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FARC’s deep roots. A brief introduction to FARC’s origins

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“[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]here is more repression of individual freedom here that in any other country we’ve been to, the police patrol the streets carrying rifles and demand your papers every few minutes, which some of them read upside down. The atmosphere is tense and it seems a revolution may be brewing. The countryside is in open revolt and the army is powerless to suppress it.” A young Ernesto Che Guevara was travelling around South America and, in a letter to his mother – dated June 1952 -, used these words to describe Colombian state during La Violencia (1948-1958).

In order to understand the deep roots of FARC’s origin and longevity, their experience should not be detached from the political and social context of Colombian history. FARC’s insurgency cannot be understood discerning from agrarian conflicts during the 1920s-1930s and from the period of La Violencia.

The Post Colonial Colombia was dominated by a bipartite political system in which the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party exercised undisputed political and economic hegemony. Nino argues that “The independency was an horizontal movements, an elite was removed, but, automatically it was replaced by the its immediate lower one, which became aristocracy, upper class, dominant class.” Sachez and Meertens think that the this new class of lord owners exploited peasants to support their local hegemony, “To peasants the armed support to one of the party was a characteristic of massive incorporation to political life of the nation.” The conflicts between the political elite resulted in peasants fighting “for local landowner, in return for moderate reforms that improved their own lot in life.”

Previously to FARC’s foundation, Colombian peasants started to be organized in experienced self-defence movements that tried to break the bipartite system of hegemony. The Partido Socialista Revolutionario, the Partido Agrario Nacional, the Union Nacional de Izquierda Revolucionaria and – after its foundation in 1930 – the Partido Comunista de Colombia (PCC) were the main actors in organizing peasants to (i) protect themselves from official violence and to (ii) promote an agrarian reform. According to Gilhdoes, during the 1920s and the 1930s there were three kind of agrarian conflicts in Colombia. (i) The dispute around the distribution of lands. (ii) The issues related to indigenous communities. (iii) The tensions between landowners and their workers due to the labour conditions. In such environment of social and economic tensions, peasants and natives created unions and self-defence organizations to protect their interests: “these associations emerged in response to the oligopolistic structure of agriculture product markets caused by industry and trade”.

Operation Marquentalia was led to break the consolidation of independent areas in which self−defence groups were exercising local power and, as suggested by Leongòmez, Operation Marquetalia was the turning point in which “the self-defence movement becomes a revolutionary movements”. The tension between self−defence groups and dominate elite culminated in repressions and massacres. Gabriel Marquez Garcia – in his masterpiece One Hundred years of solitude – remembers the Massacre de las bananeras in 1928, when a strike of peasants – working for the United Fruit Company – was bloody repressed. An indefinite number of workers were killed by the Colombian army, “It was as if the machine guns had been loaded with caps, because their panting rattle could be heard and their incandescent spitting could be seen, but not the slightest reaction was perceived, not a cry, not even a sigh among the compact crowd that seemed petrified by an instantaneous invulnerability.“

The local and low-intensive conflicts became a national political crisis in April 1948 when Jorge Gaitàn was killed in Bogotà. Gaitàn was a charismatic populist leader of a minority of the Liberal Party. He offered hope to poorest both urban and rural areas, leading campaigns to promote agrarian reforms and to defend peasants against state violence. He was able to gain the support of discontent middle class and poorer ones. After his murder, the PCC declared legitimate the armed resistance against state terrorism, “the figure of “legitimate defence”, intend to justify it as an inexorable moral exigency aimed to neutralize a violent, unfair, sometimes, unconstitutional aggression”. The relation between the PCC and the armed self-defence peasants movements is well understood, as explained by Leech, “the PCC was instrumental in organizing the peasant self-defence movement.”

What is not clear is the role of PCC in FARC’s foundation. While LeGrand argues that Bloque Sur was composed by members of the Communist Party and Liberal Party, Brittain suggests that the Liberal Party did not actively participate to FARC’s formation. As confirmed by several studies, the FARC were formed by members of self-defence groups with elements of the Communist Party. William Avilés argues that the FARC “emerged under the leadership of the Communist Party and operated with the support of peasants who sought refuge from the repression of la Violencia.” According to Leongòmez, the FARC “born as a reaction against the foundation of the ELN and EPL“ by the PCC. In the XXXI el Partido Comunista proclaimed to support peasants rebellion, “Our party has sustained that violent guerrilla cannot be imposed to people (…) for this reason our party is against revolutionary adventures (…) But the problems due to Marquetalia aggression are different. And for this reason the PCC from the beginning has supported the peasants, victims of an aggression by the military force.” Even though some authors highlight the contradictions of the PCC between supporting a violent insurgency and participating to Colombian democratic life,32 there are several evidence that suggests a tight connection between FARC’s origin and PCC activities in Colombian countryside.

La Violencia is considered to be over in 1953, when the General Rojas Pinilla established his dictatorship with a military golpe. His government launched military offensive to tackle down communist peasants insurgency while many Liberal peasants decided to accept the amnesty granted by Pinilla government. 34 In 1958 Conservative and Liberal elite – concerned about the concentration of power and Pinilla’s desire to strengthen his dictatorship – created a “power-sharing agreement called the National Front. Stokes argues that the National Font served to “alternate power between aligned sections of the Colombian Conservative and Liberal elite while strengthening the Colombian armed forces to suppress popular reforms.” Communist-armed peasants did not cease the fire, improving their organizations and their military strategies. In 1964 – in order to destroy communist self-defence communities – Colombian government planned a massive military attack to the areas where peasants organized forms of local auto-government. “The army symbolically took the Marquetalia region, but in spite of its new anti-guerrilla conceptions, it was military impossible to wipe out the seed of the struggle, which sprouted from these lands. The seed is the origin of the FARC.” Marquetalia operation, then, represents a turning point of Colombian history.

“(We are) the result of a revolutionary movement which born in 1948 (…)”. These words – taken by the original document “Programa agrario de los guerrilleros 1964” – explain why FARC’s historical origin are tracked down in 1964, when a small group of guerrilleros announced the birth of an armed revolutionary front during the First Guerrilla Conference in 1964. The group joined armed peasants from Marquetalia with other guerrilleros from several zones, forming the Bloque Sur (Southern Bloc). According to Leech – even though the name Las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) is officially dated in 1966 during the Second Guerrilla Conference, FARC’s historical representation is told to start from the experience of Bloc Sur and the First Guerrilla Conference.3 FARC’s self-representation recognizes their tight bond with Colombian past framework. During the First Guerrilla Conference, the guerrilleros argued that “Against us (peasants) there have been four wars: one started in 1948, antother one from 1954, one from 1962 and this one that we are experiencing since May 18th 1964, when the military force have officially declared that Operation Marquetalia is started.” In conclusion, Bloque Sur proclaimed itself to be (i) a reaction against the repression of Colombian elite and to be (ii) the heredity of the tradition of peasants self-defence movements.

The foundation of the FARC represents a qualitative change of traditional self-defence movements, “with FARC’s foundation there was a crucial turning point of military strategy, then, it was left the protection of lands by armed peasants – included mobile combat force – to replace it with a an agile warfare which uses military tactics.” FARC’s history can be divided in three main stages considering their organizations and their military actions. (i) 1964-1974: the FARC implemented “a marginal, silent and low intense warfare which combines old methods with new forms of recruiting and social relations with peasants.” (ii) 1970-1990: the FARC drastically increased the number of their members, improving the quality of their actions and the zones in which they exercised their direct power. 1991-2008: the peak of the conflict between the FARC and Colombian state. 2008-Today: it has started the slow and hard path for FARC’s demobilization and pacification.

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Some False Statements Made in the Trump- Impeachment Hearings

Eric Zuesse

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In the December 4th statement that was made by Stanford University law professor Pamela Karlan was this:

We have become the shining city on a hill. We have become the nation that leads the world in understanding what democracy is. One of the things we understand most profoundly is it’s not a real democracy, it’s not a mature democracy if the party in power uses the criminal process to go after its enemies. I think you heard testimony, the Intelligence Committee heard testimony about how it isn’t just our national interest in protecting our own elections. It’s not just our national interest in making sure that the Ukraine remains strong and on the front lines so they fight the Russians there and we don’t have to fight them here.

It’s also our national interest in promoting democracy worldwide, and if we look hypocritical about this, if we look like we’re asking other countries to interfere in our election, if we look like we’re asking other countries to engage in criminal investigations of our President’s political opponents, then we’re not doing our job of promoting our national interest in being that shining city on a hill.

She said: “We have become the shining city on a hill.” Here is a list of just a few of the democratically elected presidents and prime ministers in foreign countries whom the U.S. regime overthrew, by coups, in order to install brutal dictatorial regimes there that would do sweetheart deals with America’s international corporations. Also, unsuccessful, merely attempted, U.S. coups are discussed there.

Furthermore, the scientific studies of whether the U.S. Government is controlled by the public (a democracy) or is instead controlled only by its very wealthiest (an aristocracy) are clear: this country is an aristocracy, not a democracy at all, except, perhaps, in the purely formal senses of that term — our great Constitution. Far-right judges have recently been interpreting that Constitution in the most pro-aristocratic, anti-democratic, ways imaginable, and this might have something to do with why the scientific studies are finding that the U.S. is now a dictatorship. And this fact, of America’s now being a dictatorship, was blatantly clear in America’s last Presidential election, which was actually a s‘election’ by Americas’ billionaires — not  by the American public.

How, then, can Professor Karlan be respected about anything, if she lives in a dictatorship (by its aristocracy) and is deluded to think that it’s still (which it never was completely) a democracy?

Furthermore: her statements about Ukraine are equally deluded. She is obviously unaware that the Obama Administration started planning its coup against Ukraine in 2011 and started implementing it in the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine on 1 March 2013, and started in June 2013 soliciting bids from U.S. companies to renovate at least one building in Crimea for use by the U.S. Navy to replace Russia’s main naval base — which Russian naval base was and is in Crimea — by a new U.S. naval base to be installed there. 

The craziest thing of all about Karlan’s statement, however, is this part: “It’s not just our national interest in making sure that the Ukraine remains strong and on the front lines so they fight the Russians there and we don’t have to fight them here.”

Imagine if someone said, “It’s not just our national interest in making sure that the Mexico remains strong and on the front lines so they fight the Americans there and we [Russians] don’t have to fight them here.”

If a Russian were to assert that, would the statement be any more justifiable than what Karlan said regarding Ukraine? Of course not! Even an idiot can recognize this fact. But Karlan can’t.

On December 5th, the anonymous “Moon of Alabama” blogger, whose opinions and predictions turn out to have been correct at perhaps the highest rate of anyone on the internet, headlined “The Delusions Of The Impeachment Witnesses Point To A Larger Problem” and he not only pointed out the “delusional” beliefs of Professor Karlan (“One must be seriously disturbed to believe such nonsense. How can it be that Karlan is teaching at an academic level when she has such delusions?”), but he noted that:

How is it in U.S. interest to give the Ukraine U.S. taxpayer money to buy U.S. weapons? The sole motive behind that idea was greed and corruption, not national interest:

[U.S. special envoy to Ukraine] Volker started his job at the State Department in 2017 in an unusual part-time arrangement that allowed him to continue consulting at BGR, a powerful lobbying firm that represents Ukraine and the U.S.-based defense firm Raytheon. During his tenure, Volker advocated for the United States to send Raytheon-manufactured antitank Javelin missiles to Ukraine — a decision that made Raytheon millions of dollars.

The missiles are useless in the conflict. They are kept near the western border of Ukraine under U.S. control. The U.S. fears that Russia would hit back elsewhere should the Javelin reach the frontline in the east and get used against the east-Ukrainians. That Trump shortly held back on some of the money that would have allowed the Ukrainians to buy more of those missiles thus surely made no difference.

To claim that it hurt U.S. national interests is nonsense.

It is really no wonder that U.S. foreign policy continuously produces chaos when its practitioners get taught by people like Karlan. …

The Democrats are doing themselves no favor by producing delusional and partisan witnesses who repeat Reaganesque claptrap. They only prove that the whole affair is just an unserious show trial.

In the meantime Trump is eliminating food stamps for some 700,000 recipients and the Democrats are doing nothing about it. Their majority in the House could have used the time it spent on the impeachment circus to prevent that and other obscenities.

Do the Democrats really believe that their voters will not notice this?

(Of course, they do, and they might be right. After all, polls show that Democrats still believe that Barack Obama was a terrific President, just as Republicans believe that George W. Bush was a terrific President. The fact that both  — and Trump himself —were/are among the worst in American history eludes the voters in both Parties. But though I disagree with his opinion on that particular matter, he’s just asking a question there, and I hope that his more optimistic take than mine turns out to be right, and that the voters — in both Parties — are coming to recognize that American politics right now is almost 100% a con-game, in both Parties.)

Why do people pay subscription-fees, to Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post, and to the New York Times, and to other media that are controlled by America’s billionaires, when far higher-quality journalism, like that of “Moon of Alabama” (and like the site you’re reading here) is freely available on the internet? Who needs the mainstream ‘news’-media, when it’s filled with such unreliable claptrap, as respects (instead of exposes) what persons such as Karlan say? Jonathan Turley is to be taken seriously, and he is at the very opposite end from Karlan’s opinions in the impeachment hearings (and regarding much else). (And the hearings-transcript in which both law-professors testified is here.) But the exception is Turley, and Karlan is far more the norm in the U.S.-media mainstream. And virtually all Democratic-Party propaganda-organs (‘the liberal press’) are playing up the Karlan claptrap. So: yes, I do think that “the Democrats [referring to the ones in the House of Representatives, of course] really believe that their voters will not notice this.” Most voters are just as “deluded” (misinformed by the ‘news’-media) as Professor Karlan is.

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Two Cases, Minor and Major

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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News stories have Donald Trump being mocked by France’s Macron at a Buckingham Palace reception for the NATO leaders meeting.  A nearby open mic caught the incident.  Trump’s response was to call Macron two-faced.

Macron returns to a France paralyzed by the biggest strike in years.  Teachers and transport workers are alarmed by his plan targeting their traditional pension scheme.  They would now have to retire later or accept lower benefits.

Trump returns to face impeachment.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked the House to get on with it and draw up the Article of Impeachment.  Trump also wants the same.  So he said upon his return from Europe.  He wants it over so he can get on with running the country, which he says has a bustling economy, the lowest unemployment in recent history and a booming stock market.

The source of Trump’s self confidence:  a Republican majority in the senate bound to acquit him.  Truth be told, this is an unusual impeachment in that it has not managed to obtain the support of a single member of the president’s own party.  Prior impeachments of others had more substantial grounds and always some bilateral support.

This impeachment is also unusual for its triviality.  Taking together the partisanship and the weak reasons, some legal scholars warn it sets a bad precedent, and the possibility that future presidents might well face the prospect not as rarely as in the past. 

To summarize the issue:  it stems from Joe Biden’s son Hunter earning $50,000 per month serving on the board of Burisma, the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian gas enterprise, while lacking any professional expertise in the company’s area of business.  The clear implication is that it was due to his father being Vice President of the United States.  Trump simply asked for an announcement from the Ukrainian president that they were opening an investigation.  So what is worse nepotism or an inquiry into it?

From the relatively trivial to the deadly serious.  The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hear the case against Myanmar for the Rohingyan genocide.  Aung San Suu Kyi as tarnished as her Nobel Peace Prize remains obdurate.  Her country’s claim the genocide case stems simply from the world”s inability to understand the complexities of the issue.

Forget the BBC film clip of one incident where the perpetrators boasted proudly of their handiwork as smoke from a village they had set alight rose in the background.  Killing  or stealing livestock, destroying crops to make return impossible was another tactic in the event villagers escaped.  Rape, mass murder, people being burnt alive locked in their houses are well documented.  Later, the UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission confirmed convincing evidence of genocide.

Aung San Suu Khyi will face a legal team from Gambia.  Why?  Well it’s a story of happen-chance.  Last year Gambia’s Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou visited Bangladesh for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s annual conference.  What he saw and heard there recalled for him painful memories of the Rwandan genocide where he had prosecuted cases.

With the OIC delegation he visited Rohingya refugee camps to hear repeated stories of rape, murder and arson, and on his return he was able to convince the OIC to file a case with the ICJ.  It is the first of its kind since the 1990s from the then demised Yugoslavia — the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina versus Serbia and Montenegro charging genocide filed in 1993.   

And a timely warning to over-enthused promoters of religious nationalism willing to step over the line of human decency and respect for the other.  Look where it leads. 

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Why finance is at the heart of Chile’s crisis

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The outsized role of unfettered finance in Chile has only worsened inequality that led to recent uprisings

In September this year, less than a month before frustrated Chileans took to the streets in Santiago, on Chile Day, former finance Minister Felipe Larrain announced new legislation that, it was hoped, would make Chile into a regional financial center. The new bill would contains regulatory changes to facilitate registration of foreign securities in Chile and eliminate tax differences between locals and foreigners that affected the ability of finance to move seamlessly in the domestic economy. These measures were announced to commemorate ChileDay in London, where Conor Burns, minister in the UK government praised Chile’s macro-economic growth and fiscal management under the Sebastian Pinera government.

After years of trying to make the country into a financial regional center, the new bill concretized the government’s intentions. Larrain explained that the initiative meant to relax existing rules of financial regulations through a number of areas, including reduce paperwork for foreign investors, introduce new international practices in the local fixed income market for investors to access liquidity, simplify tax laws and contracts for short-term finance and make mutual funds more flexible. In this way the government sought to enable growth in profits of financial assets, which are primarily held by wealthy investors and high net worth Chileans. Protestors’ move into the affluent Providencia neighbourhood to up the ante a few days ago – known as Chile’s financial district – ironically represent the apogee of this relationship.

After unease spread about the social conditions in Chile after the increase on metro fares, Minister Felipe Larrain, who retained the position from Pinera’s 2010 administration, was sacked. Larrain’s firing is emblematic for several reasons. Much of the recent analysis while rightly focusing on worsening social conditions for the majority of Chileans, few commentators have pinpointed one, if not the most important culprit, of high inequality since Chile became a democracy ended in 1990. Chile’s embrace of financial globalization has been at the forefront of higher levels of inequality in Chile for over the last 2 decades during both left- and right-wing governments.

The planned growth of the financial sector, while good for investors and those with idle assets, it is not positive for the majority of Chileans. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean shows ownership of financial assets are concentrated in the pocket books of the 1 per cent. In 2017, the net worth of households was extremely distorted. While the poorest 50% of households had an average net worth of US$ 5,000, the sum for the wealthiest 10% averaged US$ 760,000, and the richest 1% owned US$ 3 million. To make matters worse, the richest 10% made a whopping 92.2% of investments in shares and mutual funds, other forms of equity holdings and investment portfolios, and 77.4% of deposits in savings accounts and long-term fixed deposits. In comparison, the lower 50 per cent of the population held just 7.7% of total physical assets like motor vehicles and real estate. As a result, many Chileans are swimming in debt, owing a total of US$116 billion (about 44 percent of gross domestic product) – a significant portion due to mortgages and showing increases by 12 per cent since 2010.

In its 2018 economic survey, the OECD laid out the conditions that have led to the current crisis: as many 30 per cent of Chilean workers engage in informal work or on short-term contracts, with high concentrations among women, youth, low-skilled and indigenous groups, while unemployment benefits are virtually nonexistent. Self-employed workers earn 20% less than a formal waged employee with the same skills and experience. Financial sector employees also make more than twice the average worker and even mining sector workers. Over the years, this wage inequality and labour informalisation have been facilitated by deregulating labour markets whereby workers have less bargaining power of labour unions. Labour unions’ calls to increase their stake in the congress therefore offer some hope for workers to gain more of the share of national wealth. Increases in labour income, as ECLAC shows, have a positive effect on macro-economic growth. Pinera’s obstinacy to these initiatives seem to protect his economic standing rather than promote a resolution in workers’ favour. Government resistance would only encourage further polarization.

Chile’s financial sector has expanded at a rate more than any other economic sector, and realized a significant portion of total income and profits in the country. In terms of asset base as a percentage of GDP, the financial sector (including money bank deposits and of other financial institutions) it has growth from 64% in 1984 to 67% in the late 1990s, surpassing the 100% mark in 2010. In 2016, this ratio reached 117%. After Mexico, Chile has the highest capital penetration of foreign banks in Latin America which has counter intuitively reduced the amount of credit available to small local businesses to finance production in new products and sectors. In the meanwhile, foreign investment has however expanded in areas that do not employ great numbers. Large mining businesses which employ fewer numbers of Chileans also have a disproportionate access to international markets for credit. Chile’s pension system is also privatized and seen as source for financial sharks to make a killing, which fluctuates according to traders’ optimism and can lose as it did in late 2018 when investors lose confidence.

Increased privatization of the state, and narrow industrial policies promoted by agencies like the Inter-American Development Bank bolster the role of finance using a number of instruments and incentives. Compared to years prior to the dictatorship, and for a short period during Pinochet reign after the banking crisis of the 1980s, finance was largely well regulated and credit expanded to sectors that generated a large number of jobs. Now, rather than expanding employment and increasing high-value industrial exports, Chile has since the 2000s suffered becoming more and more specialized in mining. Even as private investment flows increased in copper mining during the 2000s, this has not had a broad effect on re-industrializing the Chilean economy. The opposite is true. In fact, the majority of the country’s lithium is manufactured outside of the country.  

While some economists have suggested that that higher inequality was due to the end of the high-price commodity boom in Chile in 2014, the historical record shows that inequality was rampant during Pinochet’s dictatorship and only slightly decreased from the 1990s onwards. Inequality was practically baked into the tax system, as well as the housing and transport policies of successive governments, as Chileans found it hard to seek work opportunities in its capital city Santiago. This has earned Chile the infamy of the most unequal country in Latin America and the OECD as a whole according to certain analyses. 

As the world awakens to the reality that the expanding finance do not lift all boats or ‘trickle down’, if there is to be a successful resolution to the current calamity that dates back to the reforms of Pinochet, democratizing finance is critical to return power to the hands of Chileans.

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