Fightback: Bringing Democracy to Colombia

by Sylvia Weinstein

In the United States, there is an enormous effort to bring about gun control. But to other countries, especially, military dictatorships, the United States is Santa with a machine gun.

The United States is the world’s largest weapons supplier. In 1999 the U.S. sold $11,768 millions of dollars in weapons.

In a report by the Congressional Research Service prepared by Richard F. Grimmett, an analyst who delivers a yearly report to Congress, Grimmett said, “Obviously the United States position has been consolidated as the leading weapons supplier-both for the world as a whole and for the developing countries.”

He went on, “There are very few big sales out there. But for the past 25 years, we’ve developed relationships with so many countries that now, even though it’s a very difficult market, we have a competitive advantage in selling parts and support services.”

Guess what services they get-not just a worn-out spark plug! In Colombia, Congress has a approved $1.3 billion dollars for 500 military pilots or advisors, 300 civilian contractors, and military helicopters to help the government of Colombia continue its war against poor peasants and their families.

Here is an example of the so-called war on drugs:

This war is being carried out by the AUC (Self-Defense Forces of Columbia), a right-wing paramilitary army acting with the Colombian government’s support. The AUC has prospered because it is well financed from the drug trade and it receives arms from the military.

The way the paramilitary death squads work is very simple and frighteningly successful. Their secret weapon is the massacre, and there is an average of one every day in Colombia.

AUC death squads arrive, with a list on hand, in a community where they contend the guerrillas have sympathizers. Anybody on that list, male or female, young or old, is killed, and often tortured first for information.

The most notorious recent massacre occurred in February, when death squads occupied the village of El Salado in the northern province of Bolivar. For 72 hours they tortured the community, taking victims to the village basketball court where they were laid out on a table and mutilated.

By the time they left, 28 people had been killed.

Last year in Colombia. there were 403 massacres (a massacre is said to have occurred if at least four people were killed in one murderous spree) with a total of 1865 victims. Some 40 percent of these massacres can be traced directly to the AUC.

It is no wonder that the Colombian trade unions’ recent general strike of 700,000 workers included demands for the end of U.S. support to the military.

There is not a country in South America that is not under the thumb of the U.S. capitalist government-either openly or covertly.

Why? Do they think that open warfare and death squads will turn the hearts and minds of the people toward this “great democracy”? No.

The imperialist class of the U.S. wants the great wealth of the South American countries in its pockets-the oil, minerals, timber, and the low wages and long hours of its workers.

In order to tramp down on the increasing outrage of the people of those countries it needs the paramilitary and the official military to keep the workers and peasants under their heel. It will do the same thing to U.S. workers when the need arises.

This is not a “drug war.” It’s a “for profit” war. Let’s recognize it for what it is.

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[Editor’s note: We reprint this article by the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM). In 1989, the Bastille Appeal was launched, inviting popular movements throughout the world to unite in demanding the immediate and unconditional cancellation of the debt of the so-called developing countries. This crushing debt, along with neo-liberal macro-economic reforms imposed on the global South, has led to an explosion of worldwide inequality, mass poverty, flagrant injustice and the destruction of the environment.


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