Yankee Intervention, Yankee Domination
Revolutionary Worker #1017, August 8, 1999
In the early morning hours of July 23, a plane crashed in the remote jungle area of Putumayo in southern Colombia, near the border with Ecuador. This was no ordinary aircraft--it was a military spy plane, known as the RC-7. It was equipped with sophisticated radar and infrared sensors and was capable of eavesdropping on radio communications on the ground. On board were five U.S. Army soldiers and two Colombian Air Force officers--all died in the crash. News reports about the incident revealed that such U.S. air operations are now quite common. Last year U.S. military surveillance planes carried out 2000 flights in Colombia and other countries of the region.
Two weeks before the RC-7 crash, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)--the largest armed anti-government group in Colombia--began a large-scale military offensive. At one point, FARC forces battled government troops just 25 miles from the capital city, Bogotá. The FARC offensive rang alarm bells in Washington--and the U.S., the dominant imperialist power in Colombia, scrambled for ways to shore up the Colombian regime. Calling the situation a "serious and growing emergency," Clinton administration officials proposed major increases in military aid--as much as one billion dollars for Colombia and other countries of the region.
These recent developments are focusing attention on the escalating U.S. military involvement in Colombia. Colombia is a major source of cocaine, and the U.S. government claims that its presence in that country is about "stopping the flow of drugs." But this is a phony justification for the real aims of the intervention: backing the Colombian regime's counter-insurgency operations and safeguarding U.S. imperialist interests.
The Colombian regime already receives more U.S. military aid than any other Latin American government--about $300 million this year. In fact, it is the third largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the world, after Israel and Egypt. About 200 U.S. military personnel are stationed in Colombia to "train" Colombian troops, operate surveillance equipment and carry out other missions.
The U.S. military aid and military personnel are supposedly restricted to helping the "drug interdiction" operations of the Colombian army. The powerful drug cartels in Colombia control huge stretches of territory in the countryside where coca is grown and processed into cocaine. Colombia is also a major transit point for cocaine flowing from Peru and other Andean countries to the U.S. But increasingly, the U.S.-backed "anti-drug" operations are openly directed against FARC. According to the July 18 issue of the Weekly News Update on the Americas, "As combat raged throughout the week, the media reported that the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton is now allowing the U.S. Embassy to `routinely' provide the Colombian armed forces with intelligence information about guerrilla movements as they occur, instead of days later. Armed with this information--including U.S. satellite images and telephone wiretaps--the Colombian army is now able to know where and when the rebel troops are moving."
The official line from the U.S. government is that FARC is heavily involved in the drug trade--making them legitimate targets for the "anti-drug" military operations. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the head of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, said on July 16 that it was "silly" to make a distinction between anti-drug operations and the counter-insurgency war because the traffickers and FARC work closely together. But what is truly ridiculous is the attempt by the U.S. imperialists to portray themselves as the champions of "anti-drug" efforts.
This is the same U.S. ruling class that used heroin money from the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia to run their secret war in Laos in the 1970s; the same ruling class that backed the pro-U.S. forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s who were deep into the heroin trade; the same ruling class that was behind the Nicaraguan Contras who financed their reactionary activities in part through cocaine traffic into U.S. cities. Now, in Colombia, Peru and other countries of the region, the U.S. is using their "war on drugs" as a cover for counter-insurgency.
FARC is active and influential in almost half the countryside of Colombia, including coca-growing areas. And FARC has at times colluded with the drug trade and gained funds from this collusion. But FARC and other opposition forces certainly are not the cause of the drug problem or the main factors in it.
The cocaine economy in Colombia is tied to the fact that this country has long been totally dominated and distorted by imperialism. The major drug lords are part of the ruling elite in Colombia--the comprador capitalists and semi-feudal landowners who are closely tied to and subservient to imperialism. The narcotics trade deeply permeates the Colombian economy, and drug money flows through the veins of the Colombian ruling classes as a whole. There is widespread government corruption and complicity in the drug trade. Huge profits from the drug trade have gone into investments in cattle ranching, real estate and the tourist economy. And the drug money also flows to the U.S. where it is laundered through major banks and "legitimate" investments.
This flow of drug money only benefits a small section of society. The exploited and oppressed masses in Colombia are the victims of this setup. The Colombian economy is in a severe depression--the worst since the 1930s Depression, according to some accounts. Over 20 percent of the workforce is officially unemployed. According to Z Magazine, "Between 1990 and 1994, Colombians living below the poverty line increased by one million, to include about half of Colombia's population of 33 million people. In the countryside, 48 percent of the land is owned by rich absentee landowners making up 1.3 percent of the rural population, while campesinos, comprising 63 percent of the rural population own less than 5 percent of the land..." Many landless campesinos are forced to work for large agro-corporations or farm small plots of coca for the drug barons.
The common people are targets of various reactionary armed forces that protect the interests of the ruling elite. These forces include not only the central army, but also the private militias of the drug cartels and paramilitary groups connected to the drug lords, coffee plantations, and other big landowners. These various armies often work hand in glove to commit atrocities against the people. NACLA Report on the Americas (March/April 1998) described one paramilitary action in July 1997: "Over 100 heavily armed men in military attire occupied the town of Mapiripán, in Meta, for six days, killing some 30 local residents and virtually emptying the town as people fled in fear. According to Bogotá weekly Cambio 16, the paramilitaries first flew into the small San José del Guaviare airport, which does double-duty as the antinarcotics base, before going on to Meta. The installation, which is under the control of the Colombian army, is home to U.S. civilian pilots and other U.S. personnel. According to police chief General Rosso José Serrano, the U.S. embassy's narcotics assistance section representative was at the base on the day the paramilitaries touched ground." The paramilitary, narco-military and central army forces also join together in attacks on FARC and other anti-government forces.
The existence of various reactionary armies in Colombia is related to the lack of a unified national economy and a weak central regime. Historically, this situation has led to civil wars and complicated conflicts within the ruling classes, taking the form of conflicts between the central regime and sections of the ruling classes based in different regions of the country. The revolutionary internationalist journal A World to Win (1989/14) pointed out: "The drug barons have arisen within the context of the long-existing situation in the countryside and the country as a whole, of the thriving power of local despotic `warlords' based on land, semi-feudal authority and private armies. ... the central state is able neither to impose its authority on the country as a whole, politically or militarily, nor to fully answer to the needs and interests of U.S. imperialism."
This situation has led the U.S. to take an increasingly large role in Colombia, politically and militarily. The current president, Andres Pastrana, came into office with the direct backing of the U.S. And with U.S. blessing, he approached FARC for negotiations to end the armed struggle. The negotiations had the support of powerful sections of the U.S. ruling class. One indication of this: In June Richard Grasso, president of the New York Stock Exchange, flew into southern Colombia and met with a representative of FARC. Grasso told reporters he made the trip to make clear that the U.S. financial circles had great interest in the "peace process" and to discuss economic issues.
For its part, FARC combines armed struggle with negotiations with the government and demands for political and economic reforms. FARC is associated with the Communist Party of Colombia, a revisionist (phony communist) party that was closely tied to the imperialist Soviet Union. With the collapse of the Soviet bloc, many pro-Soviet parties openly gave up armed struggle. FARC has not put down their guns--but it does not carry out a Maoist people's war aimed at totally overthrowing the old rotten state, transforming the countryside through revolutionary mobilization of the peasantry and cutting all ties to imperialism.
The current negotiations between the government and FARC have broken down, for reasons that are not clear. The U.S. has responded with moves and threats to step up intervention in Colombia. Gen. McCaffrey is pushing for $1 billion in "emergency" assistance to Colombia and other countries in the region that are "cooperating" in the U.S. "anti-drug" efforts. Jesse Helms, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the U.S. must "bolster" the Colombian military by "expanding our training and intelligence assistance, upgrading communications, and increasing their mobility with Blackhawk helicopters." A July 29 New York Times article focused on the U.S. training of a new "Anti-Narcotics Battalion" of the Colombian military. This unit's mission is to openly go after the FARC guerrillas. A Colombian general said, "We are going to continue training battalions like this all over Colombia until we have what we need."
U.S. intervention--under the cover of "war on drugs" or in any other form--can do no good for the masses in Colombia. The U.S. imperialists need a "stable" Colombia in order to protect their interests in what they arrogantly consider their "back yard." But such reactionary "stability" can only mean more oppression, more death and more suffering for the majority of people in Colombia.
U.S. Hands Off Colombia!
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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