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The existence of the armed conflict in Colombia is a drag on social movements. Interview with Héctor Mondragon

The existence of the armed conflict in Colombia is a drag on social movements. Interview with Héctor Mondragon


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By Veronica Gago

Conflicts for autonomy, possession of land and defense of the environment, mostly carried out by indigenous peoples, are permanently traversed by the armed conflict. The existence of the armed conflict in Colombia is a drag on social movements because it provides a pretext for the accusation, pointing out and repression of its members.


- The current situation in Colombia is known from its most classic actors: FARC, army and government. However, there is a more diffuse reality of social movements that remains overshadowed. How strong are these movements? What do they propose and to what extent do they break the war situation that seems to dominate Colombia?

- The problem is that the social movement in Colombia is invisible, both towards Colombians themselves and also, to a greater extent, outside the country. The existence of a social movement that with great effort has managed to mobilize for its objectives in the midst of a situation of violence is hidden, which has obviously damaged its development and has cost the lives of many of its leaders, who have been assassinated or disappeared or forced into exile. However, they are movements that continue to maintain a dynamic and it is worth noting how, despite the existing violence, people manage to make a massive civil resistance in the midst of so much difficulty. At this time there is a lot of activity in the base communities to defend their territoriality, their environment, their daily life, their good living, in the face of mega investment projects, especially mining, which are unaware of the life priorities of the communities, even entire regions. On the other hand, the indigenous movement managed to preserve numerous organizations. However, between 2002 and 2008, a record number of murders of indigenous people was reached, and they are still being murdered. These deaths have to do with the fact that the indigenous organization was the movement with the greatest cohesion and capacity to mobilize for their rights, recognized in the Constitution since 1991. However, as previously happened with the union movement that had 2,800 leaders assassinated In the last decade, this dose of violence was applied to the indigenous movement.

- Are the murders state or parastatal?

- They are state, parastatal and also of the guerrilla. There is a territorial conflict between the guerrillas and the indigenous peoples, because the indigenous peoples have fought for their autonomy, and autonomy is precisely deciding their own authorities, the type of government in their territory, and so on. Many indigenous people have given their lives because the guerrillas intend to impose their command over the indigenous territories. And this comes from several years and makes that a percentage of victims have been murders committed by the guerrillas. Of course, the paramilitaries and the State itself have also assassinated. The existence of the armed conflict in Colombia is a drag on social movements because it provides a pretext for the accusation, pointing out and repression of its members.

- What is the movement of movements called "La Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria"?

- “Minga” is a Quechua word that means “the collective work of the community”. In this case, La Minga was a mobilization made with the collective effort that started from the indigenous base and that mobilized various sectors that, in turn, were becoming interested in the problems of the people in the popular neighborhoods. It started strongly in 2004. That strong contact, that relationship that the indigenous movement had with society in general and with other movements in particular is what the strong repression and murders wanted to stop. However, it was possible to defeat a series of laws that came to legalize the dispossession of land that the violence was actually carrying out. They were laws that clearly violated the rights won in the 1991 constitution itself. Finally, the Court declared them unconstitutional. It should be mentioned that the union movement continues to retain some strength, especially the teachers and oil workers sector. In 2008, simultaneously with the great mobilization of La Minga, we had the great strike of the sugar workers, which was another violently repressed social movement, but which have recently been the protagonists of large mobilizations. There are also a number of other important social movements for human rights and for peace.

–In your latest book you talk about Plan Colombia as a Trojan horse for South America. What do you mean?

- All this situation that occurred in Colombia has worked to produce a militarization of the continent. It is evident that both the drug trafficking issue and the fight against the guerrillas in Colombia have served as a mechanism to impose a military presence, specifically the US in Colombia, which obviously has to do with a continental situation and with the particular situation. of Colombia in relation to the continent. I am referring to the geographical situation that allows a neighborhood with the countries that have oil and with the importance of the Amazon.


- Something that happens in Colombia and that is not well known is the situation of the so-called “false positives”. Could you explain what it is about?

–That is incredible for many people and for us too. To the extent that monetary rewards were offered for discharging a guerrilla, certain members of the public force decided to earn money by obtaining deaths from other sources, for example the homeless or people with mental retardation. People on the street with drug problems were the first to be used in that sense. But then things got bulky and they began to deceive people, telling them that they would get them a job on a farm and then they were killed to collect the rewards, posing as guerrillas. And then there were extreme cases in which they came to bring invited neighbors or "friends" to work and were actually deceived for this purpose. It is said that there were at least 1,500 people, but possibly many more, who were killed in this way.

- He focuses his research on what he calls the imperial dynamics, especially from the analysis of crises and wars. How are these questions articulated?

–The strategy of the empire has to do with the configuration of transnational capital. From my youth I tried to follow this topic, read the configuration of groups, the appearance and disappearance of companies. Then I learned to research who were the members of the boards of directors, and it is an investigation that I have been updating for approximately thirty years. In this monitoring, one can see the increase in the strength of these financial groups, how they are entering the pharmaceutical, food, agriculture, and so on. The other issue I have followed is the issue of business cycles, with their cyclical ups and downs, and their relationship to wars. At the time it was the war in Yugoslavia, then the Iraq war and now again in Libya, and this has to do directly with the development of economic cycles where the war appears as a way out of the crisis of those cycles.

- Along these lines, think of war as a time when capitalist accumulation intensifies ...

- Yes, but it is interesting to see the various ways in which this accumulation occurs. On the one hand, there is accumulation by dispossession, which is one of the things that war achieves in an obvious way: you see that they arrive, they take the oil and that's it. Another is the accumulation by destruction of capital, which occurs at the very moment of crisis: when a company goes bankrupt, the machines continue to exist there, but no longer as capital, they are now disarmed machines that nobody uses anymore, they are no longer capital since the moment they stop producing utility and lose their economic value. Entrepreneurs who manage to survive the crisis benefit from this great destruction, and become monopolies or take over the market of those who failed. Or they even buy the machines that were abandoned very cheap, they seize what is left by destruction of capital. There is also accumulation due to market capture, both due to competition and because after the war markets can be opened to sell certain products. Finally, there is accumulation due to the exploitation of labor, of workers displaced by the war conflict, who become super-cheap illegal migrants who become part of the reserve army of world capital's labor force.

- All this process occurred several times only in the last decade ...

-If we see the war in Iraq, we have all forms of accumulation, because first they destroyed Iraq's capital, then they appropriated its market, took the oil and also moved the market for war products. It was a complete business that served to get out of the crisis of 2001-2002. After the war, in 2003, there was another boom in capitalist accumulation until 2008, when the US went into crisis again, and began financing the banks, devalued the dollar, the currency war began, but then Europe enters the crisis, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain. Even England has a huge debt. So what is the way out? The same thing again: war.

–There is a debate in Latin America linked to diagnosing whether or not neoliberalism was left behind from the massive protests of recent years and the way in which regional governments interpreted the change of scenery. What is your position?

–First, it should be said that not all Latin American countries entered neoliberalism equally or in the same depth, since that always depended on the resistance capacity of the peoples and also on how capital had organized its own structures. We see, for example, that Chile came to privatize water, rivers, and lagoons, something that did not happen in most countries. In Bolivia they were never able to privatize water, not even in times of greatest neoliberalism, precisely because the people stood up and said no. In other countries they did not even dare to propose that. But in Chile, on the other hand, the State never lost its participation in the exploitation of copper mines. So all this has very different characteristics in each Latin American country. Therefore we cannot think that everything became neoliberal one day and that everything stopped being neoliberal another day, because also the way in which the peoples have faced neoliberalism in each country has been different.

- What would be the main variations between countries?

- There are countries that have achieved greater changes. In Venezuela, for example, the cement factories are nationalized: that does not exist in another country in Latin America. The way in which communications have been renationalized in Bolivia is not the same as in other countries. There are countries, as in the case of Colombia, where there are almost no collective bargaining by the unions, and this is a very important objective of neoliberalism, as or more important than privatization or freedom of imports. On the other hand, there are countries where collective bargaining is still very important, or it was important again and that means a defeat for neoliberalism, although on the other hand some companies continue to be privatized and neoliberal policies continue to be exercised. In general, the Mercosur countries have not entered into free trade agreements with the US and the EU, and that also implies a distance from the liberal project that was simply to impose a “free” market with these countries. So I would not say that neoliberalism has been defeated in Latin America; Furthermore, there are countries where neoliberalism is still complete or almost complete, or is even increasing, entering public education and in various aspects such as health. There are also dire policies that are older.

-For example?

- The entire extractivist conception of the economy was not born with neoliberalism, but comes from the colony. The colonization of America was above all extractive: what were the Spanish and the Portuguese coming for if not to take the gold and carry out their large plantation projects? That is what they have always done, the silver mines in Bolivia and Mexico, the gold mines in Colombia and then the exploitation of rubber in the Amazon. All types of extractivism that we can imagine already existed and come from the colonial economy. The reality is that the whole of Latin America has not yet detached itself from the colonial economy. And when the elites think that the only way to maintain the country's economy is to find some natural resource to extract and sell, they continue to think in terms of the world colonial economy, which is to see where the natural resource is, extract it and sell it. This extractive colonial heritage predates neoliberalism and even the countries that surpass neoliberalism to a greater degree are still prisoners of that colonial heritage.

Interview of Veronica gago to Hector mondragon, analyst of the Colombian civil war and social movements. http://www.pagina12.com.ar


Video: The Fight for Military Control in Colombia 2003 (May 2022).