Colombia’s massacres of dissenters will one day be replicated in the U.S.
The recent developments within Colombia fulfill all of one’s darkest fears of how bad modern state repression can get. Colombian police are tracking down protesters via GPS so that they can either arrest them, or kill them outright. This has made it so that the leaders of the protests fear for their lives amid successful attempts from the police to get their locations. The police are very deliberately coordinating their massacres of the protesters, beginning the killing sprees after 7:00 each night. So far, 47 people have been killed, going by the most recent count I can find.
Amid these horrors, Facebook and Twitter have been banning people in Colombia from their platforms. The cause of the internet disruption that’s been occurring throughout the protests has been attributed to an unknown act of vandalism rather than government censorship, but a CIA operation to sabotage communications for the political dissenters (similar to the electrical grid sabotage the U.S. covertly carried out in Venezuela two years ago during its coup attempt) wouldn’t be surprising.
And as described by Dan Cohen of MintPressnews, paramilitaries have been getting heavily involved in the brutality at the behest of government officials:
As protesters were being massacred In the city of Pereira, another center of protests, the mayor Carlos Maya called on private security to collaborate with the military and police. “We will call on all business groups and private security forces to create a united front with the police and military to reestablish order and citizens’ security,” Maya announced. This is an implicit call for paramilitaries to take to the streets, explains Lina Maria Montilla Diaz, an official in the Central Union of Workers. “We have the problem of paramilitarism and with these types of declarations they are inviting these paramilitary groups to start working and strengthening their ranks,” she told me. Meanwhile, vehicles with hidden license plates and men in high rubber boots — telltale signs of paramilitary activity — began to appear.
These events show that for capitalist governments, “freedoms” and “rights” are totally malleable, even when those governments have promised doubly to uphold these liberties. Last year, Colombia’s Supreme Court of Justice upheld the right of the country’s citizens to protest, and to protest against police brutality in particular. Now that citizens are exercising their constitutional right to protest, with the government’s cruel attempt to privatize healthcare during the pandemic forcing the masses to fight back the only way they can, every shred of these promises have been immediately disregarded in favor of dictatorial terror.
Those of us in the U.S. should take notice. At some point during our generation, the U.S. government is going to react to the escalation of class conflict by abandoning its own supposed ideals of “liberty” to the same extent. The U.S. constitution is even more of a joke than Colombia’s constitution. Since 9/11 alone, our government has been contradicting its own constitution by carrying out mass surveillance of people’s communications, using Department of Homeland Security agents to shove random protesters into unmarked vehicles, and using Immigration and Customs Enforcement to target activists for deportation and surveillance.
In these last several months, the ICE concentration camps have been expanding, ICE has been granted unprecedented rights of detention for “national security” reasons, and the flow of military equipment to police departments has been accelerating. How far will our police state take things when the state comes up against a serious threat? When the people mobilize en masse towards the establishment of proletarian democracy?
This is the circumstance under which the Colombian government has been carrying out these massacres. Despite the government’s best efforts to kill off the country’s communist guerrillas, the Marxist-Leninist National Liberation Army (ELN) has 2,500 armed members. This incredible explosion of class outrage that’s now occurring, with the protests being unlikely to fizzle out and a strike happening alongside them, is no doubt troubling for Colombia’s ruling class. So the government’s ideologies of paramilitarism, racism, and free market fanaticism call for warlike tactics to be exacted against the masses. This is explicitly the mindset of the neo-Nazi military advisor Alexis Lopez Tapia, who’s driving the government’s response. Tapia wants the government to treat all facets of the country’s left as enemy combatants, and to create a military doctrine specifically designed for crushing an uprising through any means necessary.
It’s the logical extension of the doctrine for crushing liberation movements that’s been demonstrated during the Colombian military’s campaign from this last year to crush the ELN, which has ceased its own warfare operations to reduce the humanitarian fallout from Covid-19. The government doesn’t share the ELN’s concern for civilians, all it cares about is wiping out the class struggle. “The ELN lost more than 700 men due to legitimate state action in targeted strikes,” Colombia’s General Luis Fernando Navarro boasted this January. “They don’t have the capacity to recover from the damage done by Colombian authorities, which is why we believe their plans are focused on containment and our objective is to take them to a turning point.”
The incorporation of the military and paramilitaries into the response to the protests is intended as a pre-emptive expansion of these scorched-earth warfare tactics, where all facets of the country’s left are treated as enemy combatants. The U.S. military’s plans for domestic warfare, which call for the army to “drain the swamp” of non-combatants so that it can engage hypothetical near-future rebels in “high-intensity” conflict, reflect this model. Every part of Colombia’s Nazi-inspired crackdown will eventually come into the borders of Colombia’s imperialist puppeteer the U.S., including the suppression of online information so that the government’s atrocities against its own people can be better concealed.
The irony is that for Colombia’s government, as will be the case for the U.S. government when it embraces Colombia’s levels of state violence, these acts of brutality will ultimately serve to further take away the government’s perceived legitimacy. And this loss of mass belief in the state’s right to exist is what will increase the support of organizations like the ELN.
Which, if we revolutionary socialists within the U.S. make the right moves, will also come to apply to our own situation when our government unleashes its great campaign of terror. There’s a model for protecting ourselves and our communities from the brutality and enforced deprivation of the capitalist state. It’s called people’s war, and it can be carried out through studying communist and military theory, organizing with trustworthy people, and maneuvering towards the liberation of one’s land by helping mobilize the masses towards proletarian revolution. With these tools, we can turn the violence of our ruling class against them.
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