An Open Letter to the People and Government of the US (And a Reply to the FARC)
By James Petras
Nov 26, 2006, 13:01
On a November 9, 2006, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples Army, (FARC-EP) sent an “Open Letter to the People of the United States”. It was specifically addressed to several Hollywood producers and actors (Michael Moore, Denzel Washington and Oliver Stone) as well as three leftist academics (James Petras, Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis) and a progressive politician (Jessie Jackson). The purpose of the open letter was to solicit our support in facilitating an agreement between the US and Colombian governments and the FARC-EP on exchanging 600 imprisoned guerrillas (including 2 on trial in the US) for 60 rebel-held prisoners including 3 US counter-insurgency experts.
FARC-EP: Terrorist Band or Resistance Movement?
Contrary to the US government position characterizing the FARC-EP as a ‘terrorist organization’, it is the longest standing, largest peasant-based guerrilla movement in the world today. Founded in 1964 by two dozen peasant activists, as a means for defending autonomous rural communities from the violent depredations of the Colombian military and paramilitary, the FARC-EP has grown into a highly organized 20,000 member guerrilla army with several hundred thousand local militia and supporters, highly influential in over 40% of the country. Up until September 11, 2001, the FARC-EP was recognized as a legitimate resistance movement by most of the countries of the European Union, Latin America and for several years was in peace negotiations with the Colombian government headed by President Andrés Pastrana. Prior to 9/11 FARC leaders met with European heads of state to exchange ideas on the peace process. Numerous prominent business leaders from Wall Street, City of London and Bogotá and notables like Queen Noor of Jordan met with FARC leaders in the demilitarized zone during the aborted peace negotiations (1999-2002).
Under heavy pressure from the White House, particularly its leading spokespersons, the right-wing extremists like the notorious Otto Reich, Roger Noriega and, John Bolton, the Pastrana regime abruptly broke off negotiations and in less than 24 hours sent the Colombian Army into the demilitarized area, in an attempt to capture the FARC leaders engaged in negotiations. The ‘surprise’ attack failed but did set the stage for the escalation of the conflict.
US Role in Conflict
Beginning with President Clinton in 2000 and continuing with Bush, the US has poured over $4 Billion dollars in military aid to the Colombian regime in order to destroy the guerrilla army and its suspected social base among peasants, urban trade unions and professionals (especially teachers, lawyers, human rights activists and intellectuals). Washington vigorously pushes a military solution by subverting any peace negotiations, through a substantial number of military advisers, contracted mercenaries, Drug Enforcement operatives, CIA agents, Special Forces commandos and a host of other undercover personnel. Between the early 1980’s to the late 1990’s, Washington maintained the fiction that its military programs were part of an anti-narcotic campaign, though it failed to explain why it concentrated most of its efforts in FARC-influenced regions and not in the vast coca-growing areas controlled by the Colombian military and paramilitary forces. With the launching of Plan Colombia in 2000, Washington explicitly underlined the counter-insurgency nature of its military aid and presence. Profoundly disturbed by President Pastana’s acceptance of peace negotiations and the advances of the social and guerrilla movements, Washington backed a rightwing politician with a history of ties to Colombia’s death squads for President, Álvaro Uribe. His electoral victory inaugurated one of the bloodiest extermination campaigns in the violent history of Colombia.
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