Colombia Between the War and the Pandemic

The following is a detailed analysis by the Communist Party of Colombia (ML) of the current Colombian situation, its origins, and the mass assassination of social activists by the government which is intensifying in the wake of a mass street movement.


At the end of the first quarter of 2021, there were several features that distinguished the national political situation and on which there was a great national debate, given the great significance that the proposals being presented today have for the present and future of the country. It is noteworthy that we are witnessing a rather difficult and complex time in which the crisis and the neoliberal and pro-fascist policies of the regime are accentuated. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is evolving at an accelerated rate, producing quite heart-breaking destruction in a country that is at the same time suffering the impacts of violence, territorial disputes, corruption and drug trafficking, as well as the unpatriotic action of an anti-democratic and populist government sold to the monopolies and international banking.

The decrease of 6.8% in the GDP in 2020 reflects the deep economic crisis that the country is experiencing, today accelerated significantly by the coronavirus pandemic. But it is also the product of the disastrous application of neoliberal policies, the growth of the external debt, the State’s commitment to IMF policies, the reduction in social spending, the unemployment and poverty of millions of Colombians.

The social and political crisis, expressed not only in the high levels of inequality, informal work (48.2% of the employed population) and misery of the majority of the Colombian population, but also in the harshening of an authoritarian and pro-fascist regime, which is characterized and outlined in the government of Iván Duque Márquez, as an inveterate, repressive and anti-democratic actor at the service of the monopolies and international banking.

In labor matters, the figures are quite worrying. The rate of participation in the labor force was 51.7% in February 2021, 4.1% lower than that registered in February 2020 (55.8%). Therefore underemployment and unemployment grew, reaching 11.1% and 15.9% respectively in February 2021. A careful and objective reading of the figures shows that the number of people without work in Colombia is growing, and the number of people who lack the necessary resources to live in a dignified way is growing. In response and under the excuse of confronting the economic effects of the pandemic, the Colombian government considers it a priority to develop multiple actions aimed at protecting large companies, banks and investors within a framework of strengthening outsourcing and greater flexibility of contracts and labor relations. Along with the devastating effects of the pandemic on employment, working at home, tele-working, digital technologies, the use of new telecommunications and transport systems, as well as the automation of processes are making their way at different levels, introducing new characteristics to the labor market.

Another important feature of the national situation is the growth of discontent and social mobilization seen in the continuous actions of struggle of the workers, women and youth against the government, thw monopolies and banks and their aggressive policy of super-exploitation, low salaries, higher taxes and/or fiscal charges, privatization and reduction in public spending.

The large mobilizations for health and decent medical care, a basic income, the defense of labor, increased wages and the NO to the tax, labor and pension reforms are being prepared again, highlighting the call for a national strike for April 28 carried out by the Unitary National Command, the workers’ federations, FECODE, the Union Workers Trade Union and many other organizations in the country.

On the political level, we highlight the unitary processes of a popular nature at the national level with a view to confronting Uribism in the electoral contest that will take place in 2022. Attempts at establishing a Historical Pact of the left, progressive, democratic and popular sectors that allow people to act in a unified manner, both in the legislative, presidential and vice-presidential elections, highlight the important steps that are being achieved today with the view to forming a broad and vigorous front against corruption and the current anti-democracy in Colombia.

Given this scenario, we will focus this time on two major problems that affect Colombian society which constantly attract international attention: the coronavirus pandemic and the worsening of the war in our country, given the intensification of the military confrontations, the assassination of leaders and human rights defenders, the massacres and forced displacements.

In future issues of our magazine we will refer to other topics of interest that undoubtedly the revolutionaries and democrats will reflect on, as well as the strengthening of the processes of change in Latin America and the world.


The coronavirus pandemic and its effects in Colombia

On March 5, 2020, Colombia confirmed its first case of coronavirus and from then to April 8, 2021, 2,492,081 people with the virus have been reported in the country, of whom 2,355,832 have recovered; while 65,014 have died.

In the world, the disease has caused at least 2,894,531 deaths since its appearance in December 2019.

In the first year of the pandemic, Colombia registered two epidemiological curves or peaks. The first was on August 19, 2020, a day on which 13,056 cases of the disease were confirmed, and the second, arrived on January 15, 2021, after reporting 21,078 infections. As of April 7, a third epidemiological peak was registered in most of the national territory, much more serious and intense than the previous ones, with 12,464 new cases, 247 deaths and 62,688 active cases, which have made the health system collapse at the national level.

The seroprevalence or level of infection of Covid-19 in Colombia is an average of 40%, that is, 60% of the population would still be susceptible to being infected with the virus.

Regarding the vaccination plan, official voices point out that Colombia, through bilateral and multilateral mechanisms, ensured for its citizens the doses of vaccine for Covid-19 needed to reduce mortality and the incidence of serious cases of this virus, protect health-care workers, reduce infection to build the herd immunity recommended by experts. In this sense, it has been possible to buy 20 million doses for 10 million Colombians through Covax [Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access] and through bilateral mechanisms 46.5 million doses for 27,750,000 people. The government says that in this way we achieved 66.5 million doses for 37,750,000 people to be vaccinated in 2 phases and 5 stages, prioritizing groups at risk and progressively until reaching the target number of vaccinated Colombians.

In this vein, we are obviously forced to permanently evaluate the evolution of this pandemic and the policies adopted by the State and its various actors to face it accordingly. In this view, the world is certainly suffering from a pandemic of great proportions that deeply affects the present and future of humanity.

In general terms, the pandemic exposed the deep capitalist crisis that is being experienced in the world today, the great weaknesses of the States and the health-care systems, social inequalities and the impoverishment of a large part of the population, in addition, the absence of policies that put human well-being at the center. To this d,ay the arrival and evolution of the pandemic has revealed the action of a new factor that disrupts health and social life and puts the role of States and different social actors to the test.

Thus it is clear that the vaccines are a success and a step forward; they also comprise an important scientific effort, which in the current context is seriously limited by the policies applied by the States that are interested in containing the economic and social effects of the pandemic. Above all they put in first place the interests, that is, goods, markets, investments and profits of the capitalists that they represent. In these terms, the strong market for vaccines opened mainly by the pharmaceutical companies and the imperialist States cannot be examined lightly without realizing the contradictions and struggles present in the capitalist society in the 21st century. The great differences in the vaccination rate of countries seen in this context, only a small part of the planet has its vaccine insured while the majority of the population will hardly be able to get vaccinated in the short term. In effect, as has happened on other occasions, the entire vaccine market, in addition to being an instrument of subordination and protection of interests, has become an incentive to exacerbate the crisis and the social contradictions of the capitalist system. On our part, we will work tirelessly so that in our countries the struggle of the peoples takes up the banner of the vaccines against Covid-19 as a global public good that allows the immunization of humanity against this deadly virus.

As for Colombia, we will continue to insist, together with the other actors in the popular field, in demanding that the government accelerates the national vaccination plan, the adoption of a basic income, and a greater and urgent social investment in the framework of a plan agreed with the representatives of the communities, the unions and social organizations of the country that would allow the revival of employment, the protection of the national infrastructure, and the strengthening and expansion of the health-care system in the country.


The humanitarian drama that Colombia is suffering

In Colombia the horrible night has not stopped. It is the truth that we Colombians are forcefully confirming every day when we observe the worsening of the war and especially the continual assassination of social leaders, the massacres and the displacement of thousands of our compatriots, showing quite shocking figures.

The new spiral of violence registered in 2020 91 massacres with 381 victims. So far in 2021, 26 massacres have already been committed with 95 victims. Regarding the assassinations, the figures for 2020 speak of 310 social leaders and human rights defenders murdered. So far in 2021, there have already been 16 leaders assassinated[1], which show the repetition of a new cycle of violence, mainly in those areas considered strategic or in dispute, either due to their economic power, development of works of infrastructure, the exploitation of gold and other natural resources, illegal crops (mainly coca and marijuana production), or because they are transit areas or bordering on other countries.[2] The north and southwest of Cauca, lower Cauca and north of Antioquia, the Pacific Chocoano, Valluno and Nariño, Putumayo, Meta, Arauca and the Catatumbo area in the North of Santander are the areas of greatest violence, confirming that this as a phenomenon that runs through and affects the entire national geography. 

Social leaders and defenders of human rights assassinated in Colombia since the signing of the Peace Accords

Social leaders and defenders of human rights assassinated in Colombia under the government of Duque August 7, 2018 to December 15, 2020)

These figures collected by the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (INDEPAZ) as of March 30, 2021, and broadcast at the national and international level, show the enormous humanitarian drama that is being experienced in our country, which, as illustrated in the graph, are the communities and popular sectors most affected who are really suffering the horrors of war, contrary to the numerous comments in some media that consider business owners, ranchers and landowners as the main victims, who, according to them, have had to leave the country, arm themselves or secure their businesses to continue surviving.

Social sector of the leaders and defenders of human rights assassinated from November 24, 2016 to December 15, 2020

The above is not something accidental; it reflects an ideological, cultural and political offensive based on false considerations and facts (fake news), which stimulate and support the fanaticism, sensationalism, demagoguery and populism that characterize the discourse and campaigns of the ruling classes and their parties in Colombia. This is exemplified by the activities carried out before the plebiscite to endorse the peace accords in October 2016, then the electoral campaign that allowed Duque to win the presidency in 2018, the coronavirus pandemic and the confrontation that is rising today with the fraternal country of Venezuela. In this it is common to find leaders fully used to deceive the masses, as well as to legitimize the interests and the ruling power.

[Comments on the killing of human rights defenders and leaders

In 2020, more than 291 social leaders were assassinated. There was no let-up in the trend in these assassinations, which are close to the 2018 figure.

There was a decrease in the number of municipalities (from 114 in 2018 to 114 in 2020); which shows the withdrawal of some armed groups, the stabilization of conflicts in others, the non-existence of strong dynamics of expansion.

The most critical situations occurred in the North and Southwest of Cauca, Bajo Cauca and North of Antioquia, Pacific Nariño, Putumayo and Catatumbo.

In these areas, the re-composition of territorial control and conflicts among various groups, regarding income from drug trafficking, gold mining, timber trafficking, surplus value from megaprojects and infrastructure works, appropriation of land and distribution of political power continues.

The promoters of these conflicts in critical territories are complex macro-criminal groups and networks that operate in legal and illegal businesses, with companies that launder illicit enrichment and accomplices/partners established in State institutions.

The neo-paramilitary and narco-paramilitary armed groups are a part of these macro-criminal groups that reproduce themselves by association and together with the legal ones.

Those who have rearmed in the post-agreement period, for the most part, are dedicated to conflict over these incomes, trying to rebuild economies and controls that the FARC EP previously had.

In about 45% of the cases, the gunmen that kill the social leaders are linked to the narco-paramilitaries and the groups left over after the agreement; the other 55% are made up of unidentified assassins, many of them at the service of mafias (35% of the total); ELN, dissidents from the FARC EP, and the police and troops.

The State and government bear responsibility for these persistent acts of violence by inaction, harmful actions and complicity at various levels.

The inaction consists of the weakness of an coordinated, prompt and sufficient presence in the regions most affected by armed violence and post-agreement conflicts; the major inaction has been the lack of implementation of social, political and security reforms, in particular comprehensive rural reforms, planned substitution, political reforms and security guarantees,

The harmful action in the critical territories and in general is seen in the substitution of a security policy for peace with another one of security for a new war against drugs / anti-terrorism.

Complicity at various levels is shown in the collusion of the political powers, clans, mafias, with armed activities. The capture of institutions has one of its manifestations in corruption and others in the re-composition in the armed forces using strategies of war contrary to the transition to peace.]

The Colombian conflict

As a harsh truth, we share the recent studies by INDEPAZ[3] that confirm Colombia as a country with a very old internal conflict, which is growing and renews itself amid a tumultuous context of crisis and inter-bourgeois conflicts for control of profits, natural resources and strategic areas. It is a conflict in content and form, with dimensions and/or particularities that characterize and show it to be different from the type of conflict that was seen in the country in previous years. In concrete terms, the Colombian conflict today is no longer a confrontation between the State and its armed forces on the one hand, against strong military contingents or organizations aiming at socialist power as alternatives to the prevailing system. On the contrary, the situation is one of an open and brutal confrontation between the State on the one hand, with a group of organizations of resistance that are determined to oppose the regime and the government and advocate for political negotiation; and on the other, with dozens of military units and projects mainly of an economic nature, without ideological perspective or unity, characterized by their low political profile, territorial disputes, linked to crime, drug trafficking and mercenaries at the service of the bourgeois army, predominantly with the absence of collective social projects.

As part of the conflict, other types of confrontations burst onto the scene, distinguished and promoted mainly by unions, social leaders, human rights defenders and a variety of social and community organizations that reject exploitation, poverty, corruption and state abandonment. They are the confrontations of the State with the workers and organized communities that rise up in defense of life, sovereignty, ecology and the environment, the autonomy of communities, the defense of citizen’s rights and freedoms. This type of confrontation complicates the panorama and shows both in its causes and expressions the conflict as an economic, social, political and armed phenomenon with deep edges in the country.

Peace is a great popular desire

As we have pointed out in numerous writings, peace is not a fantasy and it cannot continue to be treated as primarily a military matter that only calls for armed actors. Years of struggle and all the experience gained tell us that this viewpoint is wrong and requires a political change, which goes beyond that moralistic and religious vision of those who see the conflict as a confrontation between good and bad. For our part we have seen it through a evolutionary, integral, multifaceted and broad vision of the conflict that demands the reflection of its history, roots and multiple expressions, without losing sight of the context and characteristics of our economic-social formation. The future of the State and the economic, social, political and military policies that have been implemented for more than 70 years of confrontation, as well as all the social forces immersed in the confrontation, also point to certain values, imaginations, challenges and behaviors. That vision at stake today is what has allowed the left and the progressive and democratic sectors to consider that the events of the conflict to this day have their structural causes in the strong dependency, economic and social exclusion, the flagrant rejection of citizen’s rights and political freedoms.

We think that today’s conflict in all its details requires an analysis that makes it possible not to stay on the surface, promoting policies that have already been proven ineffective, such as welfare policies, or those that are promoted by friends of the military solutions, or also those who insist on negotiating and distributing state posts and budgets, denying that the conflict in the country has underlying structural causes.

The failure of the peace process

The failure of the “Agreement for the definitive termination of the conflict” signed by the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC-EP on September 26, 2016, is clear and evident. On the one hand, because the agreements have only been implemented 16%, according to an analysis of the Party of the Communes itself (this is the name of the party of the demobilized FARC), and on the other hand, because the conflict has not disappeared and much less has the State declared the abandonment of its warmongering policy, of fighting against the internal enemy, which according to its spokespersons includes a terrorist threat to Colombian society. In addition, in several regions there is an effort to exterminate of the former combatants that closes the doors to any reconciliation or negotiated solution to the conflict.

Regarding the Peace Agreement itself, we think that one should not many expectations for it either, because although it speaks of the end of the conflict, its real purpose was only to agree with the Colombian government and State on the reincorporation into civil life of a force that believes that the social change that they proclaimed in their program of advanced democracy could not be achieved through armed action.

We also share the views of some analysts who point out that the Agreement, as a Letter of Good Intensions, ignores the balance of forces that exists and is necessary for the reforms it proposes, as well as the rules for the exercise of power and political action in Colombia.

On the other hand, it is necessary to consider in the force of the Communes errors and misunderstandings regarding the Agreement and its viability such as that:

• The economic, political and legal order of the country is intact and did not need changes; on the contrary, we have a democracy and a Constitution that requires some touch-ups or lively reforms that allow the State to bring the citizens closer, save thousands of lives, encourage reconciliation, and create the necessary social welfare that will make social and political confrontation unnecessary and useless.

• The cause of the internal conflict that plagues the country is in the countryside and fundamentally derives from a conflict over land, where on the one hand the lack of protection and neglect of the countryside is obvious and on the other hand the confrontation between the peasantry, the landowners and the State for the lands and income to be gained in the rural market. The strategy of development programs with a territorial approach (PDET) for 15 years included in the Agreement for about 170 municipalities in the country is based on the premise that these programs will make it possible to put an end to illegal crops, poverty, violence and neglect of the State in important regions of the country.

• The concept of transitional justice as a systematic set of rules already elaborated and on which there is identity in international legal doctrine, aimed specifically at guaranteeing the rights of truth, justice and reparation for the victims. Disregarding transitional justice as an issue under construction in which the definition of both substantive and procedural objectives and rules depends on the balance and factors of power is a gross error; in addition the Agreement completely omits and ignores the combative nature of the guerrilla, self-defense and rebellion as political rights.

We think that all these omissions, errors, blurring and mainly the refusal of the State and the current government to comply with the Agreement are what have caused it to hang by a thread, filled with shocks and uncertainty, especially to the former combatants and the communities that were close to the defunct FARC-EP guerrilla.

Considering the existing facts and limitations, we highlight the efforts of the social and political communities and organizations in the country that have come out to defend the peace agreements, demanding that the government, in addition to compliance with these agreements, punish those responsible for heinous crimes and crimes against the humanity, greater social investment, protection of victims, and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.

In that same perspective, we see this opportunity to express our rejection and condemnation of the murder of 1,134 human rights leaders and defenders in the country, as well as the 263 signers of the peace agreement assassinated from the signing of the peace accords until January 30, 2021. We demand that the State and international courts punish these violations of human rights and international humanitarian law accordingly.

As fighters for change and peace with social justice, we reiterate our call to all revolutionaries, democrats and supporters of social progress to promote unitary efforts for winning a democratic and popular government that ensures peace with social justice, democracy, the well-being and building of the new and sovereign homeland.

Communist Party of Colombia Marxist-Leninist

Central Executive Committee

Colombia, April 2021




Categories: International, U.S. News

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