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.