On October 31st two people died, one known around the world for his cinema roles, Seán Connery, who played James Bond and many better and less well known roles. The other death was that of the Colombian liberal politician Horacio Serpa. No sooner had he died the liberals and NGOs and all the former revolutionaries began to write and comment on the life of Serpa with a script that not even Connery could convincingly play.
So, just who was Horacio Serpa and what was his role in Colombian politics? His body hadn’t time to go cold and they were already rewriting the history of the country. The headline on El Espectador said it all, Remembering an Authentic Liberal. i Of course part of the problem depends on what you understand as a liberal, as in the current times when they talk of liberals and the Liberal Party one can barely recognise that it is and always has been the party of a sector of the Colombian oligarchy, that it is the party that gave us legalised paramilitaries, it is the party of massacre after massacre and of course they talk about it as if it wasn’t Liberal Party that gave us the health reform Law 100 (the liberal senator Uribe was the the speaker to the motion on the law, but the law was a proposal from the entire Liberal Party), nor that it was the party that gave us the infamous economic aperture of 1990.
So, for starts, Horacio Serpa who was the Minister of the Interior, under Samper, a government which deepened the aperture, was a neoliberal politician. In the midst of the political poverty of the current Colombian left, such as statement comes across like a grenade thrown or a burst of gunfire against Serpa’s good name. But, how are we to describe a minister in a neoliberal government as anything else? They say we shouldn’t and part of the problem is there are those who forget who President Samper was and what his government’s policies were. Worse still, they forget their own criticisms of that government. So let’s remind ourselves. Serpa was a neoliberal. Of course, he was a neoliberal speaking out both sides of his mouth, capable of calming the angels whilst defended the devils tooth and nail. A man of the right wing at the service of the oligarchy who with his populist discourse made himself out to be a progressive. Once again, some will say he wasn’t right wing. Is there another type of Minister of the Interior? Not only was he Minister of the Interior under Samper and champion in defending him against accusations of links to drug traffickers, but also he would later be Uribe’s ambassador to the Organisation of American States.
As we are in Colombia and politicians like Serpa are very deft, there is no lack of supposed lefties who will talk about how Serpa helped them. So in order to see what he was really like we should deal with some examples when Serpa did the exact opposite. In his passage through the Procurator General’s office he did nothing for the disappeared from the Palace of Justice. It was not at all surprising given his own role in that. The then Procurator Carlos Jiménez Gómez drew up a report and formerly denounced to
… the House Commission of Accusations President Belisario Betancur and his Minister of Defence, Miguel Vega Uribe for violating the Constitution and the Law of Nations now known as International Humanitarian Law.
The Procurator Jiménez’s denunciation with precise hard-hitting proof in hand was shelved through a motion presented by the representatives Carlos Mauro Hoyos, Horacio Serpa and Darío Alberto Ordoñez, arguing that “it was a typical act of government in the most important area under the remit of the President of the Republic namely to uphold public order and re-establish it wherever it has broken down”.ii
That is Horacio Serpa, the man who ensured that there would be no investigation of the events. A friend and accessory after the fact of criminals. It is worth pointing out that two of those who suppressed the accusation would later hold the office of procurator, Hoyos was the successor to the whistleblower Jiménez Gómez and Serpa then replaced Hoyos and thus the truth was buried underneath the ruins of the palace and the manoeuvres of Serpa and company.
But some claim he was a friend of the workers and an enemy of paramilitaries. Leave aside that he served in governments that actively promoted paramilitaries, those of Samper and Uribe and lets look at when workers reached out to his office to seek protection. After the 1995 massacre of palm workers in San Alberto, Cesar, the workers met with Horacio Serpa who was the Minister of the Interior at the time. In their oral history published in 2018, the workers narrate how Serpa told them “there was nothing that could be done as the paramilitary project was very big, and upon finishing the meeting and when we were heading towards the door he said ‘lads it is best that you be careful, because in this country if you stick your head above the parapet it will get knocked off.”iii Of course, he didn’t want to do anything to protect the workers of the palm company Indupalma, whilst at that exact time both he and his government maintained a military base within the plantation to protect the company’s assets. That is Horacio Serpa, loyal friend of the oligarchy, traitor speaking out both sides of his mouth to the workers, a defender of criminals such as the murderers behind the events of the Palace of Justice and a man capable of placing an entire battalion at the disposition of a company in order to protect it and not lift a finger to protect the workers in that company.
So, on October 31st, one of the greats died who we will remember fondly, with admiration, someone who contributed positively to our lives. Rest in Peace, Seán Connery.
The ongoing slaughter by Israeli soldiers of Palestinians demonstrating at the border of the Israeli State for the right to return to their homeland has rightly received media attention and, after a motion condemning Israel in the UN Security Council was blocked by the USA, the General Assembly passed another by a huge majority. The shootings demonstrate the total disregard of the Zionist authorities for Palestinian life and also the degree to which, by refusing to condemn and by supplying finance and equipment, the USA and major European states stand in support of Israel and are therefore complicit in its murderous actions. But the whole history of the right of return of Palestinians raises another issue of international importance and provides a historical and political lesson applicable widely, far beyond Palestine or even the Middle East.
Negotiations, Agreements and ….?
Back in 1993, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation was in secret negotiation with Israel in Oslo, with Norway in the ‘honest broker’ role (but a later Norwegian Foreign Office investigation concluded that the Norwegian participants had acted as “Israel’s errand boys” – see link). Later it was to be the USA playing the ‘facilitator’ role — yes, bizarre, given the USA’s major economic and strategic interests in the Middle East and its role in supporting Israel. But then, perhaps the PLO figured they’d best have both their enemies there at the same time, both tied to whatever agreement was hammered out.
What had brought the parties to the negotiation table was the First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. This uprising had begun on 9th December 1987 and had been characterised by repeated street fighting, barricades, refusal to work for the Israelis and strikes and boycotts, along with refusal to pay taxes. The Israeli state had replied with arrests and shootings, killing over 1,600 Palestinians as against 277 Israelis killed. Between 23,600–29,900 Palestinian children required medical treatment from Israeli Occupation Force beatings in the first two years (Wikipedia).
After signing the Oslo Accords in Washington, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO and Yitzak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, were photographed there shaking hands with US President Bill Clinton looking on approvingly, arms almost around them, like a big friendly uncle making peace between nephews. Yizhak Rabin, Shimon Perez and Arafat were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 (a prize already devalued ever since it had been awarded to notorious warmonger Kissinger).
Much was made of the Oslo meeting and the Accords (including later meetings and agreements) in the international media with talk of coming peace in Palestine and a resolution to the conflict etc signposted and not too far ahead. These prediction proved false and hopes were dashed.
But anyone examining the situation cooly would not have been surprised. Leaving aside other issues such as whether a two-state solution was justifiable, or viable even then, or whether the legitimacy of Israel should ever have been agreed to, the right of return of Palestinian exiles had been set aside by the PLO in the final Oslo agreement, a postponement, along with a number of other big issues, such as illegal settlements, to be discussed later. The Palestinian diaspora is today estimated at 9.6 million people (see link).
Since the omissions were of issues fundamental to any solution even within the parameters of the dubious two-state solution, it would have been obvious to anyone who had their eyes open that the Oslo Accords were no solution nor even a step towards a solution. So why were they agreed by the PLO?
A belief in the Accords as a stepping-stone would not have been sustainable on its own (except for wishful-thinking liberals) and the partial withdrawal of Israeli armed forces insufficient, given that Israel controlled all borders (except the Gaza one with Egypt, in which that state colluded with Israel). In addition, the Israeli troops had the capacity to return whenever they wished (and did so many times).
The motivation has to have been status or money.
The PLO, although containing a number of Palestinian organisations at that time (but not Islamic Jihad or Hamas), was dominated by Al Fatah, a secular Palestinian national liberation organisation. Fatah had the prestige of long existence and of having withstood the Israeli armed assault at Karameh in Jordan in 1968 during which, at a huge cost, it had forced the Zionist army to retreat. The following year Fatah had reportedly racked up 2,432 guerrilla attacks on Israel too — for a population with the Zionist jackboot on its neck, that counted for a lot.
Concluding an agreement with the Israelis, who previously said they would not talk to the Palestinian resistance, might have seemed like a status-raising event to Fatah. And setting up the Palestinian Authority, which of course they would run, would definitely give them status in the eyes of many outside and even inside Palestine.
But running the PA, which would be in receipt of funds and in charge of their distribution, also managing employment, would also provide myriad opportunities for corruption and nepotism, unless the organisation were to be rigorously monitored either externally or internally. That monitoring did not happen and corruption among Fatah was rife. Only the people on the ground seemed to mind, the ones who wanted strong opposition to the Israeli occupation and whatever development could be brought about in the infrastructure and communities, along with the longer-term aims of a Palestinian state and the return of refugees and exiles. And who weren’t part of the corruption.
Failure of Agreements and Insurrection
In 2000, after the failure of the Camp David talks in the US and many failures in the Accords in the nine years of their existence, no-one seriously believed in the Oslo Accords any more and the Second Intifada began. An intifada had provided the reason to negotiate for the Israelis, however insincerely intended and now another intifada brought the negotiation period formally to a close.
As observed earlier, Fatah was the organisation to which the majority of Palestinians (certainly within Palestine) had given their support and it was a secular party (although for the first time the PLA declared the “state religion” to be Islam in 2003, where previously there had been no mention of religion whatsoever). We can assume that most Palestinians were happy to be represented by a secular organisation and perhaps even preferred it.
But in the 2005 municipal, most Palestinians voted for Hamas, a fundamentalist Moslem organisation, for the first time pushing Fatah into second place. And in the Presidential and Parliamentary elections of 2006, again. What brought about that change? Was it a sudden devotional conversion? No, it was that Al Fatah had become corrupt, was not seen to be fighting Zionism hard enough (some would have said was becoming collaborationist) and had given up on the right of refugees and exiles to return. Hamas, though not officially represented in the PLO, was running social programs, its activists seemed disciplined and it was resolutely opposing Israeli Zionism politically and militarily. And it insisted on the right of refugees and exiles to return.
Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections with a 3% lead over the incumbents. Unwilling to accept the popular will, Fatah staged an armed uprising against Hamas which, in the Gaza strip, Hamas decisively won (what the Wikipedia entry on Hamas calls a “takeover”!). For some reason, although Hamas was undoubtedly the winner electorally, they let Fatah hang on to power in the West Bank. And the US-led demonisation and isolation of Hamas in Gaza by the West began, along with a series of Israeli armed attacks from that year until 2014, including full-scale missile and air bombardments and infantry incursions, killing thousands of Palestinians including civilians, women and children and destroying much infrastructure.
Since then, the Gaza population is being squeezed with electricity supply reduced to four hours a day and hardly any fuelto run generators or transport allowed in past Egyptian and Israeli gates, its water supply contaminated by damaged sewage treatment plant, the inshore sea likewise contaminated and Palestinians fishing further out attacked by Israeli gunboats, factories bombed out ….
The message seems to be: “Get rid of Hamas, get back with Fatah and we’ll stop exterminating you.” But a delayed extermination is all it would be, as evidenced from the deeper penetration of Zionist colonist enclaves on to Palestinian land, the Zionist-only roads, the ongoing takeover of Jerusalem, the Israeli Wall, the continual theft of water and the harassment by settlers and Israeli Army of any populations of Palestinians living near to Israeli colonists.
The Processes outside of Palestine
Taking a trip back in time to 1993, we saw the Oslo Accords being hailed as a great step forward by the majority of commentators across the West. These coincided with the new interim constitution as a result of the negotiations in South Africa — so that then two major areas of conflict were being hailed as definitely on the way to a solution, to come sooner rather than later. “Peace process” became a buzz-word, firstly among the participants and some of the commentators, then in the agreed discourse of the rest of the media and politicians.
In Ireland, as the Provisionals’ leadership and the British looked at one another across the dance floor, the former wondered what they could get from the same kind of process but crucially, how to sell it to their rank and file. At the Sinn Féin Ard-Fheiseanna (annual congresses of the party), the ANC and Al Fatah (wearing their PLO hat) fraternal delegates were welcomed by hype from the SF leadership and enthusiastic reception from the floor of the hall. The ANC and Fatah of course talked up their parts of the Processes and no-one seemed to examine critically what either the South African blacks or the Palestinians were likely to get out of them.
And the Pal-African partnership continued to attend congresses, to send fraternal messages to areas of ongoing anti-imperialist resistance, to sing their siren song with a Western chorus backing. The Provisionals joined the actors and took to the stage as they neared and finally accepted the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. But with the Palestinian conflict showing no sign of resolution (unless one considers a kind of genocide of Palestinians) or even a respite — and in particular after the 2006 elections victory by Hamas — the Palestinians were no longer quoted as a good example of the “peace process”. Various actors, including South Africans and Irish, went on to try to sell the “Process” to areas of stubborn anti-imperialist resistance: the southern Basque Country, Turkish Kurdistan, Columbia, Phillipines, Sri Lanka ….. But the Palestinians (or rather Fatah) had been dropped off the billing and bowed quietly out of the Traveling Peace Process Show. They had not even an illusion to portray any more.
However, the show must, as we are often reminded, go on. It failed to deliver in Kurdistan and the Basque Country, not because the leaders of the resistance movements were not amenable but because of the unwillingness to adapt of the Turkish and Spanish regimes respectively. However, the Basque armed organisation ETA threw in the towel a couple of years ago anyway, abandoning their fighters in the jails to seek their own individual ways out through begging forgiveness of the occupiers of their land and oppressors of their people. The Turkish and Syrian Kurds were drawn into partnership with the imperialist allies dominated by the US, in their war against ISIS but also for the overthrow of the Assad regime, though deep Kurdish contradictions continue with the Turkish regime, to which it looks like the US Coalition will abandon them and they may seek an accommodation of sorts with Assad.
The Colombian FARC and MIR swallowed the Processed bait and gave up the armed struggle for a promise of a political one but those of their leaders who are resolute are being hunted by the regime, the quasi-liberated areas terrorised by the Army and assassination squads, the resistance fragmenting and disorientated. The Tamil Tigers didn’t entertain the Peace Process Show but the Sri Lankan Army were able to surround their liberated areas and bombard them to defeat, murdering their leaders and raping, murdering and repressing their followers.
The Phillipines and India? The resistance groups in both these areas are led by a Maoist-type leadership and we wait to see.
And in Ireland, after two decades since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the colonial occupier has the leadership of Sinn Féin, the former resistance, in joint colonial government, the party’s southern arm seeking admittance to the Irish comprador capitalist club, the remaining anti-imperialist resistance fragmented and the country not one step nearer to unity and independence.
The Palestinian lesson for the world
All the issues which led to these conflicts and which the processes of pacification did not address – were never intended to address – will return again, to be struggled over anew, under new leaderships. In Palestine now, that is what has been happening. The Right of Return for exiles and refugees, put to one side by Fatah in the Oslo Accords nearly three decades ago, is being demanded again on the Israeli border, the protesters (along with the ‘collateral damage’ of journalists and paramedics) being bombarded by tear gas and shot down by Israeli snipers. The Palestinians, whose leadership nearly three decades ago were chosen by US imperialism to be among the first to accept the new round of historical pacification processes and to become complicit in being its missionaries, are teaching us the fallacy of the facile promises they were made at the time.
There is another irony here: while refusing the right of return to Palestinians who were themselves exiled or are children and grandchildren of exiles, i.e within living memory, the State of Israel offers “the right of return” (sic) to people who have never been there and cannot even prove that their ancestors were, providing only they can prove their Jewishness. And a further irony: Sephardic Jews, who were expelled by the Christian kingdoms in Spain and Portugal in the Middle Ages, were being offered a “right of return” by the Spanish Government in 2014 (see link).
Over time, the people in the other areas of anti-imperialist resistance around the world will regroup, gather strength and return to the resistance. The imperialists almost certainly know this. But they have bought themselves three decades of damage to their opposition and, since they need the people as producers and consumers, cannot eliminate the deep wells of resistance. And capitalism is not about enduring solutions – they work away at undermining the resistance on a temporary basis and as for the future, like Micawber in Dickens’ David Copperfield, believe that “something (else) will turn up”.
LINKS (NB: I have deliberately chosen most background references regarding Palestine from Wikipedia, which is known to be heavily monitored by Zionist interests and also has inputs from friends of the Palestinians and therefore cannot be said to be completely favourable to either side):
Translation by D.Breatnach of Castillian (Spanish) language article by José Antonio Gutiérrez D (a Latin American activist based in Ireland) first published in Anarkismo, original at this link: http://anarkismo.net/article/30977) La versión originál en castellano se puede encontrar por el enlace previo.
Friday, May 4, saw the swelling of the growing list of victims in the popular movement in times of “peace”1. In the outskirts of his home, in the El Triunfo neighborhood, in La Guadalosa, in the vicinity of Cartagena de Chairá, Jorge Vega Galvis received seven pistol shots from a group of hooded men, who left him there for dead. By a miracle, he survived to arrive at the local health centre, from which he was sent to hospital in Florencia, the area capital, because of the severity of his injuries. Today, four days after this atrocious crime, he is still unconscious and battling for his life.
Jorge is originally from the administrative region of Cesar, from a small town near Poponte in Chiriguaná, where he was born into a humble peasant family, experiencing work from an early age and all kinds of deprivation. So that they would not be eaten alive by the mosquitoes and the midges in the bush, while he was working, he told me once that they had to smear their bodies with petrol and lemon juice, while they worked under the scorching sun. With social ideas instilled in him by his mother, he also knew the meaning of the word solidarity from an early age and while almost a child, he was already participating in the mobilizations for peasant rights.
With the infestation of the Cesar area by paramilitary gangs under the command of Jorge 40 of the AUC,2 Jorge had to leave at the end of the ’90s and head towards Caqueta lands. Little is left of his coastal accent now since he made his home in Cartagena de Chairá, where he makes a living, looking for what is to be had. He works as a taxi driver, sometimes as an electrician, and sometimes on farms. His home is in the midst of a humble shanty town settlement. But in different areas he has stood out as a social leader, promoting the Peasant Workers’ Association of Caguán (ASTRACAMCAG, connected to Fensuagro), being President of the Cartagena de Chairá section; the El Triunfo and Villa Clar neighbourhood, community organizations, and also as a worker attached to the union of motorcycle taxi drivers of the CUT in Cartagena de Chairá. He has also held leadership positions in both the Patriotic March and the Alternative Democratic Pole.
The attack against him is a blow at the heart of the popular processes in Chairá and Bajo Caguán. It is an attack that seeks to continue the disruption of popular processes brought about through the militarization of the region. It is part of the social-murder 3 that is being carried out throughout the territory and which claims the lives of hundreds of social and agrarian leaders. We had already requested, in 2014, that the threats and harassment against Jorge be investigated4. Again in 2016, there were reports of threats received from paramilitaries.
The intimidation directed at Jorge by the troops has been almost continuous. In September 2017, we were suspiciously detained at a military checkpoint in Cartagena de Chairá, in the La Hacienda sector, while returning from visiting trials of peasants. Jorge asked them, “Hey, are not we in a peace process? And you’re doing this …”, to which a soldier, who did not want to identify himself and who covered the insignia of his battalion with a cloth, answered simply,”Of course, that’s why we can do this”5. This attitude, Jorge explained to me, was normal. That night we had to sleep in the house of a peasant in the sector, because the army did not authorize our passage through until six in the morning of the following day, by which we were able to reach the crossing of the Caguán River and reach Cartagena. However, that night we alerted human rights organizations through Fensuagro because we had a well-founded fear that in the darkness of the night, there could be an “attack”.
This time, there was no intimidation: the threats have turned into terrible facts, before the unconcerned gaze, if not complicity, of the civil and military authorities.
It is not enough to ask that Jorge’s life be guaranteed by the authorities. We demand that they stop the bleeding of popular leaders that is happening, if not with their complicity, at least with their connivance and thanks to their calculated lack of action. In addition, it should be noted that with the so-brave militarization of Cartagena de Chairá, the activities of civic and popular organizations take place under constant fear. Guaranteeing the life of Jorge and the other social leaders in the Bajo y Medio Caguán, would lead to ensuring the full return to civil life in the municipality and that the army stops operating what is really a military occupation, in which they act with dictatorial powers.
Enough of this ‘counterinsurgency’ campaign, this militarization and let the parks of Cartagena be free of rifles. Those of us who have had the good fortune of knowing Jorge personally, know how much he has fought for peace with social justice; what a paradox it is now that during the “peace”, they have pulled the trigger to silence him. Certainly, we know that this is not the peace for which Jorge risked his skin. For now Jorge, from your friends and colleagues, we send you a big hug, all our energy and we assure you that we will not leave you alone for a second. We send you strength to keep fighting, mate. Do not leave us.
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
May 8, 2018
Postscript by D. Breatnach: My information is that Jorge Vega Galvis survived the attack and continues to recover. We wish him a speedy recovery and send our solidarity greetings.
1DB: The “Peace Process” was about reaching a deal between PresidentJuan Manuel Santosand the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army(FARC–EP) to bring an end to the Colombian conflict. Negotiations, mainly taking place in Havana, Cuba, began in September 2012. A final agreement to end the conflict was announced on August 24, 2016 but a referendum to ratify it was unsuccessful, with a slight majority voting against. Afterward, Congress ratified a revised deal agreed between the Colombian government and the FARC. Critics from the Left and from some human rights groups complain that the standing down of the guerrilla forces is allowing the State’s repressive forces and the paramilitary assassination squads to operate with impunity in areas where they would not have dared to previously (or at least would have been punished by the people’s forces).
2 DB: Paramilitary drug-trafficking gang with close relationship to the the Colombian Armed Forces (also supported by local big landowners) which attacked FARC and ELN and their civilian supporters. (For more about “Jorge 40” see link above about Rodrigo Tovar Pupo).
El jueves 1 de Junio, a eso de las 8pm, media docena de individuos encapuchados y vestidos de negro, llegan a la comunidad de Puerto Bello, en Piñuña Blanco, armados de escopetas y revólveres.
Pese a que a primera vista podrían parecer meros atracadores, sobre todo por las precarias armas que portan, su modus operandi parece ser el de paramilitares. Cortan las comunicaciones, agrupan a varias personas al borde del río y proceden a robar a personas específicas, sobre todo del comercio. Luego, después de dos horas de aterrorizar al caserío, roban un motor y se van con total tranquilidad río abajo con todo lo robado. Esto ocurre en las mismas narices de un batallón militar en la vereda de La Alea, adscrito a la Brigada de Selva Número 27, así como de la Fuerza Naval del Sur que opera en todo el río Putumayo.
Esta es la segunda acción de este tipo que ocurre en la zona. Hace unos meses, también se había producido una acción similar en la vereda Puerto Silencio. También han aparecido panfletos amenazantes de grupos paramilitares –que vienen avanzando a paso firme desde el occidente de Putumayo- y hasta de un grupo que se hacen llamar “Los de Sinaloa”. Esto ocurre cuando las FARC-EP ya no se encuentran en este territorio, sino que se encuentran concentrados en la Zona Veredal “Heiler Mosquera”, en La Carmelita. Un mal precedente de lo que puede esperar el pueblo de estos territorios de la presencia de la fuerza pública. Hasta los más timoratos reconocen que “estas vainas no se veían cuando las FARC estaban por acá”. En el pueblo corren rumores que, de hecho, la misma fuerza pública no sólo toleraría estas acciones sino que algunos elementos hasta estarían detrás de ellos. Sea como sea, la desconfianza es grande, al igual que la ansiedad.
Esta acción ocurrió apenas un día después de una reunión en la comunidad en la cual se trató el tema de la explotación petrolera y la necesidad de oponerse al intento de la multinacional Amerisur Resources plc –de origen británico- de comenzar tareas de prospección y explotación en la zona, en medio de las comunidades campesinas, de un consejo comunitario afro y de un resguardo indígena. Esta obsesión por perforar la tierra, contaminar los ríos y saquear los recursos es parte de la visión del post-conflicto del gobierno: que las multinacionales vayan ocupando los territorios donde nunca se habían podido meter, porque se encontraban las FARC-EP en ellos. Literalmente, los territorios de presencia histórica de esta insurgencia, hoy están de remate. Para resistir al extractivismo, se está llamando a todas las comunidades del río a una asamblea los días 16 y 17 de Junio en Peneya, cerca de Puerto Calderón.
Acto II -Piñuña Negro
El día 2 de Junio, al mediodía, durante una reunión en Piñuña Negro con dirigentes campesinos y líderes de juntas de acción comunal, para tratar el tema de la implementación de los acuerdos de paz entre el gobierno y las FARC-EP, dos helicópteros militares sobrevuelan la reunión. Están sobrevolando por mucho tiempo, hasta que después de una hora y media sobrevolando, deciden aterrizar. “Afuera está el ejército”, nos comenta una señora que estaba en la reunión y que había salido para comprar algunos refrigerios. Salimos a hablar con ellos, pues la gente comienza a ponerse nerviosa. No es para menos. Piñuña Negro ha sido particularmente golpeado por las acciones contrainsurgentes durante el Plan Colombia, ha sido muy militarizado, ha vivido innumerables combates, ha visto muchos muertos y decenas de sus dirigentes han sido arrestados. Desde el 2004, al menos 36 dirigentes sociales han sido arrestados. El Plan Colombia también generó un desplazamiento masivo: de unas 2500 familias que había en el corregimiento al inicio de este operativo, hoy no quedan más de 400. Hoy el casco urbano de Piñuña Negro parece un pueblo fantasma, con casas abandonadas cayéndose a pedazos y un comercio moribundo donde alguna vez hubo de todo. En algunas de las veredas del corregimiento, esto se nota con mucha mayor crudeza: Puerto Tolima alguna vez llegó a tener 100 familias, y hoy apenas tiene 2. No es de extrañar, entonces, que la presencia militar provoque escalofríos en muchos.
Había llegado la armada en esos dos helicópteros; unos 30 militares contra-guerrillas, armados hasta los dientes con fusiles de asalto, mira telescópica, visores, granadas y cada quien con dos revólveres cruzados en el pecho, se paseaban por fuera del lugar de reunión y por el resto del caserío. Parecía que iban a una guerra medio oriental en vez de a dialogar con un grupo de dirigentes comunitarios que estaban realizando una reunión perfectamente legal. La gente miraba desde la distancia lo que está pasando con nerviosismo. Nosotros nos acercamos a hablar con un capitán de la manera más afable posible, tratando de bajar la tensión y de garantizar que la reunión pueda finalizar.
Nos informan que hemos roto un protocolo. Al parecer, la inspectora de Piñuña Negro tiene un acuerdo con la fuerza pública, a todas luces inconstitucional, según el cual no se puede realizar ninguna reunión comunitaria sin previa autorización de los mandos militares y sin la presencia física de un uniformado. Tales disposiciones son propias de las dictaduras militares del Cono Sur, más no así de un país que se dice democrático. Nos pregunta el militar que qué estábamos conversando. Le decimos el objetivo de la reunión y los temas tocados. Parece que la respuesta lo tranquiliza. Era como si esperaba que el objetivo de la reunión fuera otro.
Pregunta a mi compañero que si las cosas estaban tranquilas en Piñuña Blanco. Con sorpresa, le explicamos lo del “atraco”, aunque ellos ya sabían pues las denuncias se habían hecho por la mañana. Además, resulta extraordinariamente extraño que el ejército no haya sabido del “atraco” –que a esa altura lo sabía Raimundo y todo el mundo-, pero que se hayan enterado tan rápido de una reunión comunitaria para irla a interrumpir –y de paso, para acosar y amedrentar a los participantes. El capitán nos dice entonces que anotemos su número telefónico y que en caso de un nuevo incidente, llamemos al ejército porque ellos no vacilarán en llegar a “proteger” a la comunidad. Nos dijo que en esa zona la comunidad los rechazaba y que hasta los “hostigaban”, pero que si la comunidad los llamaba, ellos irían.
Luego nos preguntan si iríamos a Puerto Ospina, donde también la comunidad está adelantando acciones para oponerse a la explotación petrolera en su territorio, también por parte de Amerisur Resources plc. Uno ya va entendiendo por dónde va la cosa.
Acto III -Peneya, Piñuña Blanco
En el último acto, dirigentes comunitarios de Peneya, Piñuña Blanco, nos explican que el sábado 3 de Junio, se habían aparecido los ejecutivos de la Amerisur Resources plc, llamando a una reunión a la dirigencia. Palabras más, palabras menos, le preguntaron a los dirigentes que cuando soltaban la tierrita. A lo cual los dirigentes exclamaron diciendo que eso no era una decisión que podían tomar ellos, sino que correspondía a la comunidad. Y que la comunidad tiene su evento programado para el 16 y 17 y que entonces tomarán una decisión informada.
También nos enteramos que, camino a Piñuña Negro, los helicópteros que sobrevolaron la reunión comunitaria, también habían sobrevolado el caserío de Puerto Bello. El mensaje era claro. El día 3 también hubo reunión de la Junta de Acción Comunal en Puerto Bello y la decisión de la comunidad, ante la zozobra generada en los últimos días fue reforzar la organización comunitaria, tender más puentes con otros procesos, visibilizar la problemática del extractivismo y la resolución de la comunidad de defender el territorio. Dentro de esto, se llamó a participar masivamente en la asamblea en Peneya, pedir acompañamiento a los otros movimientos sociales, y a pedir a las autoridades garantías para que la reunión se pueda realizar en paz.
Aun cuando estos tres actos, a primera vista, puedan parecer hechos aislados, pensamos que son parte de una misma tragedia que se viene viviendo no sólo en el Putumayo, sino en todo el territorio colombiano.
Ahí donde las FARC-EP abandonaron los territorios, en el marco del proceso de paz adelantado con el gobierno (en el cual, dicho sea de paso, solamente los guerrilleros están cumpliendo su parte del acuerdo), las multinacionales han puesto la mira para adelantar actividades extractivistas y agroindustriales. En esos territorios existía no solamente insurgencia armada, sino también, por decirlo así, una insurgencia social: comunidades en resistencia contra la imposición del modelo neoliberal extractivista, que han buscado activamente participar en procesos amplios por una transformación de las estructuras políticas y económicas del país, así como en la creación de alternativas en su propia realidad local. Para quebrar esta resistencia campesina, indígena y afrocolombiana, la fuerza pública está tolerando, sino patrocinando, una situación de inseguridad y zozobra. Es muy raro que asesinatos selectivos, el aumento de la inseguridad y el avance incontenible del paramilitarismo estén ocurriendo en las mismas narices del ejército más poderoso de América Latina, y que ellos se muestren impotentes para operar en contra de estos elementos criminales. Eso si, muestran gran efectividad cuando las comunidades se organizan para protestar.
¿Qué se busca con esta zozobra inducida? Que la comunidad, en su desesperación, termine por llamar al ejército para que venga a poner orden. Al mismo ejército que ha permitido que esto ocurra. Así ellos llegan por invitación (“llámenos si vuelven a ocurrir incidentes”), como salvadores. Pero detrás de la militarización del territorio, lo que llegará es la petrolera. Eso es lo que realmente buscan, y no la seguridad de la comunidad: lo que buscan es dar garantías y protección a la petrolera para adelantar el saqueo de los recursos, y la consecuente destrucción de la selva. Con el ejército enquistado en los pozos petroleros, como se ve en otras partes del Putumayo ¿quién podría protestar o resistirse? Y como se ve en todos los territorios militarizados, la criminalidad y el paramilitarismo no cesarán sino que ahí seguirán o hasta aumentarán, mientras las multinacionales podrán saquear en paz todo lo que quieran.
La comunidad en Piñuña Blanco está viendo claramente esta estrategia y no se está dejando engatusar. Sabe que la única garantía para que la paz llegue a su territorio es la unidad de los procesos comunitarios, el fortalecimiento de su autonomía, la creación de un verdadero poder popular que pueda, mediante las guardias campesinas y la acción comunitaria, enfrentar las amenazas ante las cuales la fuerza pública se muestra impotente. En estos momentos está claro que la seguridad del pueblo depende de la capacidad del mismo pueblo. Que la defensa del territorio no puede ser impulsada más que por la alianza de campesinos, indígenas y afros, con el respaldo de los sectores urbanos que se hacen solidarios de estos procesos. Por más que uno le dé vuelta al asunto, no hay de otra. Por eso es tan importante que el 16 y 17 las comunidades de Piñuña Blanco no estén solas y que se les tienda una mano solidaria en esa lucha que es la lucha de todos.