National Sections of the L5I:

No to plan Colombia

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As the start of this month President Pastrana of Colombia and Manuel Marulanda, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) agreed to resume 'peace talksi aimed at resolving the decades long civil war between the state's forces and the guerrilla army.

Two years ago the newly elected President Pastrana agreed to surrender control of a demilitarized zone the size of Wales to the FARC in return for negotiations. In truth Pastrana had little choice since his army was in no position to sustain an offensive against the FARC.

Crucially, it also gave Pastrana the time and space to push ahead with the savage cuts in social welfare and a privatisation programme demanded by the USA in the cities against the working class.

In addition, during the last two years the Clinton administration has massively increased the attention paid to Colombia, defining it as a high priority for US to intervene more vigorously than before given the destabilising effect the continued guerrilla war and economic crisis was having on the whole region.

Clinton and Congress also believed that more military and economic aid to Pastrana would allow the USA to break down the continued political resistance of Venezuela and Brazil to Uncle Sam's regional ambitions.

"Plan Colombia" is a key element in the US offensive. It aims to destroy coca fields, the source of income for hundred of thousands of poor peasants, and thereby obliterate the base of FARC's financial support.

The US wants to force the guerrillas to accept a "negotiated surrender". Washington will spend $1.3 billion to train and equip three anti-narcotic battalions, made up of 3,000 Colombian soldiers, who will fly into combat aboard 60 helicopters.

With this added reach, Colombian forces will destroy coca plantations, laboratories and distribution networks in joint operations with the Colombian National Police.

The US itself will provide logistics, intelligence and unified command-and-control support to Colombian forces deployed on anti-drug missions. More than 500 US advisers already work alongside the local army. The money will be controlled by the American embassy and the operations will be supervised by a US General that served in El Salvador and in the Southern Command.

Some of the money will go to funds for "social development" (the European Union would also contribute) to rebuild the state and to win the support of the rural population by means of "public works" schemes.

Combining the stick of military pressure and the carrot of negotiation, the US wants to impose an outcome similar to that in Central America in the 1980s, when "peace agreements" derailed and defeated the revolutions in Nicaragua and El Salvador.

The former-guerrilla fighters of the Nicaraguan FSLN, the Salvadoran FMLN and the Guatemalan URNG were transformed into legal parties willing to take responsibility for imposing severe austerity measures on the workers and peasants.

The first step is to carry out the agrarian revolution: a mobilisation of peasants to take over the land and militant resistance to all attempts to destroy the coca fields.

Yet despite the importance of peasants and their great tradition of agrarian struggles, Colombia is mostly an urban country: 70% of the population lives in the cities where the working class movement is the decisive social factor. This sector has carried out important strikes and struggles against Pastrana which must be stepped up.

Factory and neighbourhood committees are crucial, built locally and centralised nationally. These will draw the further hatred of the state and paramilitaries and workers' and peasants' self-defence units are urgent for unions whose leaders are subject to systematic assassination.

As to the FARC, all those who support social justice in Colombia should defend the guerrilla forces and their urban supporters in the face of the attacks by the state and the US. But the FARC and the other main guerrilla force, the ELN, should use their resources, fighters and arms to develop workers' and people's self-defence organisations, subordinating themselves to the democratic bodies of the mass movement.

A political general strike and a mass uprising in the countryside will be essential if the Colombian people are to destroy the plan of Pastrana, the bourgeoisie and imperialism, and to pave the way for a struggle to impose a workers' and peasants' solution, by taking over political power.

In order to win the most basic demands - the land, work for all, political and organisation freedom - the mobilisations must be independent of big business in Colombia. The Colombian bosses, unable to bring the crisis to an end, and fearful of the masses, has already shown that it wants to be saved by a US intervention. A "just peace" for them means the surrender and disarmament of the guerrillas and giving up the struggle for land.

Against this outcome the masses must counterpose a revolutionary Constituent Assembly built from the bottom up on the ruins of the old regime, on the grave of the armed forces, and the corpses of the paramilitaries.

Even then, only the seizure of power and the establishment of a worker's republic can guarantee the success of the democratic and national tasks. There is no other progressive solution that can stop the ruin of the country. The workers' movement needs to fight for a workers' and peasants' government.

* Down with the Plan Colombia! US hands off Colombia and Latin America!
* All US advisers out of Colombia! For mass international solidarity to defeat imperialism's intervention!
* Halt attacks on DMZ! Stop assassinations of trade union and peasant leaders! For workers and community defence guards to combat the paramilitaries!
* Reverse the privatisation programmes of the 1990s! Massive rise in minimum wage, for an expansion of social welfare, education and health!
* Land to those that work it! No enforced displacements.
* Nationalise the big ranches, banana plantations and coffee haciendas and place them under workers' control!
* Tax the rich. Expropriate the wealth and property of the banks and big corporations, including the narco-barons
* For a revolutionary Constituent Assembly convened and protected by workers and peasants' militia!
* For workers and peasants' government and socialist republic
* For a Federation of Socialist Republics of Latin America.