the threats of sabotage by the guerrillas, and they have even benefited from the armed actions by the paramilitaries.

Two great terrestrial currents are moving in Colombia to occupy their spaces: 1) a molecular social explosion is incubating, with multiple focal points of popular discontent, originating from hunger, unemployment, and hopelessness, and these are beginning to be expressed in many cities and territories, and they have every incentive necessary to increase; 2) shock troops are being prepared to defend against the social explosion of those who are excluded, as we saw in cities like Cali during the strikes of two years ago.

The campesino guards, like those that acted in Vista Hermosa (Meta Department) and San Vicente del Caguán (Caquetá Department) are spreading all over the country to protect the rural communities from all the organized crime and the guerrillas that are attacking the social leaders, and also to oppose the companies that are damaging the countryside. The campesino guards are trying to fill a vacuum of security and of government control in the countryside and they are consolidating in spite of the territorial domination by organized crime, such as the Clan del Golfo and the other 50 armed organizations in the drug business and in criminal gold mining.

Doubtless the new security strategy that the Defense Ministry is preparing will have to take into account the necessity of recovering control of the countryside, consolidating the presence of the government in all of its dimensions, but the real backdrop will be how to deal with the social explosion that is coming closer, to create an outlet for the people to protest, without letting it spill over into ungovernable chaos. Nicolás Gómez Dávila was right when he wrote, “Order is the most fragile of social activities.”

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