[News] US Meddling in Colombia’s Election, Warns Left-Wing Vice Presidential Candidate Francia Márquez

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 24 12:24:12 EDT 2022


orinocotribune.com
<https://orinocotribune.com/us-meddling-in-colombias-election-warns-left-wing-vice-presidential-candidate-francia-marquez/>
US Meddling in Colombia’s Election, Warns Left-Wing Vice Presidential
Candidate Francia Márquez[image: image.png]
By Benjamin Norton – May 17, 2022

*The top vice presidential candidate for Colombia’s May elections, Francia
Márquez, called out the US government for meddling in the electoral
process. The left-wing activist criticized the war on drugs,
militarization, and “free trade,” calling for land reform and reparations.*

The vice presidential candidate for the leading ticket in Colombia’s May
elections has accused the US government of meddling in her country’s
internal politics to hurt the left wing.

Francia Márquez is an activist from the grassroots social movements of the
Afro-Colombian community. She is the vice presidential candidate for the
left-wing Pacto Histórico (“Historic Pact”) coalition, whose presidential
candidate Gustavo Petro is leading by double digits in major polls
<https://twitter.com/NoticiasRCN/status/1524178409835876357> in the weeks
before the May 29 vote.

Márquez criticized the US ambassador to Colombia for publicly claiming that
Russia, Venezuela, and Cuba are trying to sabotage her country’s election.

“Although [the US ambassador] did not mention the Pacto Histórico, although
he did not mention Gustavo Petro, it is obvious that he was referring to
our candidacy and our political campaign,” Márquez said.

“This is a direct intervention by the government of the United States
through the ambassador in the elections,” she stressed.

She also called out the US government’s double standards, noting that
Washington maintained “absolute silence” when the top general in Colombia’s
military violated his country’s constitution and meddled in its electoral
process by openly attacking the leading presidential candidate, Petro.

“I think they keep silent on certain things, but they speak out and publish
statements on others, and I think that is not an impartial attitude. I
think that that is a very negative message for Colombian democracy,”
Márquez said.

She called for the US government to show “respect” and “neutrality” to
Colombia.

Márquez made these comments in the heart of Washington, DC itself, at an
event organized by the United States Institute of Peace, an influential US
government-affiliated think tank.

RELATED CONTENT: Why Are Colombian Election Candidates Auditioning in
Washington?
<https://orinocotribune.com/why-are-colombian-election-candidates-auditioning-in-washington/>

The institute’s May 13 forum featured vice-presidential candidates for
Colombia’s May elections, and was livestreamed on the organization’s
YouTube channel <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiAT6Qc8Mz8>.

The event also featured prominent figures from the Woodrow Wilson Center
and Atlantic Council, two highly influential US government-funded think
tanks in Washington.
[image: Francia Marquez Colombia EEUU]Francia Márquez speaking in
Washington at the US Institute of Peace


*Leading Colombian vice-presidential candidate criticizes US free-trade
deal, militarization, drug war *Because Francia Márquez was speaking in the
heart of Washington, she made sure to reassure the audience many times that
a Colombian government under her leadership would seek to maintain close
relations with the United States.

But despite her diplomatic reassurances, Márquez was strikingly blunt about
her vision for a much more progressive Colombia.

She proposed a political model directly opposed to what she called the
“ultra-right-wing” Uribista movement, which has dominated Colombian
politics for two decades, since the rise to power of former president
Álvaro Uribe, who is deeply involved in drug trafficking and paramilitary
groups.

Márquez even called out Washington’s double standards toward her country.

She criticized the free trade agreement signed between the US and Colombia,
noting it has weakened the South American nation’s economic sovereignty,
hurt domestic agriculture, and made it reliant on food imports.

“I think there is a need to de a bilateral review of the deal, and an
evaluation of the impact in these 10 years since the signing of the
free-trade agreement between Colombia and the United States,” she proposed.

Márquez pledged her government would prioritize strengthening Colombia’s
sovereignty, especially its food sovereignty by boosting internal
agricultural production.

Warning about the horrific rates of violence in Colombia, especially
targeting grassroots activists, Márquez likewise denounced the
militarization of her country via Plan Colombia.

The US-sponsored war on drugs has been a failure, she emphasized, that “has
served in Colombia to leave dead people in our lands and economic resources
in the banks of the financial system.”

She argued that organized crime and the drug trade must be treated as
social problems, with roots in poverty and a lack of opportunities.

Márquez said the country should move toward the legalization and
commercialization of drugs, to remove this key generator of violence, while
also strengthening the economy and providing jobs for people in the
countryside.

Colombia needs much more “social investment,” Márquez stressed. She
promised to spend more money on public education, healthcare, and programs
to combat climate change.

In her remarks, Márquez called for “distributive justice” and “historical
reparations” for marginalized communities in the country, such as
Afro-Colombians and Indigenous peoples.

The vice-presidential candidate pushed back against the idea that
“polarization” is the problem in Colombia, arguing that this narrative was
created by the people who have governed for decades. The real issue, she
said, is that Colombians have been oppressed by the wealthy economic and
political elites.

She even announced that Colombia would re-establish formal diplomatic
relations with Venezuela, if the Pacto Histórico wins the election.

Her running mate, presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, has been extremely
critical of Venezuela in his public statements and speeches. But Márquez
made it clear that Colombia would still have formal diplomatic relations
with its neighbor, stressing that this is necessary to stabilize the region
and strengthen the economy.


*‘This is a direct intervention by the US government through its ambassador
in the elections’ *Given the environment, at a US government-sponsored
think tank in Washington, surrounded by US government operatives, Francia
Márquez was careful to emphasize that her administration would maintain
good relations with the United States. But she was also willing to
criticize Washington.

“We know about lobbies created by the ultra-right-wing here in the United
States to, first of all, disinform,” she said.

Márquez noted that this ultra-right-wing has spread numerous false claims
about her, Gustavo Petro, and the Pacto Histórico.

Among them, she explained, is “the story of ‘Castrochavismo,’ and making
the United States believe that Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez coming to
power is a threat for Colombia.”

“I think that the real threat is Uribismo, which has kept us subjugated for
20 years to an insecurity that has only resulted in deaths, that has only
fueled the armed conflict,” Márquez argued.

“It was not Gustavo Petro, or Francia Márquez, or the Pacto Histórico that
opposed peace in Colombia. It was not our movement that was opposed to
peace in Colombia. Those who decided to tear peace to shreds in Colombia is
this government.”

That government, led by current right-wing President Iván Duque, “comes
here and speaks kindly in the United States. It comes here to push its
politics,” she said.

But “the reality is that every day we are dealing with death in Colombia,”
she contrasted. “The reality is that every day social leaders are buried.
The reality is that every day youth are killed in Colombia. The reality is
that femicide does not stop.”

Márquez continued: “And that is what has us worried, because that narrative
has been echoed here. And we saw a statement by the ambassador of the
United States government, of President Biden, say that they had information
about possible funding and meddling by the governments of Russia and
Venezuela in the elections in Colombia.”

The US ambassador, Philip Goldberg, warned in an interview on May 12 of
potential “interference by Russians, Venezuelans, or Cubans
<https://www.elheraldo.co/colombia/entrevista-philip-s-goldberg-embajador-advierte-una-amenaza-extranjera-en-elecciones-en>
in
the elections.”

Márquez condemned these comments, stating, “Although [the US ambassador]
did not mention the Pacto Histórico, although he did not mention Gustavo
Petro, it is obvious that he was referring to our candidacy and our
political campaign.”

“This is a direct intervention by the government of the United States
through the ambassador in the elections,” she emphasized.

Márquez also criticized the US government’s double standards in its public
comments on Colombian politics.

In April, the top general of Colombia’s military, Eduardo Zapateiro
<https://elpais.com/internacional/2022-04-22/el-jefe-del-ejercito-colombiano-irrumpe-en-la-campana-con-un-ataque-a-gustavo-petro.html>,
who is closely affiliated with the right-wing, violated the neutrality that
the armed forces are supposed to maintain by openly on Twitter
<https://twitter.com/COMANDANTE_EJC/status/1517540063344832518> attacking
left-wing presidential candidate Gustavo Petro.

Márquez pointed out that the US embassy was silent about this flagrant
military attack on the integrity of the elections.

I have “a worry about the US government’s silence about the armed forces in
terms of the message sent by General Zapateiro, in the sense that that
message violated the political constitution, in that military officers
cannot participate in politics in Colombia,” she said.

“And there is absolute silence, no? I think they keep silent on certain
things, but they speak out and publish statements on others, and I think
that is not an impartial attitude. I think that that is a very negative
message for Colombian democracy,” Márquez warned.

She then called for Washington to show more “respect” and “neutrality” in
regard to Colombia.

“What are the values that I think should be strengthened in the
relationship? First,” Márquez said, “is the value of respect, the value of
recognition, the value of being able to build in the middle of difference.”

“For years in our country, difference was a reason to exterminate the
other. Those who thought differently were killed. Those who raise their
voice, in terms of difference as in opposition, are stigmatized, are
threatened, are killed. That cannot be the logic of a democratic
government,” she explained.

“I think that, on the contrary, democracy implies a discussion of
difference and building with difference. And that I think is a value that
must be rescued, that must be strengthened, in a relationship with the US
government. I think it’s respect, no? And neutrality is important as well,
in the sense of, if we don’t like views, well we have to build with
diversity, with difference.”


*All the war on drugs did is ‘leave dead people in our lands and economic
resources in the banks of the financial system’ *Francia Márquez harshly
criticized Colombia’s so-called war on drugs, which was sponsored by the
United States.

“For years the relation” between the United States and Colombia “has been
based more in terms of the war on drugs. And that I think has been a failed
policy,” she said.

Márquez summarized the failure of this policy: “Drug trafficking, as we say
colloquially, has served in Colombia to leave dead people in our lands and
economic resources in the banks of the financial system.”

“I think a great challenge is first to recognize that the anti-drug policy
has failed in Colombia,” she explained. “And strengthening that relation
implies setting out another approach on how to deal with the problem of
drugs in Colombia.”

“We have said, the approach is the path toward legalization, which involves
changing the use of the coca leaf and marijuana in terms of industrial and
pharmaceutical production, in food industry production, in textile industry
production derived from the hemp of coca and marijuana.”

“And there is also the approach of racial justice, understanding that the
profiling of the anti-drug policy, here in the United States, has been done
from a racial perspective. It is black Americans who are put in prison here
for consuming drugs. And in Colombia it is indigenous and black people,
too, who are hurt by the anti-drug policy.”

“Having an approach of racial justice implies, in this path toward
legalization, treating the problem of consumption as a public health
problem, not as a problem of criminality. Because it is impoverished young
people, who are racialized, who are stigmatized, who are targeted, who are
persecuted for consumption, but it is not treated as a health problem.”

Part of the move toward legalization and formal commercialization of drugs
would necessarily involve land reform, Márquez explained.

“We were talking about the need to move toward the legalization of drugs as
a path to get rid of that incentive for violence, of drug trafficking as a
motor that generates violence in Colombia, and creating economic
conditions, strengthening the productivity of the Colombian countryside is
a challenge.”

“That involves infrastructure. That involves recognizing the rights of the
Colombian peasantry. That involves discussing the topic of land
concentration.”

“I know there are sectors that don’t like that,” Márquez acknowledged. But
she stressed that “the first point of the peace agreement about
comprehensive agrarian reform, I think that will be a point that will help
in terms of distributing the land for families to access it.”

“I think strengthening the productivity of the countryside, creating
stabilization funds for the commercialization of products from the
Colombian countryside, is going to contribute enormously to reducing the
violence.”

“When there is more poverty and deprivation, there is more violence. People
are not going to let themselves die; the people use what they have at hand.
And sadly, the people who are more vulnerable end up in those dynamics of
violence, as a form of survival in a country as unequal as ours.”

“So we need to deal with the structural situations that involve security,
which is not simply an issue of a military perspective or police
perspective.”


*Colombia is ‘over-militarized’; the root causes of violence must be
addressed *“For years the approach for how to deal with security in
Colombia has been from a militarist perspective, from a policing
perspective,” Francia Márquez explained. “So when they talk about
insecurity, what they do is militarize the territories where that violence
is generated.”

“And the experience has been that, with greater militarization there is
greater violence, because of the corruption, because of the collusion
between the armed elements of the state and organized crime,” she said.

“I think the main part of the question that we always ask is why, if there
is such a militarized presence of the state, are these systematic and
structural acts of violence committed all the time in those territories?”

RELATED CONTENT: Orinoco Tribune Editorial Room Talk #3—Colombia:
Elections, Internal Crisis & Regional Threat
<https://orinocotribune.com/orinoco-tribune-editorial-room-talk-3-colombia-elections-internal-crisis-regional-threat/>

What is needed is instead “an approach that understands calamities that
generate the violence,” Márquez argued.

“For us, the violence cannot be stopped if hunger is not stopped. The
violence cannot be stopped if there are not conditions of dignity for
Colombians. And that involves strengthening production. That involves
restoring national productivity, in both agriculture and nacional industry,
the creation of jobs.”

“There are many youths who are being co-opted by armed groups, who first
don’t have access to education, and second don’t have access to a dignified
job in Colombia.”

Márquez named Colombian territories that she argued are “over-militarized,”
where social movement leaders and youth are killed every day, such as
Buenaventura and Cauca.

“We have major concerns about the security in our country, right now in the
political struggle,” Márquez continued.

“Both Gustavo Petro and I have had our democratic rights limited in the
campaign. At numerous times, we have had to stop the campaign, to not go to
territories.”

The violence of paramilitary groups has affected “nearly all of the
candidates,” she noted.

“Our country has suffered. We have enormous problems in our country. Our
people are dying of hunger.”

She called for the Colombian government to abide by the peace agreement it
signed with the former rebels of the revolutionary socialist group the FARC
in 2016. The right-wing administration of current President Iván Duque has
systematically violated the deal.

Márquez likewise said the government should have a peace dialogue with the
ELN, another socialist guerrilla group.

She demanded an end to support for paramilitary groups, which have fueled
the violence.

“Fear has silenced us in Colombia. It has not allowed us to express
ourselves. It has not allowed us to participate,” Márquez said.

“We have had 213 years of a state that has served only the elites, who have
governed us and excluded us, and not only excluded but have fueled a policy
of violence against social leaders, against ethnic peoples, against the
rights of women and youth.”

The first step toward transforming this political order “involves
recognizing the historic structures of oppression and exclusion,” Márquez
stressed.

“The moment has arrived for Colombia to be an autonomous people that can
define itself.”

*Featured image: Colombian vice-presidential candidate Francia Márquez, of
the left-wing Pacto Histórico coalition.*

(Multipolarista
<https://multipolarista.com/2022/05/17/us-meddling-colombia-election-francia-marquez/>
)


Benjamin Norton

Benjamin Norton is the founder and editor of the independent news website
Multipolarista <https://multipolarista.com/>, where he does original
reporting in both English and Spanish. Benjamin has reported from numerous
countries, including Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras,
Colombia, and more. His journalistic work has been published in dozens of
media outlets, and he has done interviews on Sky News, Al Jazeera,
Democracy Now, El Financiero Bloomberg, Al Mayadeen teleSUR, RT, TRT World,
CGTN, Press TV, HispanTV, Sin Censura, and various TV channels in Mexico,
Nicaragua, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Benjamin writes a regular
column for Al Mayadeen (in English and Spanish). He was formerly a reporter
with the investigative journalism website The Grayzone, and previously
produced the political podcast and video show Moderate Rebels. His personal
website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.
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