[News] Social Unrest as Obstacle to Colombian Military Intervention in Venezuela

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Wed May 1 11:29:54 EDT 2019


https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/05/01/social-unrest-as-obstacle-to-colombian-military-intervention-in-venezuela/ 



  Social Unrest as Obstacle to Colombian Military Intervention in Venezuela

by W. T. Whitney <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/gaguwe/> - May 1, 2019
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Rightwing Colombian governments, obedient to the United States and 
unhappy with socialist Venezuela, have provided muscle behind the U.S. 
push for regime change there. What are the capacities of Colombia to 
intervene militarily in Venezuela? The mainstream and alternative media 
offer little in this regard. The argument here is that political 
instability in Colombia is standing in the way of that country’s 
military forces intervening more than is presently the case.

Colombian paramilitaries, numbering 15,000 
<http://www.acn.com.ve/grupos-paramilitares-operan-venezuela/>, are 
operating in 10 western Venezuelan states. Most of them _work fo 
<https://actualidad.rt.com/actualidad/239333-paramilitarismo-opera-venezuela-colombiano>r 
_or cooperate with landowners and businesspeople. They control travel 
routes, local economies, food supplies, and even health care and 
schools. Crossing a border porous in both directions, they engage in 
narco-trafficking, smuggling of goods and people, private security, 
arms-trafficking, kidnapping, casinos 
<https://www.lahaine.org/mundo.php/la-invasion-paramilitar-a-venezuela>, 
currency trading, land theft, illegal mining, terrorism, and military 
combat. They arrived in Venezuela in 1997.

In the early 1960s U.S. military advisors recommended that Colombia’s 
government use paramilitaries to combat leftist insurgencies. According 
to one analyst 
<https://www.telesurenglish.net/analysis/The-Infiltration-of-Colombian-Paramilitaries-into-Venezuela-20150824-0005.html>, 
they are “recruited by and received training from the Colombian military 
and intelligence … The military and the paramilitary groups worked in 
coordination to root out entire populations.” Colombia’s National Center 
for Historical Memory blames paramilitaries for causing 94.754 deaths 
<http://www.pacocol.org/index.php/noticias/conflicto-armado/8015-como-se-convirtio-colombia-en-estado-paramilitar> 
in Colombia, mostly of civilians, over the course of 50 years.

Colombian paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño supposedly_“met with 
<https://www.telesurenglish.net/analysis/The-Infiltration-of-Colombian-Paramilitaries-into-Venezuela-20150824-0005.html>_140 
Venezuelan businessmen and landlords [in 1997] ato create a paramilitary 
structure similar to the one he led in Colombia.” A reporter quoted 
Castaño as saying, “We _have people 
<http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=248829> _issuing instructions in 
Venezuelan territory. We maintain communications.”

Paramilitary attacks in 2003 prompted a report that “_120 campesino 
<https://www.telesurenglish.net/analysis/The-Infiltration-of-Colombian-Paramilitaries-into-Venezuela-20150824-0005.html> 
_and indigenous leaders had been killed” over four years.” Venezuelan 
authorities accused 116 paramilitaries whom they arrested in 2004 of 
preparing to assassinate President Hugo Chávez.

Colombian paramilitaries were responsible for a wave of political 
murders in early 2010, and by 2015, _200 more 
<https://www.telesurenglish.net/analysis/The-Infiltration-of-Colombian-Paramilitaries-into-Venezuela-20150824-0005.html> 
_Venezuelans had been killed. Authorities arrested groups of them in 
2013 and 2017. In Caracas presently they carry out _selective killings 
<https://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article23656> _of leftist 
political activists.

Colombian journalist Fredy Muñoz claims that the rightwing opposition 
“_uses them to 
<https://actualidad.rt.com/actualidad/239333-paramilitarismo-opera-venezuela-colombiano> 
_carry out the cruelest actions, like selective assassinations, setting 
young people afire, or destroying state infrastructure.”  Colombian 
paramilitaries are known to have 
<https://www.lahaine.org/mundo.php/la-invasion-paramilitar-a-venezuela> coordinated 
the opposition’s violent street demonstrations (the “guarimbas”). They 
_trained someof those 
<https://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article23656> _participating in 
the assassination attempt against Venezuelan President NicolásMaduro on 
August 4, 2018.

In contrast to regular military forces, paramilitaries are self 
sufficient, low- profile, and inexpensive. They offer advantages in 
carrying out destabilization, which is their main mission. They 
infiltrate rather than invade, thus facilitating the glossing over of 
violations of international norms.  And moving large military units into 
Venezuela would present major logistical and administrative challenges. 
In fact, Colombia’s military is very large.

Regular military personnel number _511,550 
<https://www.businessinsider.com/militaries-most-active-duty-soldiers-troops-2018-5#15-turkey-350000-active-personnel-1>_. 
Military expenditures in 2018 consumed $_9.7 billion 
<https://www.export.gov/article?id=Colombia->_. Taken as a percentage of 
GDP, Colombia’s military spending in 2017 was _tops by far 
<https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/3_Data%20for%20all%20countries%20from%201988%E2%80%932017%20as%20a%20share%20of%20GDP.pdf> 
_in Latin America. The U.S. government has long provided _military 
assistance 
<https://www.wola.org/analysis/president-trump-colombias-santos-meet-week/>. 
_Since 2000 it’s provided equipment, training, and over $10 billion in 
funding and has based troops, military contractors, and military planes 
there.

But one other problem stands in the way of Colombian military 
intervention in Venezuela: troops deployed to Venezuela would be letting 
go of duties in Colombia.

The Colombian Army has long carried out operations within Colombian 
borders, the banana-workers _massacre 
<https://www.academia.edu/28036360/The_workers_massacre_of_1928_in_the_Magdalena_Zona_Bananera_-_Colombia> 
_in Magdalena in 1928 being a prime example. Recently military thinkers 
all over have been working to justify domestic military activities. For 
example, “Prism,” the journal of the National Defense University, calls 
upon armed forces anywhere to be able “_to resolve national 
<https://cco.ndu.edu/Portals/96/Documents/prism/prism_4-4/Evolving_Internal_Roles_of_the_Armed_Forces_correctedII.pdf> 
_crises [such as] civil disturbances” and to deal with challenges to 
“domestic and regional security and stability.” And Juan C. Correa, a 
Colombian Army officer studying at the School of Advanced Military 
Studies in Kansas, examined “_stability operations 
<https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=703244>_.”  According to his thesis, 
they are the means through which Colombia could “achieve a long-standing 
deterrence against terrorist and criminal threats.”

Colombia’s Army may indeed be prioritizing the home front. New elements 
of instability recently have emerged there and civilian and military 
leaders presumably are not blind to them. They are: the accentuation of 
class-based divisions, antagonisms, and suffering and, secondly, an 
ongoing wave of protests. Here are the facts:

Between January 2016 and March 27, 2019,_498 people 
<http://estrategia.la/2019/04/06/cientos-de-lideres-sociales-sistematicamente-asesinados-en-colombia/> 
_were killed. They included 113 community leaders, 18 political movement 
leaders, 9 labor leaders, 7 environmental activists, 6 land claimants, 5 
human rights defenders, 31 indigenous leaders, 28 peasant leaders, and 
24 Afro—Colombian leaders. Since the signing of the peace agreement 
between FARC insurgents and the government in late 2016, murderers have 
hit more than 129 former FARC 
<https://www.elnuevosiglo.com.co/articulos/04-2019-128-exmiembros-de-farc-han-sido-asesinados-desde-2016> 
guerrillas and _431 social and community 
<https://www.telesurtv.net/news/colombia-asesinato-lideres-sociales-defensoria-pueblo-20190110-0034.html> 
_leaders (some of whom having been accounted for above).

During the last 10 years, 5000 Wayúu 
<https://www.las2orillas.co/presidente-duque-un-concierto-por-la-guajira-tambien-es-posible/> 
Indian children died of starvation in La Guajira state; 58 percent of 
people there live in poverty*, *_25 percent 
<https://www.aporrea.org/actualidad/a276196.html> _of them in extreme 
poverty. The poverty rate for residents of Buenaventura on the Pacific 
coast is 80 percent; 41 percent live in extreme poverty. And, 71 percent 
have limited access to water; 40 percent, no sewage; and 65 percent, no 
jobs. _Half o 
<https://www.eltiempo.com/mundo/mas-regiones/casi-la-mitad-de-la-poblacion-vive-con-menos-de-6-dolares-diarios-282484>f 
_Colombians live on less than $6 daily; 4 percent, on less than $2 
daily. In 2015 Colombia _ranked 11^th 
<https://www.indexmundi.com/facts/indicators/SI.POV.GINI/rankings> _in 
the world for income inequality.

In early March indigenous people in southwestern Colombia convened a 
Minga (The  Quechuan word means “_collective effort 
<https://nacla.org/news/2019/04/16/colombia%27s-minga-protests-demand-justice-president-duque-isn%E2%80%99t-listening-translation> 
_for the common good”). Over 15,000 people gathered in Cauca and went on 
to block the Pan-American Highway between Popayán and Cali for 25 days.  
In mid April President Ivan Duque refused to meet with them. Anti-riot 
police and Army elements were in place and the _dead and wounded 
<https://www.cric-colombia.org/portal/comunicado-a-la-opinion-publica-nacional-e-internacional-ante-ataques-indiscriminados-del-esmad-emcar-y-ejercito-nacional-contra-comuneros-as-de-la-minga-por-la-defensa-de-la-vida-el-territorio-la/> 
_mounted.

Protesters demanded land rights, no more discrimination, and autonomy in 
organizing health care and education. They denounced failed 
implementation of the government-FARC peace agreement, and as _reported 
<https://nacla.org/news/2019/04/16/colombia%27s-minga-protests-demand-justice-president-duque-isn%E2%80%99t-listening-translation>by 
_Virginie Laurent, called for “shared struggle” in favor of a “radical 
shift in Colombia to combat the marginalization and exploitation of the 
majority of the population.” The Minga reached out to non- indigenous 
allies.

The National Civic Strike of April 25, joined by activists from dozens 
of organizations including _the Minga 
<http://www.resumenlatinoamericano.org/2019/04/25/paro-nacional-contudente-en-colombia-miles-marcharon-en-todo-el-pais-fuerte-represion-en-plaza-bolivar-bogota/>_, 
featured _marches, assemblies 
<https://kaosenlared.net/colombia-paro-civico-del-25-a-minga-al-esmad/>_, 
sit-ins, and highway demonstrations throughout the nation. The “_other 
Colombia 
<applewebdata://D84308B0-56FE-44C9-B1FD-D3D0A2C26D02/pacocol.org/index.php/comites-regionales/tolima/8022-paro-civico-nacional-la-colombia-profunda-en-pie>,_or 
deep Colombia” was standing up for “defense of life and defense of 
autonomy – that is to say, national sovereignty,” reported Nelson 
Lombana Silva, writing for the Communist Party website. They were 
protesting the killings; assaults on unions, agrarian rights, and public 
education; failed implementation of the peace accords; free rein for 
paramilitaries; U.S. military bases in Colombia; and U.S. “use of 
national territory in attacking Venezuela politically and militarily.”

At some point, and maybe now is the time, a nationwide revolutionary 
upsurge is due. It would be the first time since 1948.

That year Liberal Party leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, _a socialist 
<http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=254670&titular=a-71-a%C3%B1os-del-asesinato-de-jorge-eliecer-gait%C3%A1n->_, 
was on track to become Colombia’s president in 1950. He had led the 
Colombian agrarian masses against the violence an ultra-conservative 
government had used in defending big land holdings. An assassin killed 
Gaitánon April 9 1948. The government blamed communists and opened the 
door to extreme violence that would last for decades. Repression became 
the norm.

At the end of 50 years of war against FARC insurgents, hopes were high 
for peace at last and for solving grave social problems. But the peace 
agreement is in shreds, violence continues, and political processes are 
stuck. High officials probably assume that revolutionaries are 
re-thinking options. Seeking to prevent further descent into 
instability, the government, logically, would want regular troops to 
remain in Colombia where they are needed rather than being deployed in 
Venezuela.

/*W.T. Whitney Jr.* is a retired pediatrician and political journalist 
living in Maine./

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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