Assassinations and assaults that are being unleashed against the Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Common, the political party formed by the former FARC leaders and activists are a hindrance to renewed initiatives for a peaceful and decent Colombia.
Renewed initiative for a peaceful and decent Colombia is facing fatal hurdles as assassinations and assaults are being unleashed against the Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Common (Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común—FARC), the political party formed by the former FARC leaders and activists. The ultra-rightist/conservative forces are spilling blood of progressive activists in the land with immense possibilities.
Despite this old, conventional politics of murder and hatred, FARC leadership is trying its best to convey its message of hope, peace, democracy, dignity and decent life to the people. The new party is carrying on its active participation in the electoral process although it was recently compelled to suspend its election campaign in the face of deteriorating political and law and order situation.
FARC announced its leader, popularly known as Timo, as a candidate for the coming presidential election.
In late January 2018, in a speech, Timo, actual name is Rodrigo Londoño, launched the “With the Force of the Common”. The campaign speech broadly outlined the existing Colombian politics and FARC’s vision for a new Colombia. It is not only a significant message on behalf of the exploited and oppressed in the country, but also an indicator to other exploited and suppressed peoples in other lands struggling against the dominant class powers in respective countries. It indicated the political message to be conveyed to the broad and wide majority of the poor, the exploited, the toilers instead of getting bogged down into a sectarian trench – concerned only with a particular community or sect.
Overwhelmed by concern only for a sect or a community makes the community or sect more vulnerable as that community or sect isolates itself from the broader masses of people, who stand on one side of the line that divides the exploited and the exploiters. Timo, in his speech, addressed the broader constituency – the people, the poor, the forgotten, the marginalised, the victims of inequality and exploitation. His message was against the exploiters, the rich, the privileged.
The FARC leader sketched a broader context in his speech: In this structure, dirty propaganda is carried out against those defending the poorest and the forgotten. Our country occupies the second place in the ladder of inequality between rich and poor in our continent. In addition to poverty and misery here is a situation full with dangers. All evils exist here. Here is a total absence of the state. Gangs, drug addiction, micro-trafficking, para-militarism, forced displacement and all types of violence are here.
Communities are threatened by unemployment. Irresponsible mining is threatening the environment. The state apparatus is designed to enrich the elites, the privileged of always, the rich, the owners of the greatest fortunes. The economy is organised in such a way that the big capitals, the banks, the insurers, the construction firms, the large landowners and the mafias increase their fortune daily.
He described the state machine and dominant politics of the powerful: Here is the control exercised by professional politicians of deceit and lies. A corrupt and clientele ruling machinery has been built up over decades. Here is a market of favours. Here are the old and corrupt parties, the liberals or the conservatives, always headed by the leaders of the same collectives. They hardly renew Colombian politics, because in reality, they plunged it deeper into the mud of rot. Only 40 percent of Colombians participate in politics, that is, only four out of ten compatriots decide the future of all the rest. And, we know many of them sell their votes, or change it for small favours or big promises that remain in the air. It is urgent that 60 percent of absentees make presence and be respected.
Timo presented further facts: Millions of Colombians lack the minimum possibilities of getting ahead. The peasants migrate to the cities swelling with misery while the large agro-industrial export projects multiply profit. The profiteers blame the poor: “The fault is in the poor’s laziness.”
A voice of hope resounded as he presented the reality: It is an agonising collective struggle for survival, for a dignified life, for overcoming of enormous difficulties. We are an immense stream of women and men dreaming a better future.
He vowed to break that present logic in politics, which is made to enrich oneself with the money of the people. “The FARC arrives to inaugurate a new way of politics that puts ordinary people at the centre of the state.”
The FARC leader reminded: “We obtained the right to make politics with full guarantees of our life and freedom. Despite the guarantee, persecution does not stop”. He cited the murder of more than 50 and imprisonment of more than 500 of his comrades.
He said: In this reality, we do not draw our arms. The difficulties will not stop the march of the common people. The seed of popular organisation is maturing.
The former guerrilla leader added: Only by liberating the state from the hands of the elites can the poor and needy have a future. Colombia needs a new policy that puts main emphasis on the working people, on their condition and human dignity, on their economic, social, political and cultural rehabilitation.
He stated: Our party does not come to present itself as the magic formula of salvation. We propose a general awakening, awareness, in the sense that changing things is possible. Politics will be transformed from what it is today into a noble and benevolent activity, when ordinary Colombians are its real protagonists.
He explained: If we do not get engaged with politics, we will always be dominated by the minority that deals with it. We offer ourselves for organisation and unity of the people. We are the Colombians who left everything to fight for the cause of people. We risk everything, even life, to change things in people’s favour.
The FARC leader said: Every Colombian has the right to enjoy a dignified life. Every citizen has the right to a “vital income of existence”, and we will guarantee it if we are in government. There cannot be a single Colombian whose work will not be recognised. The nation will ensure that domestic work done by women, and some men also, has recognition and economic retribution. It is that invisible and silent work of so many mothers that deserve a payment. We know there is no peace with hunger; so, we are going to fight it. It can be done with the strength of the common.
The political leader said: We do not want a country of hatreds and resentments. We want a reconciled country, in which difference is respected and debated in a civilised way. This requires a cultural transformation. To achieve this we will make serious effort to practice science, to scientific and social research, to art and culture. He said: sport and recreation are rights, not luxuries. Efforts will be made to materialise this.
He said: Enough of the death strolls. The people are in need of health centres, housing, schools, power lines, roads and other transportation systems, water system and aqueducts. These require a great national effort, in which the armed forces can contribute with the love of a homeland. Health is a vital right, not a business for private capital. The class that governs Colombia has converted health care into a business of private capital. The technical and university education should be public and free. Only education for change will make us a free country.
The FARC leader said: We stand for a government that will represent the interests of the poor, will work for them without any truce; equitable redistribution of the product of national labour; fight against corruption; obtaining the resources that the poor require to live with dignity; never allowing the state to serve the richest; an effective change from war and violence to a state of peace, reconciliation and social justice that puts an end to the murderous hand in Colombian politics; and, opposing traditional politics.
The revolutionary leader said: Colombia requires a true democracy. May the voice of those below, those millions and millions of poor people who have never been counted, never been heard and never been able to decide their future, that their clamour for social justice be echoed, that their defence of their rights as women, as sexual diversity, for water and the healthy environment, be taken care of and remedied.
He cited Colombia’s great poet Carlos Castro Saavedra’s a dream of villages, where lives shine more than weapons, where freedom enters homes with daily bread, with a beautiful letter, where the people meet, where we can say: we have a homeland. But, the forces of exploitation and privilege are intensifying their assaults.
At the last week of January 2018, the political campaign headquarters of the FARC in Chocó was attacked. The FARC Departmental Council of the Communes in Chocó has questioned: Will the acts of systematic murder continue? The council said: It is necessary to provide security guarantees for the development of the political action of FARC within the framework of the electoral process. The council has demanded security for its headquarters and officials.
Complying with the Havana Agreement, FARC is holding meetings in communities with the aim of socialising its political proposal. But, a systematic murder-campaign is being carried on. It is being carried on not only against the FARC members, but also against social leaders and human rights defenders.
Two FARC leaders have been murdered in western Antioquia in mid-January 2018 while they were holding a community meeting as part of a campaign for the House of Representatives election. The FARC leaders and activists are constantly being targeted for murder by rightist armed gangs. Politics of physical elimination of the political opposition continues in Colombia.
The United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia has condemned the Antioquia murders.
The FARC National Political Council said on 27 January 2018 in Bogotá, Colombia: FARC is against all forms of violence. The party reiterates its conviction with peace. The party said: The country must make collective effort to get out of the swamp of violence, death and fear. The party does not consider that the present situation is for weapons and bloodshed.
The FARC National Political Council added, “FARC was born out of the country’s greatest effort to obtain peace. The party defends peace. The party works to achieve a great national convergence, which is capable of changing the situation for the wellbeing of the nation”.
The council said: We trust life and freedom, so we repudiate the blood-acts that hurt the future of the country.
But a question haunts: “Shall the blood-thirsty rightists allow the downtrodden people and its party to participate in political process?” Colombia’s destiny depends on their participation.
* Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
* Note: Timo’s speech has been edited and recast without distorting his message.