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Grupo Raíces (Grúpa Fréamhacha) statement on the murder of FARC-EP leader Alfonso Cano

category international | anti-war / imperialism | press release author Thursday November 17, 2011 19:04author by Grupo Raíces - Grúpa Fréamhachaauthor email raices2007 at gmail dot com

Grupo Raíces (Grúpa Fréamhacha), Solidarity with Colombia in Ireland, statement on the murder of Alfonso Cano

On November 4th the main leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Army of the People (FARC-EP), Commander Alfonso Cano, was killed near Suárez, Cauca, in an operation of the Colombian government, with logistical and intelligence support provided by the USA. The small guerilla force of 14 people was hunted down by over 1,000 troops in a multitude of Arpía helicopters. The preceding months had also witnessed massive and indiscriminate bombardments in Tolima and Cauca, and a military blockade of the area, with disastrous consequences for the local population, thousands of whom were forcefully displaced. In relation to this, our organisation:

1. Deplores scorched-earth and dirty war tactics used by the current government that affect above all the civilian population and creates a massive and unnecessary humanitarian crisis;

2. Deplores the way in which the main leader of the FARC-EP was murdered which was clearly in breach of both the Geneva Convention and the Colombian Constitution. He was unarmed, surrounded by hundreds of troops, and yet, he was summarily executed instead of arrested. This, we have to remember, happens in a country where the death penalty has been formally abolished and there is no questioning of cold blooded murder as a normal tactic in a country that formally still does not recognize (save for one statement of the president) the existence of an internal armed conflict. 

3. Deplores the fact that this assassination is a blow to the prospects of a political solution to the conflict that we, together with many other organisations and institutions around the world, have been pushing forward. It is not coherent to speak of dialogue and peace, as Santos does, while you target the people you want to negotiate with. While Cano had outlined the conditions for peace and dialogue in Colombia as being part of a broad social dialogue about the root causes of the conflict (notably in his message to the peasant conference of Barrancabermeja on August 15th), Santos insists on surrender. No meaningful peace process can be born this way. In Ireland, we know from experience that if someone is serious about dialogue and peace, you have to respect the lives of those that can become negotiators even though the conflict may still rage on.

4. Deplores the strategy of the Colombian army called Operation Bubble, which consists in the selective targeting and murder of leading ideologues and political-military cadres of the insurgency. This is not a policy conducive to peace and its two premises are:

a. that the hits to high profile insurgents will lead to mass defections. These mass defections have not happened with the murders of Reyes, Mono Jojoy and in all likelihood will not happen with the murder of Cano. The government clearly underestimate the strong reasons for the bulk of the insurgents to join the guerrilla ranks.

b. the second premise is that this targeted killings will fragment the organisation and produce a phenomenon of "criminalisation" of the insurgent movement that will effectively neutralize it in its struggle for power and deep economic and social reform. This premise proves that the Colombian government is not interested in solving the conflict or in organic peace, but only in neutralizing the reforms proposed by the insurgency, even if in this process they plunge the country deep into criminality and non-political forms of violence. That scenario is preferable to the Colombian elite, than the slightest threat to their privilege. But this premise is also flawed, because it underestimates the political nature of the struggle, and the fact that both the FARC-EP and the ELN, the two main guerrillas in the country, have gone through a process of de-centralisation to deal with Operation Bubble successfully as proved by the murder of Mono Jojoy in September 2010.

5. Denounce the demagoguery of "peace and disposition to dialogue" from the Santos government, which has shown its true colours with this murder, that may be a military victory, but represents a massive political defeat and exposes the short sightedness of the Colombian elite. The insurgents have insisted that there is no solution to the conflict without a national debate on issues such as political exclusion, guarantees for social activists, the relationship with the USA, dismantling of the paramilitary apparatus and above all, agrarian reform. Instead, Santos, save from a few cosmetic reforms, have offered no real disposition to address any of those issues in a national negotiating table with other actors apart from those on arms. 

The Colombian conflict has deep roots and they are untouched as it was remembered by the latest UNDP report on the Colombian rural reality that highlights that land concentration has increased massively with the conflict. The main beneficiaries of this violent land dispossession through conflict have been agrobusiness (biodiesel in particular) and local ranchers. Let us remember that ranchers, apart from being the main backers of the party in government, have fed for decades the paramilitary apparatus launched against the poor peasants, and that this paramilitary apparatus is structurally linked to the national army and local politicians, as proved by numerous high profile cases.

On the other hand, heavy handed repression remains the knee-jerk response of the State against legitimate protest as shown recently to the military response to coca growers in Tarazá, to oil Workers in Puerto Gaitán and to sugar cane cutters in Valle del Cauca. 

While these features remain part of Colombian life, scores will keep being thrown into the ranks of the insurgency, fueling this endless cycle of violence.

6. Support renewed calls to a political solution to the conflict that deals with the root causes of political violence. A negotiation which is nothing but the demobilisation of the guerrillas may be read as a victory by the government, but means a defeat for the mass of the Colombian people. It will be a peace leading to a failed State such as Guatemala, where in peace more people die of violence than during the conflict. Yet the elite is happy since this violence do not threaten their privileges and doe not affect them in their guarded villas. A violent (military) solution to the conflict is not only a remote scenario, is also an undesirable scenario.

7. Once again expresses its Solidarity with the Colombian social organisations and with the people in resistance to this economic, social and political model of death and forced displacement. We want to emphasize that it is the bulk of the people, resisting in a variety of ways the ravages of the model, which hold the keys to peace in Colombia, not the government of Santos as he mistakenly affirms. It is them the sole actor who has the ability to challenge the order of institutionalized violence which today reigns in Colombia and the sole actor that can force the Colombian elite (which once again proves its wholehearted opposition to dialogue) to address these long standing problems.

The struggle for peace in Colombia cannot be separated from the struggle for an alternative social project that places human beings and the environment at its very heart.All of the voices of Colombia should be heard for that purpose. In this exercise alone lies the salvation of Colombia.

Grupo Raíces (Grúpa Fréamhacha)
 November, 2011

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