Category Archives: Colombia

Human Rights Activist Deported from Colombia in Run-up to High Stakes Election

While enroute to observe the presidential elections in Colombia, Teri Mattson was denied entry by Colombian authorities and had her passport seized. After arriving at 6:55 am on May 22, she was forced to spend the day and the night at the Bogotá Airport before being deported the following morning and flown out of the country.

Although Mattson resides in Mexico and first flown there, her tribulations did not end there. She was then held in Mexico without passport or phone while immigration waited for the first available flight to the US, because she is a US citizen. Only when Mattson exited the plane in the US were her phone and passport returned to her.

Colombian authorities falsely claimed that Mattson “represents a risk to the security of the State.” When contacted, the US embassy refused to aid her on the bogus grounds that they do not get involved when someone is accused of being a security risk.

There are serious security risk issues involving the presidential elections in Colombia, but Ms. Mattson was not one of them. The front runner in the election campaign is Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of Bogotá. Petro was at one time a left guerilla, whose politics have now shifted more to the center.  His vice-presidential running mate is Afro-descendent environmentalist Francia Márquez.

Were the Petro/Márquez ticket to win on May 29, theirs would be the first administration on the left elected in Colombian history, which has gotten both the current right-wing Colombian government and Washington apprehensive. There are credible rumors that the election may be cancelled.

Both Petro and Márquez have already survived assassination attempts on the campaign trail. Breaking the constitutional requirement for neutrality by the armed forces, the commander of the Colombian army issued a direct attack against Petro. This prompted Medellín’s mayor to warn: “We are one step away from a coup.”

According to the Task Force on the Americas, Colombia has been turned into a regional US military and political proxy in their regime-change hybrid war against Venezuela. Petro has pledged to reopen relations with Venezuela and adhere to the terms of the peace agreement with the FARC if he becomes president and survives.

Given this background, Teri Mattson traveled to Colombia with a group of international trade unionists to observe the election. Colombia, incidentally, is the most dangerous place in the world to be a union activist.

Mattson was a fully accredited election observer invited to Colombia by the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights. CPDH is a leading human rights group in Colombia founded in 1979.

Mattson had previously visited Colombia in 2021 on a delegation to investigate state violence against social movements. She has been an official accredited election observer to Honduras, Venezuela, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua.

Mattson is the host of the weekly podcast WTF is Going on in Latin America & the Caribbean. She is a Latin America organizer with Code Pink and on the board of the Task Force on the Americas.

The Task Force on the Americas, Code Pink, and COHA are among the organizations denouncing the deportation. The CPDH holds the Colombian government responsible for the “persecution and violation of Teri Mattson’s rights, and for the violation of democratic rights and the lack of democratic guarantees in the current elections.”

The post Human Rights Activist Deported from Colombia in Run-up to High Stakes Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Human Rights Activist Deported from Colombia in Run-up to High Stakes Election

While enroute to observe the presidential elections in Colombia, Teri Mattson was denied entry by Colombian authorities and had her passport seized. After arriving at 6:55 am on May 22, she was forced to spend the day and the night at the Bogotá Airport before being deported the following morning and flown out of the country.

Although Mattson resides in Mexico and first flown there, her tribulations did not end there. She was then held in Mexico without passport or phone while immigration waited for the first available flight to the US, because she is a US citizen. Only when Mattson exited the plane in the US were her phone and passport returned to her.

Colombian authorities falsely claimed that Mattson “represents a risk to the security of the State.” When contacted, the US embassy refused to aid her on the bogus grounds that they do not get involved when someone is accused of being a security risk.

There are serious security risk issues involving the presidential elections in Colombia, but Ms. Mattson was not one of them. The front runner in the election campaign is Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of Bogotá. Petro was at one time a left guerilla, whose politics have now shifted more to the center.  His vice-presidential running mate is Afro-descendent environmentalist Francia Márquez.

Were the Petro/Márquez ticket to win on May 29, theirs would be the first administration on the left elected in Colombian history, which has gotten both the current right-wing Colombian government and Washington apprehensive. There are credible rumors that the election may be cancelled.

Both Petro and Márquez have already survived assassination attempts on the campaign trail. Breaking the constitutional requirement for neutrality by the armed forces, the commander of the Colombian army issued a direct attack against Petro. This prompted Medellín’s mayor to warn: “We are one step away from a coup.”

According to the Task Force on the Americas, Colombia has been turned into a regional US military and political proxy in their regime-change hybrid war against Venezuela. Petro has pledged to reopen relations with Venezuela and adhere to the terms of the peace agreement with the FARC if he becomes president and survives.

Given this background, Teri Mattson traveled to Colombia with a group of international trade unionists to observe the election. Colombia, incidentally, is the most dangerous place in the world to be a union activist.

Mattson was a fully accredited election observer invited to Colombia by the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights. CPDH is a leading human rights group in Colombia founded in 1979.

Mattson had previously visited Colombia in 2021 on a delegation to investigate state violence against social movements. She has been an official accredited election observer to Honduras, Venezuela, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua.

Mattson is the host of the weekly podcast WTF is Going on in Latin America & the Caribbean. She is a Latin America organizer with Code Pink and on the board of the Task Force on the Americas.

The Task Force on the Americas, Code Pink, and COHA are among the organizations denouncing the deportation. The CPDH holds the Colombian government responsible for the “persecution and violation of Teri Mattson’s rights, and for the violation of democratic rights and the lack of democratic guarantees in the current elections.”

The post Human Rights Activist Deported from Colombia in Run-up to High Stakes Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why Are Colombian Election Candidates Auditioning in Washington?

Staging a vice-presidential candidates debate in the run-up to Colombia’s May 29th national elections was entirely appropriate.  Nevertheless, the location of the event in Washington and its promotion by US-state functionaries requires some explanation. Because of its venue and sponsors, the affair had elements of an audition or a vetting process overseen by the US government.

Along with the Washington consensus crowd, members of the Colombian diaspora attended the May 13th event, especially supporters of popular vice-presidential candidate Francia Márquez. Afro-descendent environmentalist Márquez is running with presidential candidate Gustavo Petro. Their frontrunning ticket could be the first administration on the left in Colombian history.

Vice-presidential debate hosts

The debate was hosted by the US Institute of Peace, a federal agency entirely funded by the US Congress. The board of the institute must by law include the US secretaries of defense and state along with the head of the Pentagon’s National Defense University. Activities include spreading “peace” in such oases of made-in-the-USA tranquility as Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Libya.

If these officials pass for peacemakers in Washington’s inside-the-beltway world, who, one might ask, would be left to lead a military academy? Answer: the very same people, which is entirely the point of a US government “peace” agency.

Co-hosts of the event were the Atlantic Council and the Woodrow Wilson Center. The former is known as “NATO’s think tank.” Its board of honorary directors is composed of four former secretaries of defense, three former secretaries of state, a former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a former Homeland Security official.

The Woodrow Wilson Center is a semi-governmental entity, whose current head, Mark Andrew Green, was executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership and before that head of the CIA front organization USAID. Rounding out their board are Betsy DeVos, Trump’s secretary of education, and Antony Blinken, Biden’s current secretary of state.

Colombia – US client state

Colombia is the leading client state of the US in the Americas. The South American nation was touted by both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden in their US presidential campaigns as a model for the rest of Latin America. This so-called model nation was partially paralyzed for four days starting on May 5 when the private paramilitary group Clan del Golfo imposed a national armed strike in retaliation for the extradition to the US of its leader on drug trafficking charges.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, for example, boasted in 2013 in reference to Colombia’s regional role as a US client state: “If somebody called my country the Israel of Latin America, I would be very proud. I admire the Israelis, and I would consider that as a compliment.”

According to the Task Force on the Americas, Colombia has been turned into a regional US military and political staging area. Plan Colombia and Plan Patriota constructed one of the most sophisticated armies in the world even though Colombia has no external wars.

As the US’s leading regional proxy, Colombia is appropriately a land of superlatives. It is the leading recipient of US military and foreign aid in the hemisphere. According to Colombian academic Rena Vegas, the US has approximately 50 military units along with US agencies, headed by the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which “operate daily and freely to intervene in the country.”

Also, not inconsequently, Colombia is the most dangerous place to be a union activist. North American corporations there (e.g., Chiquita, Coca Cola, Drummond) have employed paramilitaries to do their dirty work.

Colombia likewise gets the largest allocation of DEA funds. Also, not inconsequently, it is the world’s largest source of illicit cocaine, according to the CIA. The US war on drugs in Colombia has served as a smokescreen for massive repression against popular movements by the country’s military and allied paramilitary organizations.

In 2017, Colombia became one of NATO’s Global Partners and its first in Latin American. In February, Colombia conducted a provocative joint naval drill with NATO near Venezuela, which included a nuclear submarine. Then on March 10, Colombia became a “Major Non-NATO Ally” of the US, giving the narco-state special access to military programs. Biden explained: “This is a recognition of the unique and close relationship between our countries.”

Summit of the Americas

In short, Colombia is the poster child for the US Monroe Doctrine, an assertion of US hegemony over the hemisphere dating back to 1823. Biden recently made a cosmetic change to the Monroe Doctrine risibly proclaiming that our southern neighbors are no longer in our “backyard” but rather in our “front yard.”

However, many Latin American and Caribbean nations believe that they are sovereign countries. So Biden’s recent call for a Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on June 6-10, which would exclude Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela, faces significant pushback. Mexican President Lopez Obrador said he’ll shun the meeting along with the heads of state of over a dozen Caribbean countries, Bolivia, Guatemala, and possibly Brazil.

Over half of the chief execs in the Americas have tentatively spurned the imperial summons. Unless Biden makes amends or more likely twists some arms, he’ll find Los Angeles a lonely place.

Meanwhile counter-summits have been organized by social movements in Los Angeles on June 8-10 and followed by another in Tijuana on June 10-12, which may be attended by nationals barred from entering the US.

Colombia’s relations with Venezuela

Colombia has served as the main staging ground for US destabilization efforts against Venezuela. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro accused Colombian President Iván Duque of plotting to sow unrest through the targeted killing of Venezuelan security forces along their shared border. A year ago, US-backed mercenaries trained in Colombia were caught in Venezuela before they could follow through on their plan to assassinate the Venezuelan president.

Despite tremendous pressure from the US, the leading Colombian presidential candidate, Gustavo Petro, has stated that he intends to restore relations with neighboring Venezuela. Nevertheless, Petro has regularly made critical remarks about Venezuela, a country slated for regime change by Washington. While not mentioning Petro by name, Venezuelan President Maduro has called those who capitulate to US pressures “the cowardly regional left.”

More recently Petro falsely characterized political prisoner Alex Saab of being allied with the far right. Venezuelan diplomat Saab is currently imprisoned in the US even though he should be afforded diplomatic immunity from prosecution under the Vienna Convention. The Venezuelan National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning Saab’s treatment as what its president, Jorge Rodríguez, called an “act of immeasurable hypocrisy” by the US.

Petro/Márquez campaign survives assignation attempts

Given the domination of Colombia by its US-backed military, Petro is concerned not only about winning the election but surviving afterward. Both Petro and his running mate Márquez have already survived assassination attempts on the campaign trail.

Breaking the constitutional requirement for neutrality by the armed forces, the commander of the Colombian army issued a direct attack against Petro. This prompted Medellín’s mayor to warn: “We are one step away from a coup.”

Petro, a former leftist guerilla and onetime mayor of Bogotá, has since shifted toward the center politically. But in comparison to the far-right rule of former President Álvaro Uribe and his successors in Colombia, Petro and Márquez appear relatively left and their election would be a sea change for the better.

Colombia has had leftist candidates assassinated – that is the genesis of the guerilla opposition – but none have survived to assume the presidential office. The win would be a necessary step in the left’s long struggle to free their troubled country from its erstwhile subjugation to the colossus to the north. Then, perhaps, their political candidates won’t feel compelled to audition in Washington.

The post Why Are Colombian Election Candidates Auditioning in Washington? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Artistic Freedom,” Censorship, Counter-Revolution, and Cuba (Part 2)

Freedom of Speech and Art and is a Revolutionary Conquest

The freedom of artistic expression is a permanent part of human liberation struggles. Explosions of artistic creativity have always accompanied the great social revolutions in history. Genuine social revolutions – of which the 1959 Cuban Revolution is an outstanding 20th Century example – involve the conscious mobilizations of millions upon tens of millions of oppressed, exploited, and working people, individually and collectively, in the determination of their fate and future against the old, decrepit systems and used-up ruling classes.

Constitutionally codified rights to freedom of speech (including artistic freedoms), press, and assembly are generally not the byproduct of learned debates among constitutional lawyers and scholars but, rather, unfold from mass struggles from below, including the great late-18th and 19th Century Revolutions. It is the storms of mass revolutionary struggle that force those “learned debates” and concessions to be granted, codified, and relatively enforced (or not) by the states and governments that become constituted. Constitutional and democratic rights flow from great social revolutions.

Lessons from History

History further shows those rights always at risk and needing to be vigilantly defended. Examples of this included the crushing of Reconstruction in the United States by 1876; the Nazi destruction of constitutional rights in Germany after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933 (by the “Constitutional” government); various US-backed neocolonial bloody dictatorships that crushed constitutional and democratic rights; e.g., Cuba 1952, Guatemala 1954, Chile 1973, Argentina 1976.

Moreover, for the oppressed and exploited majority, for the slaves, the serfs, the working classes, for African-Americans in US history and oppressed nationalities worldwide, for immigrants, and the impoverished seeking a better life, civil liberties, democratic freedoms, and conquered political space for the right to organize, is not an end in and of itself. Or only a beautiful legal and moral ideal. Rather, it is primarily a weapon to be guarded zealously precisely in order to fight for social, class, and liberationist (anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic) demands. The right to fight to raise our standards of living, and our ability to participate fully in society as human beings with human rights and dignity, including as literate and creative women and men requires the fullest individual and social-collective rights. The principle that society has the right and responsibility to develop and nurture this has always been the humanist essence of the Cuban Revolution and Cuban socialism.

US Civil War

There was no “intellectual” or “artists” position, per se, on, say, the US Civil War (which by 1863-1864 had become the 2nd American Revolution, a revolutionary war to abolish slavery). I’ve heard and read that the pro-slavery Confederacy may have produced some at least technically good, some say even brilliant, poets and musicians. I know that pro-Union, anti-slavery revolutionary momentum in the North and Midwest certainly led, as all social revolutions do, to an explosion of artistic creativity in forms and content across all categories.

Of course, while General William Tecumseh Sherman was burning down Georgia plantations and freeing slaves (read his brilliant Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman to see the emotional impact of this on Sherman who had not displayed any particular interest in the question of slavery beforehand), quite a leap in consciousness and radicalization in the “North” was developing. Union troops began singing John Brown’s Body as they went into battle. Many began changing their backward views as they saw heroic African American soldiers fighting and dying for abolition, freedom, and democratic rights. In the shrinking and dying Confederacy there was no doubt talented artists and pro-slavery “intellectuals” that were aghast that the social system that nurtured their distinct “southern culture” was going down in flames. Some of their heirs, especially under the impact of the mass Civil Rights Movement, tried to reproduce the hideous legacy of the Confederate “Lost Cause,” until their current steady routing in the US today.

While I don’t know if there were any formal legal proscriptions, I don’t expect Art Galleries and Museums were hanging works of Confederate artists, any more than pro-slavery newspapers were widely circulated or “freely” published in the radicalizing North. Only an extreme pedantic and legal fetishist can object to the sharp restrictions on the proponents of slavery and their “rights,” during the final phases of the revolutionary war. Clearly the fall of Reconstruction by 1876 disenfranchised African Americans (and incipient alliances with poor white farmers) with the protections and democratic rights defended under the auspices (good and useful for once!) of US military occupation. The defeat of Reconstruction was in social and historic terms a counter-revolution. It restored the social and “legal” dominance of the former slave owners and their heirs during what was — in the arc of history — the 90-year detour of Jim Crow segregation. Under the impact of the mass Civil Rights Movement those legal and democratic rights expanded and legal segregation fell.

We shall overcome

Birth of a Nation

D.W. Griffith was by all accounts a brilliant, technically groundbreaking filmmaker in the infancy of the industry. He was also a vicious racist whose 1915 “masterpiece” Birth of a Nation” was a vile, stinking pile of historical revisionism on the post-Civil War Reconstruction era and nauseating white-supremacist propaganda. The racist US President Woodrow Wilson showed it in the White House; it was a huge factor in the mass “revival” of the terrorist Ku Klux Klan.

Black rights organizations picketed movie theaters showing it. Was the NAACP and every self-respecting Black organization and media and their allies being blithe and dismissive of “freedom of speech” when it organized mass protests and boycotts of the showings of Birth of a Nation. Was the main question here really D.W. Griffith’s “freedom of speech?” And while I would be opposed to any effort to legally proscribe its showing, certainly, if Radical Reconstruction had not been overthrown and Jim Crow segregation had not been consolidated in the last two decades of the 19th Century, it is hard to imagine such racist trash and disgusting historical revisionism and falsification being even made or funded lavishly as it then was.

Spanish Civil War

How about the Spanish Civil War (really a democratic, social revolution that also unleashed amazing artistic creativity)? Many artists and intellectuals all over the world rallied to the Spanish Republican and revolutionary cause (which had, alas, deep divisions that were the mother of defeat, but that’s the subject for another essay), including some of the greatest and most brilliant of the era, such as Ernest Hemingway, Frida Kahlo, Paul Robeson, and Pablo Picasso. But this sentiment was not universal.

Salvador Dali was a brilliant surrealist painter. But Dali also took a political stance during the Spanish Civil War in support of the Francisco Franco-led Falangist-fascists, backed by Hitler and Benito Mussolini, with US and UK “neutral”compliance. My point is not that the works of the pro-fascist Dali should have been legally proscribed like they were child pornography, but only that one must live with the political consequences of the political stances one takes, independent of the value, talent, or even genius of the artist. Should the Republican governments in Barcelona, Madrid and other cities have been obligated under siege from fascists, that Dali chose to politically support and align himself with, hang his works in public galleries?

Salvador Dali with Francisco Franco

Vietnam War

The US war against Vietnamese national unification and social revolution which steadily and brutally escalated in the 1960s and early 1970s ended in defeat and debacle for Washington. Over the course of the war from the late 1950s, US society, within and between all social classes and “demographics,” including artists and intellectuals, was sharply polarized. But by the late-1960s the large majority had become firmly anti-war.

 

Eventually, the mass movement against US intervention and for “US Out Now!” became a powerful political factor forcing Washington’s acquiescence to its defeat by the Vietnamese liberation forces in April 1975. Parallel and allied with the rising Black liberation and women’s liberation movements of that era, the anti-Vietnam war movement was certainly one of the largest sustained people’s mass movements in US history. And against a shooting war while it was raging, which was pretty unprecedented! The war also inspired great anti-war art and music that had great difficulty breaking through corporate and media censorship and blacklisting. But as the movement grew and the US war became crisis-ridden and wildly unpopular, with successive White Houses unable to defeat the Vietnamese revolutionaries – despite the genocidal application of US firepower – these anti-democratic “cultural” restrictions on left-wing, anti-war artists and musicians became more and more untenable.

Unlike the wildly hyped July 11 events which has neither revealed or led to any mass counter-revolutionary movement, the US anti-Vietnam War movement and mass Civil Rights Movement, or the July 26 Movement led by Fidel Castro were genuine mass movements that expanded political rights and cultural expression and freedom.

Chile

I would ask the great Chilean-American novelist Isabel Allende, god-daughter of martyred Chilean constitutional president Salvador Allende, overthrown in the US-backed military coup on September 11, 1973, to ponder on that history of her native land, and the subsequent “Operation Condor” years of Washington’s support for vicious military dictatorships in Argentina and Uruguay, alongside the Chilean and Brazilian ones and the active participation of counter-revolutionary Cuban exile terrorists and assassins) as she participates in an anti-Cuba campaign that consciously deletes any reference to Washington’s bipartisan criminal and hated economic and political war against the island. These US-backed military coups and regimes, along with the 1965 US invasion of the Dominican Republic against a constitutional government and revolutionary process, and the counter-insurgency efforts against Che Guevara in Bolivia – all represented bipartisan Washington’s horror at the example and resonance of the Cuban Revolution in its opening decades after its 1959 triumph.

Perhaps Allende will recall that revolutionary Cuba harbored many Chilean workers, artists, and intellectuals fleeing Pinochet’s terror. She might also ponder the curious case of the newspaper El Mercurio, which served as the conduit and organizing tool for the US-backed military coup. As Peter Kornbluh writes in his The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability:

Throughout the 1960s, the CIA poured funds into Chile’s largest—and staunchly right-wing—newspaper, El Mercurio, putting reporters and editors on the payroll, writing articles and columns for placement and providing additional funds for operating expenses. After the paper’s owner, Agustín Edwards, came to Washington in September 1970 to lobby Nixon for action against Allende, the CIA used El Mercurio as a key outlet for a massive propaganda campaign…Throughout Allende’s aborted tenure, the paper continued an unyielding campaign, running countless virulent, inflammatory articles and editorials exhorting opposition against—and at times even calling for the overthrow of—the Popular Unity government.

Perhaps Allende should familiarize herself with some of the rich history of US government subversive schemes and projects to bring about “regime change” in Cuba for many decades and return Cuba to a neo-colonial status and the unbridled rule of domestic and foreign capital. Perhaps then she could understand Cuba’s need to be vigilant and its moral and political right to defend itself.

In 2022: Thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the eastern European “socialist camp,” which was supposed to be “Castro’s Final Hour;” Over five years since the passing of Fidel Castro which surely would be the end of the Cuban Revolution; Nearly four years since Raul Castro stepped down from all posts and a peaceful transition to power in the Cuban Council of State and National Assembly was carried out…bipartisan Washington, the US billionaire ruling families, and the Latin American oligarchies and ruling classes that look to Washington are still horrified by that example and its continued resonance.

It is surely annoying to them that Cuba is able to count on deep reservoirs of support among the peoples and governments of south America, Central America, and the Caribbean against US Cuba policy. Not only from the appeal of the great traditions of Latin American anti-imperialist struggle. But also because, while bipartisan Washington blathers on about “democracy” and “human rights,” there exists mass consciousness regarding the actual US government history and practice of supporting every bloody right-wing military coup or dictatorship that serves the iron rule of capital and foreign capital through contemporary history. Finally, it is also because Cuba has a proud history of promoting the mass struggles for democratic rights and national-democratic struggles in all these places and granting political asylum to those fleeing repressions from the bloody neocolonial US backed regimes, including artists and intellectuals.

The Curious Case of Tania Bruguera

Tania Bruguera is a Cuban-born performance and installation artist who resides in Cuba and the United States. She has become perhaps the most prominent current figure with a newer generation of counter-revolutionary layers in Cuba, but mainly in the exiled Cuban-American population centers. She is a militant and cynical opponent of the Cuban Revolution who has tangled with Cuban authorities and been detained on numerous occasions. Bruguera is highly courted and fawned over by prestigious institutions and publications like the Museum of Modern Art and the New Yorker magazine. She calls herself “part of the left,” but echoes the views of bipartisan Washington that the embargo is a hoax, in an interview with the Capitol Hill media outlet Politico:

“The people have spoken very clearly…Because, look, the Cuban people have endured 60 or 61 years of embargo and none of this happened before. So, what does the embargo have to do with this? Nothing. What does the embargo have to do with policemen beating a young kid? What does the embargo have to do with the special forces shooting unarmed Cubans? What does the embargo have to do with [President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s] order for people to go defend the revolution on the streets?” In the Politico interview, Bruguera appeals to those enforcing the US blockade to support the “Cuban people”! “And I do believe that other countries can help,” she says, “by telling the Cuban government there’s certain conditions it must meet to do business. Because the Cuban government is very good at making itself seem like the victim [damn stubborn facts!!] internationally — the victim of the embargo, the victim of — air quotes — mercenaries in Cuba, the victim of everything to get sympathy that translates into money and aid. That has to end. The world [For 29 consecutive years the United Nations General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly against the US anti-Cuba “Economic, Commercial, and Financial Embargo”] has to stop seeing the Cuban government as a victim. The Cuban government is the aggressor.” Again, I have to quote the great Malcolm X (a great supporter of the Cuban Revolution): Ms. Bruguera, I can’t stop you from deluding yourself!

Click here for the full interview.

Bruguera’s mercenary political views are laid out very clearly here to the “inside the Beltway” readers of Politico, with little nuance and shameless hyperbole (calling the short, limited July 11 actions, “The protest is bigger than anything that Raul and Fidel Castro were able to organize.”

Fidel speaks

Despite her barely veiled support for US sanctions, Bruguera recoils at those of her more reckless Cuban-American rightist allies who call for direct US military intervention and strikes. Straining for the “correct” formulation and spin, and trying to position herself as a “moderate” between extremes, she nevertheless seems acutely aware of what the inevitable political consequences would be:

Now, on the opposite side, a U.S. military intervention is not a good response. The destiny of the Cuban people is in the Cuban people’s hands. And the second that a second country — and intervention, specifically — is in the picture, that’s not going to help. First of all, [a military intervention] would back up some of the Cuban government’s claims. And second, I know, incredibly, it could sway people [that is, even the small minority who support her]. That means many of those that today may be against the government would close ranks and come together with the government [to stand against U.S. intervention]. I don’t see it as a good solution. I think what has to be done is pressure [with sanctions and extraterritorial embargo like they’re doing! How moderate you are!] the Cuban government so that it doesn’t have another alternative than to give Cubans rights.

What Bruguera cannot accept is that the great majority of the Cuban working class and people as a whole, including artists and intellectuals, are precisely exercising their rights and the defense of their revolution.

(Parenthetically, it was Bruguera who demanded her paintings be taken down from Cuba’s wonderful Museo de Bellas Artes where they had been displayed.)

Reveling in Hypocrisy

I cannot finish this polemical essay without a reference to the galling hypocrisy and stunning double standards of US policy. It’s not “whataboutism” to point to the striking disparity between the fake hysteria and hype about “repression” in Cuba against US agents and clients compared to the lack of even rare coverage in the capitalist media (let alone stern State Department lectures) on the hundreds of people gunned down in recent protests in Colombia, or Chile, or in the US-backed coup in Bolivia two-years ago, not to speak of the historic legacy of bloody US intervention in the Americas. This is what has to stop in the Western Hemisphere! Of course, you can only get so far by pointing to the raging, in-your-face hypocrisy of US government and capitalist media outlets. It seems that contemporary bourgeois political discourse in the US requires as much hypocrisy as one can get away with.

Washington as Union-Busting Management

Within the limits of all analogies Cuba is like an embattled militant, principled labor union on strike and under siege by a giant multinational corporation (or university or Museum) with unlimited resources. The union has a history of moral and material support to other struggling workers. The company uses every dirty trick and acts of direct and indirect violence and aggression to weaken and eventually crush the union and its example for the whole labor movement. The large, even overwhelming majority, of the workers support the union, but not everybody, and the company is eager and determined to exploit or fabricate any divisions. Is the union obligated, while the strike is raging, to publish the anti-union, pro-company propaganda of scabs and strikebreakers, even if its well-produced and stylish?

This is a Which-Side-Are-You-On Moment regarding the “Cuba Question” in US, Hemispheric, and world politics. Washington arrogantly ignores the United Nations General Assembly, and the clear disdain for US imperial bullying from the peoples and governments across the Americas, including inside the United States. Sorry, Antony Blinken, and Marco Rubio, and Tania Bruguera.  You are losing traction, not gaining it.

Contradictions and Struggles

Do Cuban artists within the revolution have legitimate grievances? The only serious answer is undoubtedly, yes. How could they not, in such a lively, contentious society that is under siege from the US imperial superpower. A “siege mentality” can accompany an actual siege, with inevitable injustices and mistakes.

There have been tensions, foolishness, bureaucratic errors and stultification, anti-LGBT prejudices (long since largely rectified), and even genuine persecutions and injustices over the course of the Cuban Revolution around questions of the rights, space, opportunities, and means to create art and literature in revolutionary Cuba, which I hope to review more comprehensively at some future point.

One can lament and even protest any concrete injustices – rare and exceptional in the course of the Cuban Revolution from 1959 to the present day. But that carries– and should carry – no moral or political credibility unless accompanied by a clear and forceful condemnation of the perfidious US blockade, if not partisan solidarity with the Cuban revolutionary example in world politics.

What there has not been in Cuba is suppression of artistic forms or schools or distinct disciplines. There was never in the course of the Cuban Revolution anything even remotely like the Stalinist-era anti-Marxist nostrums such as “socialist realism” and “proletarian literature” as in the Soviet Union, at that time. (Which does not mean that over the entire span of the Soviet Union magnificent works of art were not produced even in those narrow dogmatic forms.)

A brief anomaly to this in Cuba was the non-promotion or public performance of “Western” rock-and-roll music in the late-1960s where some bureaucrats with some authority seemed to have absurdly viewed the music as practically a vector carrying “decadent,” “negative” even potentially “subversive” influences on Cuban youth. There were some tensions as well in the emerging Afro-Cuban hip-hop scene.

As far as I know, rock-and-roll was never legally proscribed on the island and the whole foolishness quickly broke down. This was a very tense time for the Cuban Revolution, following the death of Che Guevara and the crushing of the revolutionary armed struggles across the Americas, the failure of the 10-million ton sugar harvest, and the escalation of the US war on Vietnam, which allowed such bureaucratic notions to gain some traction under many pressures and tensions, including in their relations with the Soviet Union. It may have been difficult in 1969 to hear or acquire the music of the Beatles or Rolling Stones in Cuba, but in 2016 the Rolling Stones gave a massive, free concert in Havana and there is a beautiful statue of John Lennon in a Havana park. Rock-and-Roll and Hip-Hop are ubiquitous in today’s Cuba.

Who Is Afraid of Whom?

It is not the Cuban state or government that is preventing Cuban artists, dancers, and musicians from performing and touring in the United States. Cuban artists are also highly desirous of having US artists, musicians, and dancers come to Cuba and perform and collaborate freely with their Cuban counterparts. It is not the Cuban government that is the obstacle to that. But, as with everything involving US-Cuban exchanges — medical and scientific collaboration, athletic competitions, or even just a week on a beautiful Cuban beach — this can only be a result of real normalization, that is the definitive end of the extraterritorial embargo and travel sanctions.

Again, it is Trump and Biden’s anti-Cuba sanctions and blows against people-to-people exchanges that prevent Cuban artists from performing in the US or US people from seeing them. This I would argue is the real suppression of Cuban artists! This is the real cause these woefully misled signatories should be promoting so that the boot of the US government is off Cuba’s neck!

Let US citizens and legal residents visit Cuba and see for themselves the Cuban art, music, dance, and theater scene. Let them check out Cuba’s vast system of schools and workshops in every field that cultivates talent and produces world-class productions that are in great demand worldwide, including in the United States. And let Cuban artists come to the United States and perform! That would give the lie to this manipulating campaign.

Patriotic, Anti-Imperialist, and Socialist Consciousness Can Only Be Voluntary

There is certainly no requirement in Cuba that any artist must be politically conscious or active, or even political at all. There is no “correct line” on “art and culture.” But the US blockade does exist. And the patriotic and revolutionary unity it engenders among the broad mass of Cuban working people is genuine.

Cuban artists and intellectuals are also imbued with the solidarity, patriotic unity, and working-class internationalism that characterizes the Cuban Revolution. Socialist and anti-imperialist consciousness can only be voluntary. And the biggest delusion of all is that the Cuban Revolution does not hold decisive layers of conscious, mass, popular support.

Clearly if the more than 300 enablers of this dirty imperialist campaign were genuinely interested in opening up political and cultural space in Cuba for the anti-revolution, pro-US intervention, and pro-capitalist (excuse me, “democratic”!) artists they champion, then they should first and foremost demand an end to the US blockade and demand people-to-people exchanges. Instead, they don’t even mention US policy! This alone strips them of any moral or political authority, independent of any creative talent they may have The issue is NOT artistic freedom or censorship, but the US extraterritorial economic war and Cuba’s sovereign right to defend itself! It is foolish and fanciful – to the point of being obscene – to separate “artistic freedom” and “censorship” from the framework of US “regime change” policies

This “petition” shamefully aids the intolerably criminal US bullying of a small Caribbean island that is loved and admired the world over for its heroic example of international solidarity.

Our answer is to step up the fight to end the criminal US blockade!

Appendix:

Fidel Castro’s 1961 “Words to Intellectuals”

By Ike Nahem

The general framework and policy on art and culture over the course of the Cuban Revolution was laid out by Fidel Castro in his famous speech of June 30, 1961, “Words to Intellectuals.” This is a speech given just two months after the April defeat of the Eisenhower-Kennedy-CIA organized mercenary invasion at the Bay of Pigs-Playa Giron that quickly set in motion the intensification of US-organized state terrorism – the so-called Operation Mongoose – and the preparations for a direct US military invasion. That is, when the US state of siege against Cuba was going full throttle! It was an explosive dynamic which culminated in the October Missile Crisis and the prospects of nuclear exchanges and annihilations. (See my article “55 Years Later: Political Legacies of the Cuban Missile Crisis”.)

What the Cuban revolutionary leader laid out, under those conditions of siege, was summed up in the phrase, “Within the Revolution, Everything,” that is, no proscribing of styles, schools, or disciplines; But “outside and against the Revolution,”No rights at all,” that is, those engaged in counter-revolutionary activity as a political choice (which in Cuba has always meant, and can only mean, at some point collaboration with the US government or US-backed mercenaries operating from US territory) against a popular revolutionary process.

The Cuban Revolution was always a genuine people’s revolution – the exact opposite of a coup or a government installed on the back of someone else’s army. The Cuban Revolution involved the direct interference of millions of ordinary working people – industrial and agricultural workers, landless and impoverished peasants, Afro-Cubans, women, students and youth – in the destiny and fate of their lives, their families, their social class, and their oppressed, degraded, Yankee-dominated country. And also, in their great majority, the legions of patriotic, anti-imperialist, and revolutionary artists and intellectuals who were attracted to this genuine people’s revolution of the oppressed.

Fidel’s speech is particularly thoughtful and incisive, especially when you consider the highly polarized period it was given in. The speech shows how important it was for the revolutionary government to develop policies aimed at creating the conditions for the subsequent accelerating development of Cuban artistic creativity in a living revolutionary experience under siege from the US behemoth. Here is one excerpt:

The Revolution cannot attempt to stifle art or culture when the development of art and culture is one of the goals and one of the basic objectives of the Revolution, precisely in order that art and culture will come to be a genuine patrimony of the people. And just as we have wanted a better life for the people in the material sphere, so do we also want a better life for the people in all spiritual spheres and a better life in the cultural sphere. And just as the Revolution is concerned with the development of the conditions and the forces which permit the satisfaction of all the material needs of the people, so do we also want to develop the conditions which will permit the satisfaction of all the cultural needs of the people.…A high percentage of the people is also going hungry, or at least is living or lived in difficult conditions…in conditions of poverty. A part of the people lacks a large number of material goods which are essential to them, and we are attempting to supply the necessary conditions so that all these material goods will reach the people.

We must supply the necessary conditions for all these cultural goods to reach the people in the same way. This does not mean that the artist has to sacrifice the value of his creations, or that their quality must necessarily be sacrificed. It means that we must conduct a struggle in all senses in order to have the creator produce for the people, and to have the people raise their cultural level in turn, so that they might also draw closer the creators. No rule of a general nature can be indicated.

Not all artistic manifestations are of exactly the same nature, and we have sometimes posed matters here as if all artistic manifestations were of exactly the same nature. There are expressions of the creative spirit which by their very nature can be much more accessible to the people than other manifestations of the creative spirit. Thus, no general rule can be laid down, because in which artistic expression is it that the artist must go to the people, and in which one must the people go to the artist? Can a statement of a general nature be made in this sense? No. It would be too simple a rule. Efforts must be made to reach the people in all manifestations…so that the people will be able to understand ever more and ever better. I do not believe that this principle contradicts the aspirations of any artist, and much less so if one takes into account the fact that men should create for their contemporaries.

For the entire speech click on link here.

The post “Artistic Freedom,” Censorship, Counter-Revolution, and Cuba (Part 2) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

2021 Latin America and the Caribbean in Review: The Pink Tide Rises Again

US policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean continued in a seamless transition from Trump to Biden, but the terrain over which it operated shifted left. The balance between the US drive to dominate its “backyard” and its counterpart, the Bolivarian cause of regional independence and integration, continued to tip portside in 2021 with major popular electoral victories in Chile, Honduras, and Peru. These follow the previous year’s reversal of the coup in Bolivia.

Central has been the struggle of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) countries – particularly Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua – against the asphyxiating US blockade and other regime-change measures. Presidential candidate Biden pledged to review Trump’s policy of US sanctions against a third of humanity. The presumptive intention of the review was to ameliorate the human suffering caused by these unilateral coercive measures, considered illegal under international law. Following the review, Biden has instead tightened the screws, more effectively weaponizing the COVID crisis.

Andean Nations

The unrelenting US regime-change campaign against Venezuela has had a corrosive effect on Venezuela’s attempt to build socialism. With the economy de facto dollarized, among those hardest hit are government workers, the informal sector, and those without access to dollar remittances from abroad.

Nonetheless, Venezuela’s resistance to the continued US “maximum pressure” hybrid warfare is a triumph in itself. Recent economic indicators have shown an upturn with significant growth in national food and oil production and an end to hyperinflation. Further, the government has built 3.7 million housing units, distributed food to 7 million through the CLAP program, and adroitly handled the COVID pandemic.

When Trump recognized Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela in 2019, the then 35-year-old US security asset had never run for a nationwide office and was unknown to over 80% of the Venezuelans. Back then some 50 of the US’s closest allies recognized Guaidó; now barely a dozen does so. Contrary to campaign trail inuendoes that Biden would enter into dialogue with the democratically elected president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, Biden has continued the embarrassing Guaidó charade.

The November 21 municipal and regional elections were a double triumph for Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution: the ruling Socialist Party (PSUV) won significantly while the extreme right opposition (including Guaidó’s party) was compelled to participate, implicitly recognizing the Maduro government.

Venezuelan special envoy Alex Saab was extradited – really kidnapped – to the US on October 16 on the vague and difficult to disprove charge of “conspiracy” to money launder. Swiss authorities, after an exhaustive 3-year investigation, had found no evidence of money laundering. Saab’s real “crime” was trying to bring humanitarian aid to Venezuela via legal international trade but circumventing the illegal US blockade. This egregious example of US extra-territorial judicial overreach is being contested by Saab’s legal defense because, as a diplomat, he has absolute immunity from arrest under the Vienna Convention. His case has become a major cause in Venezuela and internationally.

Meanwhile, Colombia, chief regional US client state, the biggest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere,  and the largest world source of cocaine, is a staging point for paramilitary attacks on Venezuela. President Iván Duque continues to disregard the 2016 peace agreement with the guerrilla FARC as Colombia endures a pandemic of rightwing violence especially against human rights defenders and former guerillas.

On April 28, Duque’s proposed neoliberal tax bill precipitated a national strike mobilizing a broad coalition of unions, members of indigenous and Afro-descendent communities, social activists, and campesinos. They carried out sustained actions across the country for nearly two months, followed by a renewed national strike wave, starting on August 26. The approaching 2022 presidential election could portend a sea change for the popular movement where leftist Senator Gustavo Petro is leading in the polls.

In Ecuador, Andrés Arauz won the first-round presidential election on February 7 with a 13-point lead over Guillermo Lasso, but short of the 40% or more needed to avoid the April 13 runoff, which he lost. A victim of a massive disinformation campaign, Arauz was a successor of former President Rafael Correa’s leftist Citizen Revolution, which still holds the largest bloc in the National Assembly. The “NGO left,” funded by the US and its European allies, contributed to the electoral reversal. Elements of the indigenous Pachakutik party have allied with the new president, a wealthy banker, to implement a neo-liberal agenda.

In Peru, Pedro Castillo, a rural school teacher and a Marxist, won the presidency in a June 6 runoff against hard-right Keiko Fujimori, daughter of now imprisoned and former president Alberto Fujimori. Castillo won by the slimmest of margins and now faces rightwing lawfare and the possibility of a coup. Just a few weeks into his presidency, he was forced to replace his leftist foreign Minister, Hector Béjar, with someone more favorable to the rightwing opposition and the military.

In Bolivia, a US-backed coup deposed leftist President Evo Morales in 2019 and temporarily installed a rightist. Evo’s Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party successor, Luis Arce, took back the presidency last year in a landslide election. With the rightwing still threatening, a massive weeklong March for the Homeland of Bolivian workers, campesinos, and indigenous rallied in support of the government in late November.

Southern Cone

Brazil has the world’s eighth largest economy world and the largest in Latin America. Rightwing President Jair Bolsonaro has been dismantling social welfare measures, rewarding multinational corporations, and presiding over wholesale illegal mining and deforestation, while the popular sectors protest. Former left leaning President Lula da Silva is strongly favored to win in the October 2, 2022 elections. He was also favored to win in the 2018 presidential election against Bolsonaro but was imprisoned on trumped up charges, preventing him from running.

In Chile, Gabriel Boric won the second round of the Chilean presidential election by a landslide on December 19 against far-right José Antonio Kast, the son of a German Nazi Party member. The 35-year-old Boric was a leader in the huge protests in 2019 and 2020 against corrupt President Sebastian Piñera, who is the richest person in the country. The slogan of the protests was: “If Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism, then it will also be its graveyard!”

Although the victory is a repudiation of the Pinochet legacy, Boric has also been somewhat critical of Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. Boric’s libertarian socialist Frente Amplio party rode to victory with major support from the Chilean Communist Party along with center-left forces. Earlier in the year, in a plebiscite to forge a united popular campaign, Communist Daniel Jadue lost to Boric. A Constituent Assembly, where the left won the majority of the delegates in a May election, is currently rewriting the Pinochet-era constitution.

In Argentina, the center-right Together for Change coalition decisively swept the November 13 midterm elections, rebuking the Peronists who have been unable to effectively address high unemployment and inflation.  In 2019, the center-left Peronist Alberto Fernández succeeded rightwing President Mauricio Macri, whose record breaking $50.1 billion IMF loan saddled the people with austerity measures. Prospects are now dim for restructuring of the debt or suspending payments with an opposition majority more intent on discrediting Fernández than addressing the issues.

Caribbean

Candidate Biden had signaled a return to the Obama-Biden easing of restrictions on Cuba. But once in office, Biden intensified the US hybrid war against Cuba. Discontent with critically deteriorating economic conditions erupted in popular demonstrations on July 11, fanned by the US-funded opposition. A repeat effort at a regime-change demonstrations, largely orchestrated by Washington, fizzled on November 15. Biden continues the same illegal policy of regime change against Cuba  as that of the previous twelve US presidents: covert and overt destabilization, blockade, and occupation of Guantánamo.

Despite an economy severely impacted by the pandemic and the tightening of US blockade, Cuba has produced three COVID vaccines with two more in development. More than 90% percent of Cubans are vaccinated, surpassing the US.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit on August 14. Another upheaval has been the nearly continuous popular revolt against US-installed presidents. President Jovenal Moïse, who had ruled by decree after cancelling elections, was assassinated on July 7 in an apparent intra-ruling class squabble. Claude Joseph was installed as interim president for a few days and then replaced by Ariel Henry, with elections still postponed.

Biden deported thousands of emigres back to Haiti. This represented “a disappointing step backward from the Biden administration’s earlier commitments to fully break from the harmful deportation policies of both the Trump and Obama presidencies,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Central America and Mexico

In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele, formerly associated with the left FMLN party, continued his regression to the right. In response, the Popular Resistance Bloc and other civil society groups staged large protests on September 15 and October 17.

In Honduras, Xiomara Castro, wife of the former President Zelaya, was swept into the presidency by a landslide popular vote on November 28. The slogan of the now triumphant resistance front was: “They fear us because we have no fear.”

In the twelve years since the US-backed coup overthrew the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, the country had devolved into a state where the former president, Juan Orlando Hernández, was an unindicted drug smuggler, the intellectual authors who ordered the assassination of indigenous environmental leader Berta Cáceres ran free, Afro-descendent people and women were murdered with impunity, gang violence was widespread, and state protection from the pandemic was grossly deficient.

In neighboring Nicaragua, the US called the November 7 presidential election an undemocratic fraud nearly a year in advance as part of a larger regime-change campaign against left-leaning governments. The US claimed that “pre-candidates” were barred from running. However, these individuals had been arrested for illegal activities and were not credible candidates.

In fact, the US has never supported democracy in Nicaragua. US Marines occupied Nicaragua from 1912 to 1934, only leaving after installing the autocratic Somoza dynasty to do their bidding. When the Sandinistas ousted the dictatorship in 1979, the US launched the Contra War. After fomenting an unsuccessful coup in 2018, the US NICA Act then imposed sanctions. This was followed in 2020 by the RAIN plan, a multi-faceted coup strategy.

Disregarding Washington’s call to boycott, a respectable 65% of the Nicaraguan electorate went to the polls and 76% of the voters re-elected Sandinista President Daniel Ortega. The Sandinista’s landslide victory was a testament to their success in serving Nicaragua’s poor and a repudiation of the 2018 coup attempt. Immediately after the election, the US RENACER Act imposed new illegal sanctions.

In Mexico, the June 6 midterm elections pitted the ruling MORENA coalition against the traditional parties (PAN, PRI, PRD), chambers of commerce, and the US embassy. NGOs funded by USAID and NED supported the opposition, whose talking points were echoed by the Economist and the Nation. While MORENA retained is majority in Congress and two-thirds of the governors in the midterms, they suffered setbacks in Mexico City, their traditional stronghold.

Mexico is a critically important state as the second largest economy in Latin America, the eleventh in the world, and the US’s top trade partner. After decades of rightwing rule, left-of-center Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his new MORENA party have been in office for three years. Early on, AMOL earned the enmity of the US, when he proclaimed: “The global economic crisis has revealed the failure of the neoliberal model…The State should assume responsibility to lead development without foreign interference” (meaning the US).

AMLO has predictably experienced pushback from traditional elites in Mexico and from the US, particularly in his attempts to reverse the privatization of the energy sector. The Zapatistas and some leftists oppose AMLO and his national development projects, especially the Mayan train. They accuse the government of supporting violence against indigenous communities in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

Prospects for the New Year

Independence from the hegemon to the north, regional integration, and international cooperative relations are on the agenda for the new year.

China is now the second largest investor in Latin America and the Caribbean, which “reduce[s] US dominance” according to the US Congressional Research Service. Economic cooperation with China and to a lesser extent with Russia and Iran have been a lifeline for countries like Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua under regime-change siege by the US. In late December, Nicaragua broke relations with Taiwan and normalized them with the People’s Republic of China. The new government in Honduras has indicated they may soon follow suit. China intends to invest over $250 billion in the region, providing an alternative to dependence on Yankee capital for national development “south of the border.” If the inter-ocean canal project with Chinese backing in Nicaragua were resuscitated, it would be a geopolitical game-changer.

The anti-Venezuela “Lima Group,” a US-Canada initiative, is now moribund with defections of key countries. Likewise, the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) is an increasingly discredited tool of US imperialism as evidenced by its complicity in the Bolivian coup. Cuba and Venezuela are not members of the OAS, and Nicaragua recently announced its withdrawal.

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) includes all the hemisphere except the US and Canada. CELAC is being revived as an independent regional alternative by Mexican President López Obrador and others.

2022 promises continued left advances with favorable prospects for the Colombian and Brazilian presidential elections in May and October respectively. Overall, the pink tide is again rising with some 14 countries on the left side of the ledger and the revolt against neoliberalism intensifying from Haiti to Paraguay.

The post 2021 Latin America and the Caribbean in Review: The Pink Tide Rises Again first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Everything goes Better with Coca Cola: Hitching Capitalism to Sweet Slow Death

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” — John Muir

“All things are connected like the blood that unites us. We do not weave the web of life, we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.” – Chief Seattle

The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the soda pop! It’s complicated, but also not. When a second country to me, Mexico, is colonized by Capitalism, the results are as clear as what the billionaire class, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation class, call for — more slow death, more vulnerabilities, more money thrown at, well, shit. In this case, sugar. Fructose. Things go better with diabetes — soda.

Yes, BMGF has tens of millions invested in sugar, PepsiCo, Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Monsanto, etc. They are here for philanthropy pimping, for sure.

Two children outside a local market in Mazatlan, Mexico

A picture is worth a million deaths. And, this is from rightwing, commercial loving, anti-socialism, BBC…. [‘Coca-Cola controls 73% of the Mexican fizzy drinks market, compared with only 42% in the US.’ Photograph: Alamy]

Here, a few mainstream media mush stories —

And, it is the Covid-19 narrative, man, that is cutting the brain cells of people — talk about stopping a global crisis! Defunding those stock holders and the millionaires and billionaires making money on NAFLD, cancer, diabetes: sugary death.

The global prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is approximately 25%, with Hispanic populations at greatest risk. We describe the prevalence of NAFLD in a cohort of Guatemalan adults and examine whether exposure to a protein-energy supplement from conception to two years is associated with lower prevalence of NAFLD.

This is the value of human life to the Warren Buffets, the Soros Klan, the Gates and Bezos Klans, Zuckerberg, and you then can name all those investment funds. All those retirement funds. All those investment portfolio holders. ALL of us, who have a thread of money tied to well, sugar, Coke, Pepsi, Booze, Sweetened foods. Hell, add the oil (food) and salt (food) purveyors. And we are in a time of Covid-19. It is blasphemy.

How many sugar tax bills have been shuttled by the thugs of concentrated sugars, High Fructose Corn Syrup, etc.? How many Yankees and others say that capitalism is about wonderful choices, and kids and families have a “choice” not to drink sugar drinks. Buck up and eat healthy!

This is how they think, the dirty marketers, the swines of swindles. I’ve seen sugar tax bills die in El Paso (89 percent Hispanic) and in Washington/Seattle, and in Oregon, too. Medical people, including doctors, nurses, hospitals, insurance mavens — they all invest in sugar, diabetic death.

This is emblematic of the problem — white woman, head of medicine, Mexico — [“Dr Mercedes Juan López, Mexico’s health secretary, argued against the soda tax. Photograph: Carlos Tischler/Demotix/Corbis”] If this is not part of the Eichmann Racist Evil, emanating from your heart, then you, reader, are not human!

Mexico's Health Secretary Mercedes Juan Lopez

We know it is all about Covid-19, that is, STAT, global lockdown, the end of us all, that coronaviral flu — Yet, we can harken back to Edward Bernays and his hawking cigarettes for women, pregnant ones, too. Now, Mister Frued’s Nephew Harbinger of the Worst of the Worst Propagandists, Swindler Swine Facilitator. Then, or death president, one of the dozens, Ray-gun —

Oh, hell, how about that Mexican president — “Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico, was once a Coca-Cola delivery worker.”

Vicente Fox 9756

Okay, okay, it goes way back, selling sweet death — The Future President’s Future ex-Wife —

And, alas, if a K12 teacher, teaching social studies, history, or, hell, biology, were to go into the ill-effects of refined and non-refined sugar on the child, how HFCS is a huge issue tied to not just overweight childhood syndrome, or obesity, but all these dozens of chronic illnesses adult, and the brain fog, fatigue, hunger pangs, and how it feeds the medical fraud system called Medicine, well, that lesson would be Cancel Culture Central since, hmm, Pizza Hut (Pepsi) and Taco Bell (Pepsi) and Minute Maid (Coke) and so many other “programs, or giveaways” are tied to supporting the Swine Swindling Capitalists’ right to hook anyone on their nefarious services, products, poisons.

If you want to get rid of premature death (Covid-Coke, anyone?), then you go full communist-socialist-communitarian-It Takes a Village on the purveyors of slow, agonizing death, no? Mandatory seat belts and chairs upright and trays put away on those aluminum and plastic cigars of death, airplanes, and if you resist that, you are deep-sixed from travel on the airlines, but god forbid we put brakes and seat belts on our children’s health, and their future lives. God forbid we force food makers to make food, no poison delivery systems!

So, Fourth Industrial Revolution is real, but the anti-global confrontation of these colluding problems, it is wrong. Anything that prefigures not helping youth, and having a democratic socialist-communist form of local and national governments to clean up the air, water, education, medicine, aging, life, this is not about big brother screening your TV choices, though we know TV and Holly-Dirt has done a miraculous job of brainwashing and inciting stupidity and murderous thinking. Working globally is the only answer. Democratically. Yet, we will continue to have story after story, report after report, showing how nefarious the global capitalist, transnational penury, the trans-capital thievery, the few that own the man, unless we burn it all down.

ACADEMIA Letters:

FRUCTOSE CONSUMPTION HAMPERS GASOTRANSMITTER PRODUCTION by Elena Fauste Cristina Donis María Isabel Panadero Paola Otero Carlos Bocos, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad San Pablo-CEU, CEU Universities, Boadilla del Monte, Madrid, Spain.

Gasotransmitters are gaseous molecules enzymatically produced by mammalian cells with a wide range of molecular and cellular effects. They are permeable to cell membranes and their levels, although low, must be strictly regulated since they work as messengers, are involved in signal transduction cascades and have specific targets in the cell (1). The first gasotransmitter described was nitric oxide (NO) as a regulator of vascular tone and macrophage activation, and later two others gases were added to the list: carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen sulde(H2S) (2). Recently, ammonia (NH3) has also been proposed as a new gasotransmitter (3). Gasotransmitter concentrations must be regulated within a specifc range as they are toxic for the cell at high levels.

Indeed, it has been proven that NO, CO and H2S inhibit cytochrome coxidase (CcOx) (4-6) and hyper ammonemia causes brain damage (7). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), non-communicable diseases are the main cause of death worldwide, with all of them sharing modifiable risk factors such as smoking, unhealthy diets, sedentarism and excessive alcohol consumption (8). In fact, unhealthy diets such as the Western diet (high in added sugars, salt and saturated fats (9)) have been related to a higher likelihood to undergo metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes type 2,cardiovascular diseases and hypertension (10).

Fructose, as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or sucrose, has been used as added sugar in sweetened beverages, processed foods and juices due to its higher water solubility and sweetening power (11), and it has been related to the increase in obesity (12), metabolic syndrome (13), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)(14) and insulin resistance (15). In the last decades, we and others have studied the mechanisms involved in fructose-induced metabolic disturbances and, in recent years, their connection with gasotransmitter metabolism and signaling has also become more and more evident.

Nope, you will not get this in the Build Backwards Better or Republican/Libertarian Reap Thy Profits Anyway You Can projects or media or the CDC, FDA, and the like. It’s mainstream media’s most contrary-to-business-as-usual story, and legacy media and the new media, they all require subservience to the overlords, the marketers, the advertisers, and if you look loosely, what sells on TV or on-line? Drugs, booze, food (sic), sugary stuff, treatments, insulin, blood glucose monitors, and diet pills and, well, you get the Double Bacon Cheeseburger Slathered with Eight-by-Eight-by-Eight addictive secret ingredients  — 8 scoops of sugar, 8 scoops of fat, and 8 pinches of salt. Nope. How dare we even talk about messing with Swine Swindlers of Capitalism and their legions of shysters, snake oil salesmen/ women, and reaping of profits anyway they can retailers. It’s everywhere, those poisons, and Coke is just emblematic and axiomatic of the disease of consumer-rape, with just one system (soda pop), when there are thousands of systems of extracting life from the planet that do the same diseased dirty work.

More stuff I read, which again, is not on the smorgasbord table of the mainstream and off-stream mush served 24/7!

  • “Why does Bayer Crop Science Control Chemicals in Brexit Britain” – Rosemary Mason
  • “Does Glyphosate Acting as a Glycine Analogue Contribute To ALS” – Stephanie Seneff
  • “Afterthoughts on Diaspora” – Kenneth Surin
  • “How to Deal with Those Bleeping Ideas: Free Speech in the Classroom.”- Phil Venditti
  • “The New Genetics and Natural versus Artificial Genetic Modification” – Mae-Wan Ho
  • “Autism, Dysbiosis, and the Gut-Brain Axis” – Alex Vasquez
  • “Might cholesterol sulfate deficiency contribute to the development of autistic spectrum disorder?” – Stephanie Seneff
  • “Open Letter- The UK Media is silent about the Corporation that collaborated with the Nazis in Auschwitz” – Rosemary Mason
  • “COVID-19 and Pesticides – A Deadly Combination” – Rosemary Mason

Now, of course, the fact there are no great water systems in Mexico, no reliable (writ large) plumbing, no graywater, storm water or sewage water collection and treatment plants, those are not the real issues capitalism wants to tackle — hint-hint! The fact that there are no free water wells, water delivery systems, no, this is not a problem to the Nestle and Pepsi and Jolly Green Giants laying waste to Mexico’s aquifers and water supplies. All of these deficits and thefts brought to us/them by Neoliberalism, the Swine Swindlers, those who let the top soda pop and beer and booze outfits run across lands globally and steal watersheds globally, not the problem. Repeat — Capitalism is STEALING and DEALING in poisons. And, then, this process is polluting bodies, at a very young age, and that is in the baby’s bottle, early, that bubbly dark stuff, Coca Cola. But, then, the dirty water, microbe-born, death waters, black pools of the twin plants, all the hard poisons leeching into Mexico’s water supplies, not the problem. No, let’s serve Coke instead of H2O, that is, fixing our human right to water. The problem, in Swine Swindlers’ hands, in their minds, is that there is not enough free unfettered take-it-all-if-you-can, capitalism, in order to hook more kids on sugary death-sicles!

But we have Killer Coke/Minute Maid to thanks:

Restaurants That Serve Coke Vs. Pepsi

You’ve seen this graphic above, and this one, too — that is the disease of Swindling Swines of Capitalism:

15 Brands You Didn't Know Were Owned by PepsiCo or Coca-Cola

And, sure, tons of college campuses, including all those I taught at, had campaigns against Killer Coke, and in my case, I was the instigator of this as a part-time/adjunct/freeway flyer faculty member. These are teachable moments, not grand strategies to actually hobble Killer Coke and the Swine Swindlers of Capitalism. But, here, old Coke tries to buy off not just the schools and college/university campuses, but the activists — “How Coca Cola Tried to Buy Off Ray Rogers and End the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke

It’s worth putting down the entire short piece here, quoting the above source:

Quoting — ‘For the past fifteen years, Ray Rogers has spearheaded the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke.

Rogers says it’s a campaign to hold Coca-Cola Company, its bottlers and subsidiaries accountable and “to end the gruesome cycle of violence and collaboration with paramilitary thugs, particularly in Colombia.”

“These atrocities include the systematic intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders and members of their families in efforts to crush their unions,” Rogers says. “In countries like Colombia and Guatemala, a strong union can mean the difference between life and death for people who dare to challenge corporate and political abuses.

In 2006, a Financial Times story labeled Rogers Coca Cola’s “fiercest foe.” Rogers and the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke are featured in a full-length documentary, The Coca-Cola Case.

Rogers says that in 2010, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agreed to pay him $15,000 to be the keynote speaker at a luncheon in Washington, D.C. since his strategies and campaigns in fighting big business have been “so alarming and effective.”

Rogers says that Coca-Cola, a major sponsor of the U.S. Chamber, pressured the Chamber to rescind the invitation and Ray was paid a $3,000 cancellation fee which went to support the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke.

Rogers reports that in 2016 and 2017, Coca-Cola’s then CEO Muhtar Kent suggested he and Rogers should meet privately to discuss how they could resolve their differences.

“Two lengthy, no holds barred, but cordial private meetings at Coca-Cola’s office in New York City happened in May 2016 and January 2017,” Rogers’ Corporate Campaign reported last month. “Both Rogers and Kent, unbeknownst to each other, brought gifts. In the first meeting, Rogers presented Kent a container of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate coffee beans and a bottle of pomegranate juice and Ray was given a lovely handbag made by a woman in Brazil, who as part of a collective, made a living recycling Coke can flip tops as artwork ornaments in creating designer-type handbags. In the second meeting, Ray presented dark chocolate and natural juice and received bottles of extra virgin olive oil produced from Kent’s olive orchards.”

“Numerous discussions also took place with another high level Coca-Cola representative through April 2017.”

“It was made clear to Rogers that if he would ‘get off Coke’s Back’ and end the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, he would have plenty of money to carry on whatever work he decided to do and that Coke would be willing to fund a large no-kill animal shelter in NY City which Ray wanted as his reward to end the campaign.”

“Rogers made it clear that he could not be hired by, bought off or co-opted by Coca-Cola. The only way the campaign would end, he told Coke, is if justice was served relating to Coke’s complicity in well-documented human rights abuses in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and the U.S. Those issues have yet to be resolved.”

Coca-Cola did not return calls seeking comment for this story.’

+–+ end story

So, above, you can’t find the trailer of The Coca-Cola Case anywhere, and you can’t stream it, and YouTube has scrubbed it. HMMM. These links are dead in the sugary ocean!

Here is the Trailer on iTunes! Now how does this all relate to Big Pharma/Big Medicine/Big Finance/Big Food/Big Retail/ Big Ag?

How many times in one day do we need to make the analogy of Capitalism as Cancerous Disease? Or, Capitalism as Pollution? Capitalism as War Lord? Capitalism as Survival of the Fittest? Capitalism as Eugenics 201?

Or, Capitalism as the Value of Nothing Being A Lot?

How about, Capitalism as Inflammatory Disease? Check it out, even though on George Soros’ Democracy Now:

Yes, the Covid-19 story is not handled well, in part of this DN piece, for sure, but again, so much bandwidth, man, the bandwidth — the ideas of this book are powerful, and old for us lefties, us commies.

Boldly original, Inflamed takes us on a medical tour through the human body. Unlike a traditional anatomy book, this groundbreaking work illuminates the hidden relationships between our biological systems and the profound injustices of our political and economic systems. Decolonizing heals what has been divided, reestablishing our relationships with the Earth and one another. (source)

A better analysis of vaccinations versus immunization, germ theory versus terrain medicine theory, go here:

https://rquijanomd.files.wordpress.com/2021/04/health-disruptor.jpg

Again, highly refined and deep analysis of the Vaccination Pogrom — “Vaccination: Most Deceptive Tool of Imperialism.” Read and follow the end notes/bibliography.

The real underlying cause of deaths in epidemics is the dysfunctional health care system brought about by chronic socio-economic underdevelopment characteristic of a semi-feudal and semi-colonial society victimized by imperialism, not the loss of vaccine confidence due to the “Dengvaxia scare”.

Corporate hijacking of the health care system with the complicity of government, international institutions, mainstream medicine and various cohorts deprived the people of their right to health. Profit has become the primary driving factor in addressing a public health problem, not public welfare.

Deregulation, privatization and liberalization, the hallmarks of corporate globalization, the new face of imperialism, have practically wiped-out whatever remaining affordable basic needs and social services, especially health services, are available to the majority of the population. Worse, under the guise of economic development, big business juggernaut in mining, plantations, coal, dams and other environmentally destructive and socially disruptive mega-projects have devastated community-empowering and truly sustainable, poverty alleviating, health promoting and climate resilient initiatives.

The concomitant and worsening assaults (including extrajudicial killings) on fundamental human rights have subjected marginalized people to extreme physical, biological, psychological and social stress and have repeatedly been forced to be displaced from their land, homes, crops and other means of survival. Under these circumstances, infectious disease epidemics and other serious health problems are bound to arise and worsen. The root cause of epidemics in this country is imperialism. Liberation is the answer, not vaccination.

Here is Raj’s latest documentary, a good one, in fact — I watched it through CAGJ (Community Alliance for Global Justice strengthens the global food sovereignty movement through community education and mobilization), “After a special virtual screening of The Ants & the Grasshopper, CAGJ held a Q&A session with co-director and co-producer Raj Patel. About the film : “Anita Chitaya has a gift; she can help bring abundant food from dead soil, she can make men fight for gender equality, and she can end child hunger in her village. Now, to save her home from extreme weather, she faces her greatest challenge: persuading Americans that climate change is real. Traveling from Malawi to California to the White House, she meets climate sceptics and despairing farmers. Her journey takes her across all the divisions shaping the US, from the rural-urban divide, to schisms of race, class and gender, to the thinking that allows Americans to believe they live on a different planet from everyone else. It will take all her skill and experience to help Americans recognize, and free themselves from, a logic that is already destroying the Earth.” Raj Patel co-directed and co-produced the film with Steve James, among others; James is renowned for his 1992 documentary Hoop DreamsLearn more about the film:

So, for vapid, checked-out, colonized, Swine Swindling Bastards and Bitches, the reality is sugar is just ONE of a million ways the Capitalist Criminals hook death, disease, penury, fear, miseducation, agnotology and violence into the mass population. Taxing Coke and sugary drinks? Hmm, how about building water systems, and Socialism, and working on the problems from a holistic and systems approach, as in disease prevention (this is anti-capitalist in every sense of these Swine Swindlers’ brains), is the only way. And abolishing poisons writ large.

Fizzy drinks delivery, Mazatlan, Mexico

Back to the BBC story! Ending this piece with facts!

Mexicans are the thirstiest consumers of sugary drinks in the world. Each gets through an estimated 163 litres (36 imperial gallons) on average per person every year – 40% more than an average American (who drinks 118 litres, or 26 gallons).

And this, says the government and the health campaigners, is a serious problem.

All too often, the headlines coming from Mexico focus on the country’s bloody drugs war – which has claimed over 100,000 lives in the past decade. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, kills 70,000 per year.

So acute is the problem that two years ago, in January 2014, Mexico introduced a national tax on sugary drinks and junk food – a 10% tax on every litre of sugar-sweetened drinks and an 8% tax on high-calorie food.

The effect of these on children is a particular concern – according to Mexico’s Health Ministry, the country leads the world in childhood obesity.

“About 10% of kids are being fed soda from zero to six months of age,” says Dr Salvador Villalpando, a childhood obesity specialist at the Federico Gomez children’s hospital in Mexico City.

“By the time they reach two it’s about 80%.”

Finally, before sending in this diatribe, or finalizing it, the breaking news, November 23, just proves my point on the sickness and triple sickness of Swines Swindling the World for Profits at the Expense of Our Slow Death —

They miss the point, though, in this anti-monopoly vs. pro-monopoly gambit:

The Biden administration on Tuesday sued to block the proposed merger of two sugar industry giants, arguing that that acquisition would erase competition and raise prices at a time when global supply chains are already under pressure.

The civil antitrust lawsuit, filed in federal court in Delaware, aims to stop the United States Sugar from buying Imperial Sugar. The corporations are rivals in the “already cozy” sugar industry, said Jonathan Kanter, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, in a press release.

“This deal substantially lessens competition at a time when global supply chain challenges already threaten steady access to important commodities and goods,” Kanter added.

U.S. Sugar is a Delaware corporation that’s privately held and headquartered in Florida. Imperial Sugar is owned by Louis Dreyfus, a global agricultural conglomerate based in the Netherlands. The deal is valued at about $315 million.

“As a result, fragile supply chains would be further strained, and American families would pay more for sugar and many staple food and beverage products,” the lawsuit says.

“This is a straightforward case: the merger of two direct competitors that will result in a highly concentrated market and lead to higher prices for a product that is vital to our country’s food supply,” the complaint adds.

“Simply put: this case is not a close call.”

Read the the stories on Commondreams or AP, any place, and you will not get a third rail, a different perspective, one that not only lambasts capitalism’s dirty hooked-on-poisons-food secret, but one that actually states that all sugar consumption, according to those docs and scientists pushing the Covid-19 Is the Worst Thing Ever story, is bad-bad. A little bit of heroin once in a while, nah. A little pregnant, nah.

Oh, that sugar! Oh that Columbus. Oh that 1619 Project, shedding light:

Khalil Gibran Muhammad in The 1619 Project (pages 70-77) brings attention the vast scale of slavery in sugar plantations, centered in Louisiana, where the working conditions were arguably even worse.  Christopher Columbus brought sugar cane stalks on his second voyage and that it was the presence of slave labor that shifted sugar from a luxury commodity to what it is now.

In Europe at that time, refined sugar was a luxury product, the backbreaking toil and dangerous labor required in its manufacture an insuperable barrier to production in anything approaching bulk. It seems reasonable to imagine that it might have remained so if it weren’t for the establishment of an enormous market in enslaved laborers who had no way to opt out of the treacherous work.

The enslaved population soared, quadrupling over a 20-year period to 125,000 souls in the mid-19th century. New Orleans became the Walmart of people-selling. The number of enslaved labor crews doubled on sugar plantations. And in every sugar parish, black people outnumbered whites. These were some of the most skilled laborers, doing some of the most dangerous agricultural and industrial work in the United States.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. "Sugar cane plantation; [Jamaica.]" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed April 27, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-94a7-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Or, update the slavery to obesity and slow sweet death —

Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin.

The post Everything goes Better with Coca Cola: Hitching Capitalism to Sweet Slow Death first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Colombia’s Rebellion against the Capitalist System

Colombia has been burning with the flames of resistance ever since a national strike began on April 28, 2021. The initial impetus for the large-scale demonstrations came from a regressive tax reform. The tax bill came into being due to the necessity of the Colombian state to push down the rising fiscal deficit, which could reach 10% of GDP this year. On top of this, the tight integration of the Colombian economy into the architectures of imperialism has resulted in an external debt of $156,834,000,000 (51.8% of GDP, projected to come up to 62.8%).

Someone had to pay for this crisis and the ruling class had no interest in doing so. This was demonstrated when the finance minister ignored the recommendations made by the state-appointed expert committee to tax the highest earners first. The attempt to make the workers and the middle layers pay for the crisis was the spark that ignited the masses’ accumulated rage.

The movement has slowly spread into the larger questions of political economy, openly confronting the structural barbarity of a glaciated plutocracy. This plutocracy has blood on its hands; it has amassed obscene amounts of wealth by relentlessly mowing down the resistance of the oppressed masses.

Entrenched Violence

The modern history of Colombia is enveloped in vapors of violence. Between 1948 and 1958, the country was the scene of one of the most intense and protracted instances of widespread violence in the twentieth century. In this period, there was a civil war called “The Violence” between Liberal and Conservative parties which took 200,000 lives. In order to bring an end to civil war, the Conservatives and Liberals made a political pact in 1958, known as the National Front (NF) which established that the presidency would alternate between the two parties for a period of 16 years and all positions in the three branches of government would be distributed evenly between them. Despite this, violence continued until 1966.

NF barred the Colombian Communist Party (PCC) from conventional political process in 1955 to ensure that its rising popularity was curtailed. In this way, NF helped in the alternation of power between the different factions of the Colombia elite while strengthening the armed forces to suppress popular reforms. After the civil war, capital accumulation consolidated, agri-business interests grew stronger and land concentration increased. Suffocated by the brutal vehemence of blood-tainted profit-making and hamstrung by the closure of traditional channels of opposition, PCC formed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) on May 27, 1964, as its armed wing.

Between 1984 and 1988, the FARC-EP agreed to a ceasefire with then President Belisario Betancur and many of its militants opted for electoral politics by forming a mass-based political party, the Patriotic Union (UP).  In all, UP gained 12 elected congressional members, 21 representatives to departmental assemblies, 170 members of city councils and 335 municipal councilors. Before, during, and after scoring these substantial electoral victories in local, state, and national elections, the military-backed death squads murdered three of the UP’s presidential candidates.

Over 5,000 legal electoral activists were killed. The FARC-EP was forced to return to armed opposition because of Colombian regime-sponsored mass terrorism. Between 1985 and 2008, tens of thousands of peasant leaders, trade unionists, human rights activists, and neighborhood leaders as well as journalists, lawyers, and congress people were killed, jailed, or driven into exile. As is evident, whenever ordinary Colombians have stood up for life, the governing political caste and the ruling economic class have systematically tapped into the vast power of state terror to chop off any hope for a better future.

Even today, the same practice of deploying ever greater amounts of violence continues. The director of Human Rights Watch believes that the protests in Colombia have seen a level of police violence previously unknown in Latin America. He claims that on this continent he has never seen “tanks firing multiple rounds of tear gas projectiles, among other things, horizontally at demonstrators at high speed. A most dangerous practice”.

US Support

The Colombian elite’s construction of repressive apparatuses has been fundamentally aided by the American empire. Colombia has been witness to a US-sponsored counter-insurgent nation-building project aimed at contesting the rapid expansion of rural guerrillas on Colombia’s endless coca frontier, its mining and energy frontiers, its agro-industrial frontiers, and into most of its towns and even cities. This project has turned out to be purely destructive.

By the end of the 1990s, there were more than 400 paramilitary massacres annually. Enter US-backed Plan Colombia, ostensibly designed to cut cocaine production in half: 80% of it went to the Colombian police and armed forces, who worked with the paramilitaries against the FARC, or, more often, against the Colombian people who lived in areas where guerrillas were active. From 2006 to 2010, the Colombian armed forces disappeared more than 10,000 civilians and disguised them as guerrilla kills to boost the body count.

Propped up by a bloated, national security state, the political class became totally dysfunctional, making no move to implement the 1991 Constitution, whose provisions on indigenous autonomy became dead letters. Such was the mockery of the electorate’s existence that the passage of the constitution was preceded by record numbers of indigenous deaths.

The war machine’s dispossession, disappearance, torture, and massacre of indigenous people left no community untouched. The Afro-Colombians in the Pacific, who had secured provision to collective land title in 1993, following the indigenous model of autonomy through communal land tenure, suddenly found themselves in the thick of death and destruction as their lands were coveted by mining and logging companies as well as drug traffickers-cum-ranchers-cum-paramilitaries.

Today, Colombia continues to be the stooge of USA, being the largest recipient of American foreign aid in Latin America, and the largest outside of the Middle East. In 2020, Congress appropriated over $460 million in foreign aid, with most of the funds being directed towards “peace and security,” which includes providing training and equipment to security forces. This has translated into the build-up of massive police and military forces that are unleashed against the civilian population whenever the need comes to enforce the neoliberal model.

Continued Resistance

On November 24, 2016, the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP signed a peace agreement, the “Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace”. However, this promise of peace has proven to be full of contradictory tensions. Insecurity and inequality continue unabated, despite the promise of stability, inclusiveness and state responsiveness. There can be little prospect of a meaningful or sustainable peace if large sections of society remain vulnerable to violence, insecurity, injustice and other harms.

However, an entirely elitist architecture of governance has been a part and parcel of Colombia’s history.  Whether it is conflict or “peace”, all types of political periods have been utilized by the agribusinesses, extractive industries, large-scale landowners and rural elites to enrich themselves. Meanwhile, the marginalized have been exposed to further violence and insecurity. The calcified cruelty of this system reached such a level that the subjugated pole could no longer keep quiet; it had to take to the streets to reassert its right to live with dignity.

Since Duque came to power in 2018, Colombians have led fierce social struggles: student-led demonstrations against corruption and state terror over three consecutive months in 2018; a nationwide strike of teachers, students, farmers and pensioners in support of public education and pensions in April 2019; “March for Life” demonstrations by students and teachers in response to escalation in assassinations of activists and opposition politicians by neo-paramilitaries and police in July 2019; nationwide general strikes against austerity policies and the cover-up of a military-headed bombing campaign that killed at least eight children in the department of Caquetá; and the mass demonstrations that erupted during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in September 2020 against police violence. In the current conjuncture, resistance will continue as the heavy fist of neoliberal authoritarianism disrupts the existence of the majority of the people.

The post Colombia’s Rebellion against the Capitalist System first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Colombia’s Rebellion against the Capitalist System

Colombia has been burning with the flames of resistance ever since a national strike began on April 28, 2021. The initial impetus for the large-scale demonstrations came from a regressive tax reform. The tax bill came into being due to the necessity of the Colombian state to push down the rising fiscal deficit, which could reach 10% of GDP this year. On top of this, the tight integration of the Colombian economy into the architectures of imperialism has resulted in an external debt of $156,834,000,000 (51.8% of GDP, projected to come up to 62.8%).

Someone had to pay for this crisis and the ruling class had no interest in doing so. This was demonstrated when the finance minister ignored the recommendations made by the state-appointed expert committee to tax the highest earners first. The attempt to make the workers and the middle layers pay for the crisis was the spark that ignited the masses’ accumulated rage.

The movement has slowly spread into the larger questions of political economy, openly confronting the structural barbarity of a glaciated plutocracy. This plutocracy has blood on its hands; it has amassed obscene amounts of wealth by relentlessly mowing down the resistance of the oppressed masses.

Entrenched Violence

The modern history of Colombia is enveloped in vapors of violence. Between 1948 and 1958, the country was the scene of one of the most intense and protracted instances of widespread violence in the twentieth century. In this period, there was a civil war called “The Violence” between Liberal and Conservative parties which took 200,000 lives. In order to bring an end to civil war, the Conservatives and Liberals made a political pact in 1958, known as the National Front (NF) which established that the presidency would alternate between the two parties for a period of 16 years and all positions in the three branches of government would be distributed evenly between them. Despite this, violence continued until 1966.

NF barred the Colombian Communist Party (PCC) from conventional political process in 1955 to ensure that its rising popularity was curtailed. In this way, NF helped in the alternation of power between the different factions of the Colombia elite while strengthening the armed forces to suppress popular reforms. After the civil war, capital accumulation consolidated, agri-business interests grew stronger and land concentration increased. Suffocated by the brutal vehemence of blood-tainted profit-making and hamstrung by the closure of traditional channels of opposition, PCC formed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) on May 27, 1964, as its armed wing.

Between 1984 and 1988, the FARC-EP agreed to a ceasefire with then President Belisario Betancur and many of its militants opted for electoral politics by forming a mass-based political party, the Patriotic Union (UP).  In all, UP gained 12 elected congressional members, 21 representatives to departmental assemblies, 170 members of city councils and 335 municipal councilors. Before, during, and after scoring these substantial electoral victories in local, state, and national elections, the military-backed death squads murdered three of the UP’s presidential candidates.

Over 5,000 legal electoral activists were killed. The FARC-EP was forced to return to armed opposition because of Colombian regime-sponsored mass terrorism. Between 1985 and 2008, tens of thousands of peasant leaders, trade unionists, human rights activists, and neighborhood leaders as well as journalists, lawyers, and congress people were killed, jailed, or driven into exile. As is evident, whenever ordinary Colombians have stood up for life, the governing political caste and the ruling economic class have systematically tapped into the vast power of state terror to chop off any hope for a better future.

Even today, the same practice of deploying ever greater amounts of violence continues. The director of Human Rights Watch believes that the protests in Colombia have seen a level of police violence previously unknown in Latin America. He claims that on this continent he has never seen “tanks firing multiple rounds of tear gas projectiles, among other things, horizontally at demonstrators at high speed. A most dangerous practice”.

US Support

The Colombian elite’s construction of repressive apparatuses has been fundamentally aided by the American empire. Colombia has been witness to a US-sponsored counter-insurgent nation-building project aimed at contesting the rapid expansion of rural guerrillas on Colombia’s endless coca frontier, its mining and energy frontiers, its agro-industrial frontiers, and into most of its towns and even cities. This project has turned out to be purely destructive.

By the end of the 1990s, there were more than 400 paramilitary massacres annually. Enter US-backed Plan Colombia, ostensibly designed to cut cocaine production in half: 80% of it went to the Colombian police and armed forces, who worked with the paramilitaries against the FARC, or, more often, against the Colombian people who lived in areas where guerrillas were active. From 2006 to 2010, the Colombian armed forces disappeared more than 10,000 civilians and disguised them as guerrilla kills to boost the body count.

Propped up by a bloated, national security state, the political class became totally dysfunctional, making no move to implement the 1991 Constitution, whose provisions on indigenous autonomy became dead letters. Such was the mockery of the electorate’s existence that the passage of the constitution was preceded by record numbers of indigenous deaths.

The war machine’s dispossession, disappearance, torture, and massacre of indigenous people left no community untouched. The Afro-Colombians in the Pacific, who had secured provision to collective land title in 1993, following the indigenous model of autonomy through communal land tenure, suddenly found themselves in the thick of death and destruction as their lands were coveted by mining and logging companies as well as drug traffickers-cum-ranchers-cum-paramilitaries.

Today, Colombia continues to be the stooge of USA, being the largest recipient of American foreign aid in Latin America, and the largest outside of the Middle East. In 2020, Congress appropriated over $460 million in foreign aid, with most of the funds being directed towards “peace and security,” which includes providing training and equipment to security forces. This has translated into the build-up of massive police and military forces that are unleashed against the civilian population whenever the need comes to enforce the neoliberal model.

Continued Resistance

On November 24, 2016, the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP signed a peace agreement, the “Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace”. However, this promise of peace has proven to be full of contradictory tensions. Insecurity and inequality continue unabated, despite the promise of stability, inclusiveness and state responsiveness. There can be little prospect of a meaningful or sustainable peace if large sections of society remain vulnerable to violence, insecurity, injustice and other harms.

However, an entirely elitist architecture of governance has been a part and parcel of Colombia’s history.  Whether it is conflict or “peace”, all types of political periods have been utilized by the agribusinesses, extractive industries, large-scale landowners and rural elites to enrich themselves. Meanwhile, the marginalized have been exposed to further violence and insecurity. The calcified cruelty of this system reached such a level that the subjugated pole could no longer keep quiet; it had to take to the streets to reassert its right to live with dignity.

Since Duque came to power in 2018, Colombians have led fierce social struggles: student-led demonstrations against corruption and state terror over three consecutive months in 2018; a nationwide strike of teachers, students, farmers and pensioners in support of public education and pensions in April 2019; “March for Life” demonstrations by students and teachers in response to escalation in assassinations of activists and opposition politicians by neo-paramilitaries and police in July 2019; nationwide general strikes against austerity policies and the cover-up of a military-headed bombing campaign that killed at least eight children in the department of Caquetá; and the mass demonstrations that erupted during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in September 2020 against police violence. In the current conjuncture, resistance will continue as the heavy fist of neoliberal authoritarianism disrupts the existence of the majority of the people.

The post Colombia’s Rebellion against the Capitalist System first appeared on Dissident Voice.

If I Fall in the Struggle, Take My Place

Tiger Tateishi (Japan), Samurai, the Watcher (Koya no Yojinbo), 1965.

Tiger Tateishi (Japan), Samurai, the Watcher (Koya no Yojinbo), 1965.

Ugliness defines the mood of state violence from Cali (Colombia) to Durban (South Africa), each context different and the depth of the violence particular to the location. Images of security forces cracking down on people trying to express their political rights have become commonplace. It is impossible to keep track of the events, which move swiftly from public manifestations to courtroom scenes, from the dissipation of tear gas to the invisible frustration of the prison cell. Yet, underlying these events and amidst the range of feelings that shape them lies a sense of refusal, the Great Refusal, the refusal to accept the terms dictated from those in power and the refusal to express this dissent in polite terms.


Orchestra director Susana Boreal (Medellín, Colombia), El pueblo unido jamás será vencido, 5 May 2021.

Colombia’s government decided to push through a peculiarly named Sustainable Solidarity Law (Ley de Solidaridad Sostenible) that transferred the financial cost of the pandemic onto the population, which reacted – as expected – with anger. Faced with a national strike on 28-29 April, the Colombian state responded, as it often does, with wildly harsh violence, including by mobilising the dangerously named Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD). Those on the streets came with rage and with music, the range of responses united by antipathy to the government of President Iván Duque.

The unflinching Colombian oligarchy, which has dispensed violence to maintain its power, must have trembled when it saw protestors in Cali take down the statue of Sebastián de Belalcázar, a conquistador. This act suggested that the protestors would not be satisfied only with the reversal of the proposed law, but that they wanted to overturn the rigid hierarchies that govern their society. Duque does not see the protestors as citizens; to him, they are ‘vandals’. No wonder that Duque let loose the ugliest of violence, with the cities of Bogotá, Cali, and Medellin facing the brunt of the attack. Despite calls from the mayors of Bogotá (Claudia López) and Medellin (Daniel Quintero), this state violence nonetheless went ahead, the battlefield in the streets coming to resemble Iraq, in the words of a Colombian friend who had covered the wars in West Asia.

David Koloane (South Africa), Bull in the City, 2016.

David Koloane (South Africa), Bull in the City, 2016.

Like Iraq. Or like Israel, recently named an apartheid state by Human Rights Watch (HRW). Apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning ‘apartness’, to keep the whites apart from others or, in the case of Israel, to keep the Jewish citizens apart from the Palestinian subjects. The HRW report follows numerous others by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission on West Asia (ESCWA), which used the word ‘apartheid’ to describe Israel’s racist policies towards the Palestinian people. HRW, which has taken its time to come to these elementary conclusions, says that Israel harshly deprives Palestinians of the right to affirm life; ‘these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution’.

The linkage between the terms ‘apartheid’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ refers to a United Nations General Assembly resolution from December 1966 that condemned ‘the policies of apartheid of the Government of South Africa as a crime against humanity’. In 1984, the UN Security Council described apartheid as ‘a system characterised as a crime against humanity’. The term ‘crime against humanity’ has subsequently been enshrined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998). It is no coincidence that on 3 March 2021, the lead prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, said that the ICC would open an investigation into crimes committed in Israel since 2014. Israel has refused to cooperate with the ICC.

Israeli courts decided to move ahead with the eviction of six families from the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, an area with three thousand residents – despite the fact that the Israeli courts have no jurisdiction in the occupied territories. In 1967, Israel seized East Jerusalem, which forms part of the occupied Palestinian territories. UN resolution 242 (1967) states that the occupying power, namely Israel, must respect the sovereignty, political independence and ‘territorial inviolability’ of every State in the area. In 1972, Israeli settlers moved the Israeli courts to evict the thousands of Palestinians who lived in the area, a process that has been resisted by the Palestinians in the fifty years since. The brazen violence of the Israeli Border Police, or Magav, was further escalated with the entry of heavily armed Israeli soldiers into Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque on 7 May, mimicking the violence of the Colombian ESMAD.

Terrible repression comes alongside the continued attempt to delegitimise any political project of the Palestinian people. If the Palestinian people stand up, Israel calls them terrorists. This mirrors the way the South African apartheid government and their Western allies described the African National Congress during the heyday of the anti-apartheid struggle. In 1994, the African National Congress alliance took power over the South African state, beginning a long-term process to dismantle the entrenched structures of inequality and apartheid; it will take generations of resistance to undo what has been so powerfully set in place over the past decades.

Dang Xuan Hoa (Vietnam), The Red Family, 2008

Dang Xuan Hoa (Vietnam), The Red Family, 2008

In August 2020, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research published a dossier entitled ‘The Politic of Blood’: Political Repression in South Africa. Early into the text, we quote from Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth (1961), which several times uses the word ‘incapacity’ to refer to the ruling classes of the new states that emerge out of colonialism. When the people form their own organisations and develop their demands for participatory forms of democracy, the ruling class, Fanon writes, has an incapacity to understand this popular action as rational; it sees this popular action as a threat to its rule. Such an attitude governs the Colombian oligarchy and the Israeli apartheid class. It also defines the ruling class in South Africa, whose political instruments cannot find the room to allow for the growth of the independent political organisation of the working class in that country.

On 4 May 2021, the authorities arrested Mqapheli George Bonono, the deputy president of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), the shack dwellers’ movement in South Africa. The authorities charged Bonono with ‘conspiring to commit murder’. Led by shack dwellers, AbM – which organises land occupation and housing struggles with a membership of 82,000 people – has faced repression since its foundation in 2005.

In 2018, we interviewed AbM leader S’bu Zikode for a dossier, in which he said:

Politics has become a way to get rich and people are willing to kill or to do anything to become rich and to stay rich. We move from funeral to funeral. We bury our comrades with the dignity that they were denied in life. Many of our comrades cannot sleep in their own homes or cannot leave their home after dark in the so-called democratic post-apartheid South Africa. Repression comes in waves.

Bonono is only the latest of the AbM members to face political repression. Brave activists from one end of the planet to the other face intimidation and murder for building organisations against the present. This repression resulted in the recent police killing of the artist Nicolas Guerrero in Cali (Colombia) and the political murder of Kakali Khetrapal of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) from Nabagram, East Burdwan (West Bengal, India). Guerrero was killed on the streets during the first hours of this protest wave, while Ketrapal was murdered by members of the party that won the West Bengal legislative election. This is political cleansing or politicide, the murder of activists whose deaths deflate the confidence of the masses to take on the great granite block of power. Sharpening their swords in the shadows, the killers take their orders from cell phones that can dial the homes of the powerful.

Fernando Bryce (Peru), Untitled (Cadaveres Atomicos), 2018

Fernando Bryce (Peru), Untitled (Cadaveres Atomicos), 2018

Ugly, this use of power, this killing with impunity. On 6 May, squadrons of the state entered the favela of Jacarezinho in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and opened fire, killing at least twenty-five people who appeared to surrender before the guns blazed. The United Nations has called for an investigation, but this will not go far. Brazil’s 1988 Constitution abolished the death penalty, yet the evidence suggests that the police believe that if you live in the favelas, then the death sentence – without judicial review – is permitted.

What kind of times are these when political repression operates without sufficient outrage? Muin Bseiso sang songs to rouse his fellow Palestinians in Gaza, suffocated by apartheid Israel. In his epic poem, Al-Ma’raka (‘The Battle’), Muin Bseiso found this solace:

If I fall in the struggle, comrade, take my place.
Gaze at my lips as they stop the wind’s madness.
I have not died. I still call you from beyond my wounds.
Bang your drum so that the people might hear your call to battle.

The post If I Fall in the Struggle, Take My Place first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Gustavo Petro Represents a Progressive Alternative in Colombia

Gustavo Petro is a force to be reckoned with in Colombian politics.  The senator – once a member of the M-19 guerilla group, later elected to the House of Representations in the 1990s and then the mayorship of Bogotá (2012-2016) – has become the candidate to beat in next year’s presidential election.  He is such a prominent opponent of right-wing politics in the country that while Donald Trump was campaigning in Florida in 2020 he included Petro in one of his anti-socialist diatribes, tweeting that “Biden is supported by socialist Gustavo Petro, a major LOSER and former M-19 guerrilla leader. Biden is weak on socialism and will betray Colombia. I stand with you!”

Petro previously ran for president in 2018 and made a strong showing, but ultimately lost to the far-right Iván Duque of the Democratic Center party by approximately 12%.  It is worth noting that leaked recordings pertaining to the 2018 election contain evidence that Duque’s party conspired with individuals linked to narcotraffickers to commit electoral fraud, and subsequent investigations have uncovered at least six cases of fraud in both the House and the Senate.

Since 2018, Petro’s grassroots appeal has only grown.  Polls for the upcoming 2022 election consistently place him in first place, and a survey conducted by pollster Invamer in April 2021 shows that “if elections were held tomorrow, no candidate would stand a chance against Petro.”  Nestor Morales of the Mañanas Blu radio program remarked:

Petro is right to be celebrating, because [this survey] is well above its historical averages… what is impressive is that Petro is winning in absolutely everything…He has votes in sectors that were not related to him; for example, the upper strata, the old men who were so anti-petrist. There is a change, a transformation of public opinion.

The discrediting of Duque and Uribismo, the far-right political project of his mentor former president Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010), has contributed to Petro’s rise in popularity.  His already solid base has been supplemented by those disillusioned by Duque’s failed COVID response and the brutal continuation of Uribista violence against former guerilla fighters and social activists, in contravention of the previous government’s peace deal with the FARC.  Furthermore, the Duque government’s recent decision to introduce a regressive tax reform that exempted the oligarchy while punishing ordinary workers has led to massive protests across Colombia.  Government forces have responded brutally, causing multiple deaths and leading the UN rights office to condemn their “excessive use of force.”  These protests have produced two general strikes thus far – one on April 28 and another on May 5 – and resistance to the austerity measures have grown to dominate the political discourse in the country, similar to how the 2019-2021 protests in Chile, which began due to a transit fare increase, soon snowballed into a nationwide indictment of neoliberal governance as a whole.

Gustavo Petro represents an alternative.  Despite his association with Latin American socialism, however, Petro’s political views have evolved greatly over time.  No longer an adherent of M-19’s revolutionary leftism, he now advocates a more moderate social-democratic model.  In interviews, he is quick to distance his favored politics from those introduced in Cuba and Venezuela – policies which, in addition to angering domestic elites, inevitably leads to aggression from Washington as well.  Instead, he compares himself to more gradualist figures, once stating that “I have more in common with Pepe Mujica [than Castro or Chávez],” referring to Uruguay’s famously modest left-wing president who served from 2010 to 2015 and oversaw notable macroeconomic growth as well as the legalization of marijuana and same-sex marriage.

Despite the softening of his views, Petro remains a target of the Colombian right and has received constant death threats during his public career.  He claims to have slept with an assault rifle over the course of the “parapolitics” scandal, during which dozens of politicians (many with links to the Uribe administration) were investigated and convicted for illegal ties to paramilitary groups with evidence that he helped present to Congress.  His brother was allegedly threatened with assassination (certainly no idle threat in Colombia), and his son Andrés is currently in exile, having been granted asylum by the Canadian government due to threats and political harassment from right-wing groups.  Furthermore, in March 2018 a Cuban man named Raul Gutierrez was arrested in Bogotá for plotting to bomb the Cuban embassy and assassinate both Petro and FARC leader Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño.  While imprisoned, he claimed that a right-wing Colombian group based out of Florida hired him to commit the attacks.

Leftism and social activism are dangerous business in Colombia.  In the first three months of 2021 alone, 40 activists were murdered and there were 23 massacres of predominantly poor and Indigenous peoples by paramilitary groups.  The impunity rate for the murder of trade unionists is approximately 87% and, as COVID-19 wracks the country, the Duque administration has continuously ramped up violence against areas which contain former FARC fighters.

One of the most horrific incidents so far this year was the murder of twelve children and two nineteen-year-olds in a bombing raid against an alleged armed group in Guaviare.  Petro commented publicly on the massacre, posting a list of the children’s names on Twitter and writing “14 children killed [including the two 19-year-olds] in a bombardment ordered by the Minister of Defence. These are their names. End the war, end the genocide of children in our country.”

Marcha Patriotica, a progressive umbrella organization that brings together historically marginalized groups within Colombia including peasants, people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community, has also faced persecution.  Almost two hundred of its members have been murdered since its founding in 2011, while an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights resolution from 2017 claimed that hundreds more are living under severe risks and that the government could protect them if it chose to act.

The Colombian right-wing has historically lumped together unionists, social activists, and left-wing figures with the longstanding peasant-led insurgencies in the countryside, labelling them “Castro-Chavistas,” “terrorists,” and “guerrillas posing as human rights defenders.”  These are extremely serious threats in Colombia, and not just due to ongoing atrocities.  One must also take into account the “political genocide” against the Patriotic Union (UP) in the 1980s and 1990s.

The UP was formed in 1985 during peace negotiations between the FARC and the Belisario Betancur administration.  Its purpose was to allow the FARC to participate in the electoral system in exchange for a ceasefire.  What followed, however, was a massacre: the party’s members were relentlessly attacked by paramilitaries and drug cartels and over 3000 of its members, including elected officials and presidential candidates, were murdered.  This led to a resumption of overt hostilities and proved to the guerillas that the Colombian state was an inherently oppressive, right-wing organization that would not allow fair elections to weaken its hold on power.

The US-backed military has historically been the arbiter of the political realm in Colombia, backing conservative figures and using paramilitaries to kill or intimidate those who organize for social change.  Their brutal acts have not shaken America’s diplomatic and material support or its military cooperation – as Joe Biden wrote during the 2020 election, it is the “keystone” of US policy in Latin America and has served as an indispensable ally in the region-wide imposition of a free-trade model vulnerable to American capital.  Scandals like the extermination of the UP, the murder of over 6000 civilians in the 2000s as a way of boosting the army’s kill-count against the insurgencies, and the almost universal impunity for the killing of trade union activists have not lessened America’s support in the slightest.

Nor have recent atrocities weakened Canada’s support for the Colombian government.  Stephen Harper made a point of deepening Canada’s ties to right-wing governments across the region, and Justin Trudeau has likewise taken a very active role in supporting the Latin American right against progressive movements.  Yves Engler writes that, in regard to Colombia, Ottawa quickly congratulated Duque after his fraud-riddled election win, refused to criticize the attempted overthrow of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro that was launched from Colombia in May 2020, and has consistently failed to draw attention to the ongoing injustices in the country.

This is the political climate – one of violent repression that receives the tacit or outright support of imperialist countries – in which Gustavo Petro has fought to present an alternative.  Although the presidential election will not be held for over a year, Petro’s dramatic rise in popularity is evidence that the Colombian people are seeking a break from the status quo, and that he may represent their best chance to achieve this.

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