The Guardian August 23, 2000


Workers strike in Colombia while US wages war

US intervention in Colombia is being substantially stepped up with the 
decision of the US Congress to allocate US$1.3 billion in what is called "a 
military aid package". US military forces and the army of the hated 
President of Colombia, Andres Pastrana, have been waging a war against the 
peasant farmers and workers of Colombia for many years. The Revolutionary 
Armed Forces of Colombia  People's Army, have been fighting for a New 
Colombia for 36 years and are now reported to be in effective control of 
more than 40 per cent of the countryside.

The US claim to be involved in a war against drugs is nothing more than a 
facade behind which military intervention against the revolutionary forces 
is being waged.

Besides the guerilla war in the countryside workers in the cities are 
taking massive strike action, the latest being a 24-hour stoppage by an 
estimated 700,000 public sector employees and transport workers.

The unions are protesting against government austerity measures and want a 
freeze on petrol prices and an end to the privatisation of Colombia's state 
banks. 

"The strike is a protest strike and a political act designed to send the 
message to the government that we're no longer prepared to carry the weight 
of the rich on our shoulders", said the leader of the main public sector 
union, Wilson Borja.

This was the sixth strike against President Pastrana's unpopular economic 
policies that are blamed for creating the highest unemployment rate in 
Latin America.

Declaration of war

Workers' World News Service says that the recent Colombian government 
budget is "a virtual declaration of war against the working class".

Spending on state services is to be cut by as much as 20 per cent. 
Thousands of workers are expected to be laid off as whole public-sector 
entities are shut down. Those who manage to keep their jobs will take pay 
cuts.

One segment of the budget that is not being cut is proposed payments 
servicing Colombia's $34 billion foreign debt.

The Confederation of Democratic Workers told the newspaper of the Colombian 
Communist Party that the strike is a response to "the miserable neoliberal 
(economic rationalist) policies carried out by President Pastrana that 
result in increasing impoverishment of the Colombian population."

In the countryside, 1.5 per cent of landowners own 80 per cent of arable 
land, according to a report by Colombian human rights activist Luis Alberto 
Matta.

Death squads have forced millions of Colombian peasants off their land and 
into the cities, only to have their land swallowed up by the big landowners 
and drug barons.

It is these circumstances that have led to the long struggle of the 
Revolutionary Army against Colombian governments, the landowners, big 
corporations and foreign capital.

Commenting on the present situation Worker's World News Service says that 
"the revolutionary insurgencies and the mass struggles are proceeding in 
parallel, representing twin challenges for Colombia's US-backed ruling 
class. But the economic crisis is bringing those struggles much closer 
together."

US aims

But the aims of US intervention are not limited to keeping Pastrana in 
power in Colombia.

Colombia holds a strategic position in the northern part of Latin America.

To the south is Ecuador and Peru where a mass popular struggle has also 
erupted against the dictatorship of President Fujimori.

To the east is Brazil and to the north is Panama. On the north-eastern 
border lies Venezuela where the election of Hugo Chavez has sent new 
shudders down the spines of the American leaders.

Beside Venezuela on the north-east coast of Latin America is the Marxist 
government of Guyana and across the water from Venezuela is that flaming 
beacon for all Latin American revolutionaries and patriots, the socialist 
government of Fidel Castro which has defied every provocation and every 
attempt to overthrow the first socialist regime in the Americas.

However, intervention in Colombia may turn out to be yet another Vietnam 
for the United States rulers whose leaders still imagine that they have a 
god-given right to rule the world.

Back to index page