Earlier this year in the south of Bogotá, in a district called Bosa, seven men decided to bury themselves up to their necks in the grounds of a public school, and to launch an indefinite hunger strike to call the authorities' attention to the plight of their community – over 400,000 people in Bosa do not have a water supply. This peaceful exercise of the right to protest could today see these seven local leaders imprisoned. Under the State of Internal Unrest, passed by the government of Alvaro Uribe within days of his inauguration, any form of protest is seen as a subversive act. The protagonists may be characterised as 'white collar guerrillas', in line with the parameters established by the ideologues of the extreme right who, in the name of peace, seek total war.
The reality is that the clean water service sought by the people of Bosa would not cost more than 600 million pesos, a small figure compared to the 6,000 million pesos spent in the last month of Pastrana's government on a propaganda campaign to show the "success" of his government. Or the 800 million pesos spent on each operation to protect new president Uribe each time he ventures to a part of the country, involving the deployment of three thousand troops, helicopters and aeroplanes.
THE WAR COMMAND
Just as the United States co-ordinates its world wide witch hunt in the so-called war against terrorism from the Pentagon and the White House, so in Bogotá the Colombian government has also established a War Command in the Attorney General's building a few blocks away from the US Embassy. It is here that Fernando Londoño Hoyos, the 'super-minister' of the Interior and Justice, Attorney General Camilo Osorio and US Ambassador Anne Patterson meet daily to implement the war policies of Bush and Uribe.
Few in Colombia believe that Fernando Londoño is innocent of the corruption scandals alleged against him. His defence is just the same as President Uribe's, who was challenged in the election campaign on his responsibility for the origins and development of paramilitarism, as well as his direct connection and that of his family with persons linked to narco-trafficking. Both allegations drove Uribe into a frenzy, in which he rejected the charges without ever refuting them. The allegations against the two aspiring leaders were covered up by the press and the ruling class, as well as by international governments who, in spite of the suspicions and evidence, pardoned them because they need them in power.
Even before taking office Londoño showed his mindset when he accused the NGOs and ecologists across the world of being part on an international conspiracy against Colombia, and of being communists disguised as ecologists.
As for Attorney General Osorio, he commits all manner of injustice, such as incarcerating a citizen because of the similarity of his physical appearance to that of a FARC commander, in spite of genetic evidence proving the accusation false. Or the accusations made against a lawyer, the brother of another FARC commander, who was imprisoned due to an informer with a known criminal record saying that he wanted to launch an aeroplane against the presidential Nariño palace on the day of Uribe's inauguration.
This same Attorney General has exonerated several soldiers with evidence against them of violating human rights. And he has put under his own control the completion of the investigation of several military and paramilitary agents implicated in the assassination attempt against Wilson Borja, the former trade union leader and now Congress representative.
Osorio has 'confirmed' escapes by political prisoners from Colombian jails, to hide the reality reported by their families that they have been assassinated inside the prisons by paramilitaries and state agents, who got rid of their bodies through the drains, after grinding them up in machines and dissolving them in acid. Besides which the Attorney General is a fervent promoter of reform that will convert his office into a political apparatus for Uribe to use in taking cases against members of Congress, or to carry out detentions, raids or the telephone tapping of any citizen without a judicial order.
THE PRESIDENT'S MEN AND WOMEN
What stands out in the cabinet put in place on 7 August is that three ministers have links with the board of a company called Sociedad Colombiana de Agricultores SAC, which with FEDEGAN has been accused of fostering paramilitary groups. Vice-President Francisco Santos is not only a member of one of the country's richest families, but is also the grandson of ex-president Eduardo Santos, cousin of Juan Manuel Santos who was Finance Minister in the Pastrana government, a shareholder and former editor of Colombia's leading establishment daily newspaper El Tiempo and founder of the "Pais Libre / Free Country" organisation that initiated the movement against kidnapping, which was converted into his political platform to reach the Vice-Presidency and which is today promoting demonstrations in la plaza de Bolivar [the equivalent of Trafalgar Square in London – translater] with slogans against the guerrillas such as FARC – WE'RE GOING TO KILL THEM, or FARC, WE'RE GOING TO EXTRADITE THEM.
Finance Minister Roberto Junguitoera was, until his appointment, a member of the board of the International Monetary Fund. Foreign Minister Carolina Barco was born in Boston USA to a north american mother, and is the daughter of ex-president Virgilio Barco. The current ambassador to London is the son of ex- president Alfonso Lopez, and brother of the editor and owner of the opinion magazine Semana, to mention only some.
We must include the President's "right hand man", Pedro Juan Moreno who journalist D'artagnan calls "Colombia's Montesinos" [Montesinos was disgraced former president of Peru Fujimori's head of dirty operations – translater], and about whom a column in El Tiempo recently said: "..a vigorous devotee of Adolf Hitler (they say that on his farm he not only has recordings of Hitler's speeches, but that after a few drinks, they recite from memory in German to the sound of triumphalist marches); defender at all costs of the Convirir (some of which degenerated into paramilitary groups) … Information on Moreno is difficult to obtain from US officials, nevertheless his company Chemical Products Limited has been on the Department's list in the fight against drugs, and is one of the biggest importers into Colombia of potassium permanganate, a precursor chemical subject to a regime of strict controls…."
SOME OF THE MEASURES TAKEN
To escalate the war the first call up of the Armed Forces Reserve has already been made and the fumigation of l2l,000 hectares growing coca in Putumayo department was announced. A pension reform has been announced that makes this right almost unattainable, and a labour reform that will extend the working day from 5 in the morning to 9 at night during which time no worker may claim overtime rates. The exceptional conditions enjoyed by some public sector workers have been done away with, and a significant cut in state sector jobs has been declared.
The political and military leaders of the paramilitaries Carlos Castaño and Salvattore Mancuso respectively show off their confident trust due to their links with the government and representatives in parliament. They are trying to reinvent their movement with a so called purging of the ranks and a 'distancing' from the narco-traffickers. The truth is that the image interests of the new President and the open rein that the armed forces now have with the decrees of the State of Internal Unrest – besides the confrontations between different paramilitary bands on the Atlantic Coast and the discontent of the cattle ranches on the plains who fostered the paramilitaries and backed them, but who now find themselves amongst their victims are such that paramilitarism has now been assigned a new role in the war strategy developed in Washington and Bogotá.
The US Senate as well as the White House agreed to the lifting of restrictions on US "aid" through Plan Colombia, which was never more than an excuse to intervene in Colombia's internal conflict. Now the US military presence is ever more evident. On the day of Uribe's inauguration US aeroplanes circled over Bogotá providing an aerial defence platform. At the same time sophisticated equipment is arriving at Tumaco airport in the south of the country, equipment that is beyond the training of the Colombian military. Subterranean complexes are being constructed under the immediately surrounding plains, with access forbidden even to the contractors who can only enter certain defined areas
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
Once the European Union declared that the guerilla movements and the paramilitaries are terrorists, Uribe is now trying to involve the United Nations in the conflict. Amidst all the comings and goings to Washington he is packing his bags for Europe once again, in the hope of raising another $300 million for the war.
Vice-president Francisco Santos and the ambassador in Canada Fanny Kertzman, together with Adriana Foggia from the embassy in London, are in charge of promoting that part of the international strategy called "EL ADIOS A LA DIPLOMACIA POR LA PAZ / GOODBYE TO PEACE DIPLOMACY", with which they are hoping to counteract those they call arbitrary critics, and the supposed injustice of NGOs who they accuse of partiality. Meanwhile they are trying to sell the idea to the world that Colombia has the right to defend itself, even should this be against the will of the majority of its people and at the expense of the human rights of the most vulnerable.