Colombia: National Strike or Deadly Riots?

Duque no president

Image from Al Jazeera (Placard reads “Duque is not my President”)

22-05-2021: The riot is the rhyme of the unheard. So goes the perceptive axiom which describes the fits of repressed anger impoverished masses occasionally release on an unsuspecting body politic. Tired of being ignored and marginalised, grinding poverty and oppression becomes too much to bear, and is expressed in a collective and sometimes violent lashing out at the public and private property of their own surrounds. At least, such was the case for hundreds of years. Today, however, the riot can be unleashed by dark forces attempting to achieve political ends for which they will not or cannot wait. Stir up the youth, overlay it with dollops of progressive, humanitarian and “left-wing” rhetoric, target a conservative political figure – and let them loose. Any violence then carried out by the mobs can then be minimised, explained away or even justified as a pursuit of a noble cause.

“Progressive” rioting

The first expression of the use of violent riots by liberal forces was the #ChileDesperto (Chile Awake) actions throughout Chile in 2019. Then, burning, looting and rioting – which included the loss of life of innocent workers[1] – was covered over by an overtly nationalist upsurge which claimed to be against neoliberalism. As we wrote at the time, any wanton vandalism and criminal violence carried out by protestors – no matter how worthy the claimed cause – will naturally trigger the intervention of the armed forces, especially in Latin America.[2] Indeed, the provocation of the police and security forces appeared to be a part of the plan to discredit a conservative leader, and presumably replace them with a social-democratic one.

Yet the game changing use of “progressive” rioting came with the suspect explosion of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement over the death of African American man George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA, in 2020. Suspect because BLM went on to orchestrate campaigns of burning, looting and rioting throughout the year, which were steered towards a political goal of removing then President Donald Trump by fair means or foul. In fact, BLM led 570 violent riots for three months in 220 locations across the USA,[3] ostensibly against “systemic racism”. Mainstream liberal media outlet CNN was panned for its now infamous subtitle which stated that riots which included buildings set ablaze were “mostly peaceful”.[4] The clincher in the BLM hypocrisy stakes came when its protests and riots were virtually deemed exempt from the Covid-19 nonsense, when 1000 health “experts” signed an open letter claiming that protesting against racism was just as important as combatting the (scientifically disputed) SARS-CoV-2 virus.[5] Many thus made jokes about this coronavirus knowing how not to infect someone who was protesting against racism.

Covid cognitive dissonance

Now, “progressive” rioting comes to Colombia, with a twist. During 2020, the Colombian state imposed some of the harshest Covid lockdowns in the world, in response to a fraudulent and fake “pandemic”.[6] Not surprisingly, the lockdowns caused the already high poverty rate in Colombia to climb even higher, with unemployment doubling during 2020.[7] The police were the public face of enforcing lockdowns and were handed extraordinary powers. Police could enforce stay at home orders, prevent people from leaving home, meeting with others, or travelling.[8] This Covid repression understandably caused fury amongst many already impoverished Colombians, some of whom targeted police with reprisals. However, the latest round of riots and protests which have occurred since April 28 over a proposed tax hike on the working and middle classes,[9] do not appear to question Covid itself. In fact, many of the rioters wear facemasks while looting, setting fire to public transport, and blockading roads. How can one protest lockdown created poverty without protesting the lockdowns themselves – and therefore the plethora of Covid lies?  Behold the logic of liberalism.

The similarity of the form of riot between BLM in the US and the 2021 Colombian disturbances are rather striking. They extend into the taking of more lives than that which occurred in the US in 2020. In one instance in the capital Bogota, a mob tried to burn alive 10 police officers in a small police station.[10] In another reported instance, a police officer was stabbed to death by a mob while he was attempting to stop a riot.[11] In other words, this goes far beyond what could be normally described as protests against police brutality – even by the standards of Colombia, which has been wracked by an armed civil war going back some 60 years. Physical and armed attacks – NOT those of defending barricades or something similar – are hardly a part of a genuine political movement. A genuine political movement would put forward political demands, and try to win public support for them in the process of taking action. In Colombia today, this is virtually absent – so there must be another agenda.

Something else which is bereft of political demands is the open vandalism of public transport by the rioters. It is the case that the TransMilenio bus system in Bogota is not well regarded, given the fact that it charges high prices, is often overcrowded, and does not even serve some areas of the city.[12] However, even if the public transport is largely handed over to the private sector as a cash cow, a pro-working class or socialist response might be to attempt to occupy it and run it for the benefit of those who cannot afford private cars. Instead, today’s rioters have carried out mass vandalism on some 68 TransMilenio bus stations.[13] Further, when a dispute between bus owners and the government over the implementation of a new public transport system developed, the bus owners took their buses out of circulation in protest. Then the replacement transit vehicles, covering the routes, were attacked by the rioters.[14] To say the very least, these “protestors” seriously lack a sense of civic duty.

Road blockades cause food and fuel shortages

Even the UK Guardian, which has a track record of backing unsavoury imperialist campaigns (such as the proxy war on Syria) admits that people in Colombia are justifiably complaining about the road blockades the rioters have erected.[15] Not only have the road blockades cut access to the seaport of Buenaventura, they have caused food and fuel shortages. In some cases, the grocery bill for some poor residents has increased by 80% within a week of the blockades starting. In addition, the road blockades have meant that garbage trucks have not been able to pass – which is leading to the unsanitary situation of piles of rubbish not being collected. The blockades have led to long lines at gas stations, with the army having to move in to prevent the theft of fuel.[16] According to the Colombian government, the vandalism along with the blockades have cost the Colombian economy $1.6 billion and have prevented the transport of 700 000 tonnes of food.[17]  This alone exposes the motivations of the rioters. This is not about a tax hike – something else is going on.

Even some indigenous groups are in on the act. A report from May 10 in Cali has the Indigenous Minga claiming 12 of their group were wounded in a shooting by men in armoured trucks and SUVs guarded by police. Yet the Minga were maintaining a road blockade, which counter-protestors understandably wanted to be torn down.[18] A National Police report of the incident is even more revealing. It states that it received reports of citizens being attacked by a group of indigenous people, who looted apartments and houses in the neighbourhood, “incited terrorism”, and injured people with sharp objects, and so they had to respond.[19] Liberals the world over often sanctify indigenous people – due to their indigenous status alone. Yet while indigenous people may well face institutional discrimination in many ways, they are born and raised in the same overall political context as non-indigenous people. That is, it is generally a class divided capitalist society. Therefore the politics of indigenous people can go in any direction, in response to good, or bad, influences. In this case, it appears the Indigenous Minga have been in the presence of bad company.

So, despite the riots, the burning of buildings, the looting of businesses, the vandalism of public transport, the road blockades which cause food shortages, the attacks on police officers, the threats of intimidation against those who disagree with the disruptions – is there a progressive political message regardless? Hardly. An interview which took place on Democracy Now! should bury that body. Democracy Now!, once part of alternative media, has been tagged “Imperialism Now” for its soulless backing of the war on Syria and hysterical anti-socialism when it comes to the People’s Republic of China. True to form, Democracy Now! gives full backing to the riots in Colombia, and did not even question one of its interviewees when he effectively made an open call for the intervention of US imperialism in Colombia today. Manuel Rozental stated, “..if President Biden and his government are not just rhetoric, they have to show that they are not going to support this….the only…force and power that (Colombia) responds to is the United States….if the US stops this, it will stop fascism. If it doesn’t, they are in complicity with what is happening here.”[20] That is, please save us President Biden !!

The chaos has a common thread

From Chile Desperto in 2019, to BLM in 2020, to Colombia in 2021, the violent rioting has a common thread – George Soros. The world’s number one anti-socialist, the multi-billionaire Soros and his euphemistically named “Open Society Foundation” (OSF) are specialists in global regime change operations which inevitably work hand in hand with the deep states of US/EU imperialism. These chaotic and deadly riots (“protests”) are given a liberal ideological cover of being “against neoliberalism” (Chile) or “against racism” (BLM) or even “against fascism” (Colombia). But in each case these are fake labels. The Chilean “non-profit” Ciudadano Inteligente (intelligent citizen) is funded by OSF, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED – the public relations arm of the CIA in the US) and Oxfam.[21] BLM was handed $33 million by the OSF in 2016[22], and no doubt much more since. And Temblores, the Colombian “human rights” organisation currently disputing the riot death count with the Colombian government, is also funded by OSF, as even CNN itself admits.[23]

It is preposterous to claim that a George Soros funded “NGO” such as Temblores is simply collating statistics on the Colombian riots and demanding accountability from the government. Rather, it is part of the OSF network which is orchestrating and facilitating the violence of the impressionable youths who are being manipulated by forces whose aims are the opposite of “social justice”. The OSF operates an office in the Colombian capital Bogota, and admits to a budget of $55.6 million for Latin America and the Caribbean just for the year 2020.[24] It scarcely matters whether the Colombian President Ivan Duque is pro-US, and is even pro-Covid lockdown, which is not in dispute. Duque is conservative, and Soros wants a liberal in. When Soros does not get what he is after, the regime change riots will follow sooner or later. It is a well-designed trap, which hoodwinks much of the left.

Workers the world over need to grapple with the fact that the NGO industrial complex is not comprised of misguided souls who are trying to do the right thing. The NGO industrial complex, of which OSF is only the most well-known, is literally imperialism which has outsourced its operations. Instead of trying to win an ideological battle for capitalism, the deep states of the US and the EU utilise “philanthro-capitalists” to foment, foster, create and fund “oppositions” in any nation around the world where they see an opportunity for regime change. Just as liberalism has been used as the vehicle for lockdown fascism, liberalism can also be used as the political vehicle for deadly proxy regime change chaos. In the process, this can even make ultra-right political leaders appear as moderates!

There is no doubt that poverty and violence has plagued Colombia for decades. Yet the “Covid” lockdowns of 2020 made this even worse. Workers need to recognise that “Covid” is part of the capitalist attack, and that pro-capitalist NGOs can never be an ally. What is required is a genuine struggle for socialism, led by veritable Marxist vanguard parties, motivated by real working-class internationalism – from Colombia and Venezuela to the Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe and the world.  

 

WORKERS  LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

 

[1] https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/401476/chile-protests-five-dead-after-looters-set-fire-to-factory (16-05-2021)

[2] https://redfireonline.com/2019/11/03/chile-nationalism-no-answer-to-austerity/ (16-05-2021)

[3] https://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2020/09/08/new-study-shows-majority-of-blm-protests-turned-violent-n2575801 (16-05-2021)

[4] https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/cnn-ridiculed-for-fiery-but-mostly-peaceful-caption-with-video-of-burning-building-in-kenosha/ar-BB18qhIU (16-05-2021)

[5] https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-monday-edition-1.5603024/over-1-000-health-experts-sign-letter-supporting-anti-black-racism-protests-despite-covid-19-risks-1.5603025 (16-05-2021)

[6] https://www.globalresearch.ca/respiratory-doctor-exposes-fake-virus-pandemic/5710274 (16-05-2021)

[7] https://edition.cnn.com/2021/05/10/americas/colombia-protests-pandemic-police-intl-latam/index.html (16-05-2021)

[8] https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/colombia/police-killing-rouses-colombias-lockdown-furies (16-05-2021)

[9] https://abcnews.go.com/International/colombia-years-frustration-trigger-violent-protests-tax-proposal/story?id=77654150 (16-05-2021)

[10] Demands grow as Colombians hold eighth day of mass protests | Protests News | Al Jazeera (16-05-2021)

[11] 42 killed in Colombia protests, human rights agency says (sfgate.com) (16-05-2021)

[12] https://nacla.org/news/2019/12/03/colombia-national-protests-infrastructure-politics-dilan-cruz (16-05-2021)

[13] https://thebogotapost.com/8-days-of-the-colombian-protests-in-numbers/42545/ (16-05-2021)

[14] Latin American Herald Tribune – No End in Sight to Bogota Transit Strike (laht.com) (16-05-2021)

[15] ‘They can’t take it any more’: pandemic and poverty brew violent storm in Colombia | Global development | The Guardian (19-05-2021)

[16] https://elamerican.com/protest-vandalism-cause-shortages-colombia/ (19-05-2021)

[17] https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/reuters/colombia-president-says-security-forces-to-lift-road-blockades/46626948 (19-05-2021)

[18] Colombia: 12 Wounded in Shooting Targeting Indigenous Minga – Kawsachun News (19-05-2021)

[19] BG. Juan Carlos Rodríguez Acosta on Twitter: “Comunicado de Prensa https://t.co/F2XgQGiREj” / Twitter (19-05-2021)

[20] “Nothing to Lose”: Colombians Protest “Fascist Mafia Regime” Amid Deadly Police & Military Crackdown | Democracy Now! (19-05-2021)

[21] https://ciudadaniai.org/funding (22-05-2021)

[22] Open Society Foundations (OSF) – InfluenceWatch (22-05-2021)

[23] In Colombia’s protests, pandemic pressures collide with an existential reckoning for police – CNN (22-05-2021)

[24] Latin America and the Caribbean – Open Society Foundations (22-05-2021)

 

 

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