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.  





[1] (16-05-2021)

[2] (16-05-2021)

[3] (16-05-2021)

[4] (16-05-2021)

[5] (16-05-2021)

[6] (16-05-2021)

[7] (16-05-2021)

[8] (16-05-2021)

[9] (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 ( (16-05-2021)

[12] (16-05-2021)

[13] (16-05-2021)

[14] Latin American Herald Tribune – No End in Sight to Bogota Transit Strike ( (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] (19-05-2021)

[17] (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” / Twitter (19-05-2021)

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

[21] (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)



Brazil: “Trump of the Tropics” Assisted into Power

Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro at a rally in Rio De Janeiro. Image from The Guardian

Brazil: “Trump of the Tropics” Assisted into Power

17-11-2018 – Fascism has arrived in Brazil. Or so we are told. Jair Bolsonaro, who won the Presidential candidacy of the Social Liberal Party (PSL) after only joining that party at the beginning of the year, won the second round of Presidential elections on the 29th of October. The ultra-right Bolsonaro secured 55.1% of the vote[1], over the Workers Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad. Bolsonaro has made a string of ultra-conservative and fascist-like statements, from openly supporting military dictatorship, the use of torture by the authorities, to overtly sexist, racist and homophobic comments. Bolsonaro even once stated that former Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet “should have killed more people”.[2]

Working people should be clear. Fascism has not “arrived” with the election of Bolsonaro. An ultra-right wing, ultra-conservative has won electoral power, which has created conditions which may lead to fascism – the mobilisation of dissatisfied and despairing workers and small business people combined with the forces of capitalist state power enabling the physical crushing and dispersal of Unions, socialist parties and anyone suspected of being left-wing. Ironically, labelling Bolsonaro “fascist” may even spur his popularity even further, and backfire still further on politically progressive forces.

PT betrayals

The sad truth is that the ultra-right “Trump of the Tropics” was handed power by the “left” – principally the PT, but also by other left parties trailing in its wake. Thirteen years of betrayals by the PT in government,, from 2003 to 2016, first under President Luis Inacio Da Silva (known as “Lula”), and then under President Dilma Rousseff, where the PT moved so far to the right so as to be almost indistinguishable from actual conservatives – led directly to the working class switching their allegiances even further to the right. It mirrored the combination of political circumstances that led to the US working class ultimately opting for Trumpism, convinced that something, anything, that appears to be outside standard establishment politics – is worth a try. The working class as a whole, which by no means endorses or agrees with all ultra-conservative political positions, was willing to turn a blind eye to the excesses of Bolsonaro, convinced that nothing could be worse than the PT governed status quo.

In the same way that Obama and Clinton paved the way for Trump, Lula and Dilma paved the way for Bolsonaro. Also, in both cases, the capitalist left (the Democrats in the US, the PT in Brazil) was aided and assisted by the extra-parliamentary left parties, who ultimately could not break from “lesser evilism”, and thus remained as activist adjuncts to the “left” in government. No matter how right wing the Democrats and the PT became, these left parties in practice played the role of establishing an effective permanent popular front. A popular front is usually where ostensibly pro-working class organisations and parties link themselves to a “progressive” capitalist party, in a “broad front” against the right. But what this automatically entails is the working class chaining itself directly to the “left” wing of the ruling class, completely disempowering it. The popular front can raise no demands whatsoever that are not acceptable to the capitalist class as a whole – and thus the working class as a whole understandably sees it – and mistakenly the “left” – as no different to the entire system which makes their lives harder to endure.

It’s true that the PT in government carried out some minor reforms. The Progama Bolsa Familia (PBF) was introduced by Lula in 2003, and gave cash transfers to poorer families in return for ensuring children attended schools and were vaccinated. It led to a reported 28% reduction in poverty overall.[3] Between 2003 and 2010, the years of the Lula presidency, the Brazilian minimum wage steadily increased, and in fact quadrupled.[4]  There was also the creation of 14 million formal sector jobs, which led to an impressive Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 7.5% by the time Lula left office[5], when he handed over to Dilma Rousseff. These redistributive practices, and the resulting surge in apparent economic growth, led to Brazil joining the US Empire challenging BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) economic and political bloc.

PT corruption

However, these measures did little to counter the overall fiscally conservative economic policies of the PT government. There may have been a hope, when the PT was first elected in 2003, that it might be immune to the widespread corruption of the Brazilian capitalist political system, which pre-dated the election of the PT by decades. But it wasn’t long before the PT, and Lula himself, was implicated in overtly corrupt practices. In 2006, the PT was investigated by federal police for spending 1.7 million reais (the Brazilian currency) on a “proof of corruption” file against a political rival to the PT running for governor of Sao Paulo. Lula denied any involvement on his part, but the then PT president was forced to resign.[6]

While Lula left office in 2010 still retaining some personal popularity, the corruption scandal which engulfed the PT in 2013 probably ended any chance of the PT rehabilitating itself in the eyes of the masses. The Lava Jato (“car wash”) scandal involved large sums of money being paid to several political parties – including the PT – through the state owned oil company Petrobras. Huge demonstrations erupted in 2015 against the ongoing corruption of the PT administration, and against Dilma Rousseff as leader. Although some of this opposition included middle class opposition to some of the PT’s mild redistribution of some state funds, large parts consisted of workers fed up with corruption in combination with other austerity measures.[7] As in many parts of the world, the working class is usually “tolerates” a certain level of corruption amongst politicians, but at a certain point a tipping point is reached. The PT themselves presided over this period when Brazilians said “Enough!”

It was the PT in power when extensive protests over increases in public transport fares broke out in 2013.[8] It was the PT in power when deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon – the “lungs of the earth” – virtually reached the “point of no return”.[9] It was during the time of the PT in power when Brazil’s prisoners revolted over the relentless overcrowding of prisons.[10] It was the PT government that did little to address concentrated land ownership in Brazil, and even favoured corporate agribusiness against landless peasant farmers, a reported 200 000 of whom still have no plot of land to till.[11] In fact, it was the Dilma led PT government which classified roadblocks and land occupations – protest measures used by landless peasant farmers – as “terrorist” crimes.[12]

It was the Lula led PT government which sent Brazilian troops to occupy Haiti in 2004, and where they remained for 13 years. Reportedly the Brazilian troops as part of the United Nations Mission for the Stabilisation of Haiti (Minustah), took part in the terrorisation of the poor and students in the favelas of Haiti, in which some Haitians perished.[13] These practices were repeated against poor Brazilians who rose in revolt against the millions spent by the PT led governments hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

Very early in the Lula PT government, from around 2004, the PT’s open attacks on the pension system aroused bitter indignation from Brazil’s workers. The age of eligibility for the age pension was jacked up to 60 for men and 55 for women. Today this may sound modest, but in fact the eligibility age for the pension at the time exceeded average life expectancy, which then stood at 59.[14] There was a wave of workers’ strikes in response. In short, the PT led a capitalist government in Brazil from 2003 to 2016, whose actions engendered bitter hostility and enmity from Brazil’s vast working class.

Identity politics repels workers

Much is made of Bolsonaro’s seemingly open embrace of racism, sexism and homophobia. Make no mistake, the working class movement for socialism cannot be successful unless it combats racism, sexism and homophobia in the process of its struggles against capitalism. The problem, however, is that today, the liberal left harps on about these issues in isolation from a political offensive against the ravages of the free market system. The liberal left also excuse the capitalist left – the PT in the case of Brazil – from their targeting. They assume that the words of capitalist parties such as the PT means that the PT actually genuinely opposes racism, sexism and homophobia. While the rhetoric of the PT may rail against these things, the PT does not attempt to confront the system of private production for private profit – which produces the racism, sexism and homophobia in the first place.

In the 1960s and 1970s, at least in the West, there was a working class upsurge against the imperialist war on Vietnam waged by the US government. This led to the famed ‘radicalisation’ of politics at that time, with many working class people identifying with socialism. This partially enabled other sectors to politically radicalise, as they were given momentum by the vast anti-war movement – but also by an extensive trade union and workers’ movement. This was the time of the “second wave” of feminism, which made strides towards women’s liberation. It was the time of expansive anti-racist movements, with the civil rights movement involving African-Americans in the US. And it was the time of the initial breaking through of movements for lesbian and gay liberation. These were vital political steps forward, and they had great political impact because they were linked to large scale progressive working class movements such as the anti-Vietnam war movement and a strong trade union movement.

Fast forward to today, and we unfortunately find that the Union movement is probably at its weakest point in a century. And unfortunately there is scarcely an anti-war movement at the very time when the world is threatened by a new cold war. In fact, much of the Western left actually came behind the imperialist wars on Libya and Syria. So when workers see the liberal left engaging in loud campaigns against racism, sexism and homophobia – but are almost silent during imperialist wars AND during years of ruling class attacks on living standards – understandably some workers come to view the left as being of very little help. In fact, some workers can come to see the “left” as part of the problem.

In addition, workers do not take kindly to being lectured on racism, sexism and homophobia – especially from a left which has offered them no assistance in dealing with things such as the skyrocketing cost of living. Workers especially resent being lectured if it is implied that they themselves are racist, sexist and homophobic. With a “left” continually moralising about these issues, and also being tied to the capitalist left – it is understandable that some workers will reject the “left” altogether, and look to the right, even the fascist far right. Workers are not inherently racist, sexist or homophobic, and they can be won to fight against such scourges, but only when connected to a struggle for their own (class) interests.

Liberalism cannot fight fascism

If indeed Bolsonaro does start a fascist movement in Brazil and in Latin America, one thing is certain – the liberalism that produced Bolsonaro will never be able to defeat him. Liberalism is not counterposed to fascism, and has little interest in fighting it. One could argue that fascism is the end product of liberalism.[15] Liberals see people as individual voters for a strong state, whereas fascism simply dispenses with formalities and unites everyone – against the left – to form a strong state. Under a fascist state some liberal politicians may miss out on jobs *as politicians*, but that is about it. In reality, their connections with big business means that they will scarcely miss out altogether.

Potential fascism in Brazil can thus only be fought if the working class makes a complete political break with the capitalist left – the PT – and also the liberal left which united into an electoral popular front with the PT, which includes PSOL (Party of Socialism and Freedom) and the PCB (Brazilian Communist Party). This is the only way to start reaching the workers and young people who turned to Bolsonaro after seeing and experiencing the betrayals of the PT in government. A genuine Marxist party, speaking to workers’ direct needs, will be required to lead both Brazil and Latin America away from an abyss.



PO  Box  66   NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] (10-11-18)

[2] (10-11-18)

[3] (10-11-18)

[4] (10-11-18)

[5] (10-11-18)

[6] (11-11-18)

[7] (11-11-18)

[8] (11-11-18)

[9] (11-11-18)

[10] (11-11-18)

[11] (11-11-18)

[12] (11-11-18)

[13] (11-11-18)

[14] (17-11-18)

[15] (17-11-18)