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Colombia: Piedad Córdoba and being convenient

This article should be read in combination with other articles on the Colombian peace process by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh on our site

12 May 2014

The former senator Piedad Córboda raised a storm when she asked that the Agrarian Strike be suspended.  According to her declarations it was inconvenient and that the government had shown its goodwill by setting up the roundtable on negotiations.  She surprised a lot of people, amongst them her friends (are they now ex friends?) on the left, but what she said was logical and coherent with her efforts in the framework of the peace process and her political career.

Firstly, we must ask, for whom is it inconvenient? Well, certainly it was for the Santos government and represents a threat to his re-election.  Here we see Piedad trying to bind the struggles of the people to the needs of the government and the State.  The peace agreement will tie all struggles to the content of the texts and, of course, the needs of the State.  It will never be convenient to struggle, because it will place in doubt what was agreed upon, and the stability of the State will be more important than a victorious struggle by peasants.  It is strange though, that the FARC and the State can negotiate in the midst of an armed conflict, but Piedad wants the peasants to surrender first.

Piedad deliberately ignores the history of the peasants in Colombia.  She talks of the goodwill of the State as if the peasants’ history or that of the current strike started yesterday.  This has been going on for decades, decades of agreements signed and reneged upon.  The current strike is the result of the agreements signed last year not being implemented.  They were very poor agreements, but be that as it may, the State did not fulfil them and Piedad wants us to trust in the goodness of the State.  This is coherent with what she asks of us in relation to the negotiations in La Habana.  We have to trust the State and not do anything inconvenient.

Piedad has put her own interests before those of the poor for a long time.  What is convenient has always been what is good for her and one must say, in passing what is good for the Colombian State.  In her long career she has never broken with the Liberal Party nor the State that his party of the oligarchs defends tooth and nail.

She began her political career in the Liberal Party in the 1980s.  In 1988 she was elected to the Council in Medellín.  Some 227 kilometres away in Segovia, northeast of Antioquia, the people voted massively against her party in the same elections.  César Pérez, the political chief of the Liberal Party in Antioquia ordered the massacre of 43 people because they betrayed the liberals by voting for the opposition group, the Union Patriótica.  Piedad did not break with her party, the blood of 43 defenceless people was not enough, it wasn’t convenient.  I cite this massacre because the role of the State and the Liberal Party is beyond question.  César Pérez was found guilty and sentenced for this massacre.  When Gaviria gave us the infamous economic aperture, Piedad did not break with the party. 

When Gaviria passed the nefarious decree that gave birth to the legalisation of the paramilitaries under the guise of the Convivir (Rural Security Cooperatives) Piedad remained loyal to her party and the president.  When Samper put this decree into force and Uribe filled Antioquia, her native department, with Convivir and thousands of graves, she remained loyal to her party.  In fact, she never broke with the party most associated with paramilitaries in the 1980s and 1990s.  It wasn’t convenient for her.  Sometimes the role this party in the bloodbath that is the Colombian conflict is forgotten due to the role that Uribe played as president after breaking with the liberals.  But Uribe did not drop out of the sky.

In the recent elections she tried to get her son into the senate on the Liberal Party ticket.  She behaved as if she were an oligarch, believing power to be a family heirloom.  She failed in her attempt, but what is of importance is that she tried and showed that no matter how many massacres, economic reforms, non fulfilment of agreements with peasants (many with Liberal Party governments), the only thing that matters is what is convenient for the politicians.

It is of course true that Piedad played an important role in the freeing of the prisoners of war in the power of the FARC and this gained her a certain reputation, but what is really surprising about her declarations subordinating the peasant struggles to the needs of the State is not that she did this, but rather that it actually surprised many people.  One of Piedad’s great achievements is having convinced many people of the merits of the Liberal Party.

After everything, after all her loyalty to the Liberal Party, what would be truly surprising is that she didn’t try to tie these struggles to what is “convenient”.  Piedad describes herself as a left liberal.  What is that?  Sometimes we hear talk of left and right wing Christian Democrats in the same party.  They have the bible and “christian values” in common and they disagree about how to interpret them.  Piedad, what common reference points do you have with Samper and Gaviria?  Both of them have  blood on their hands and moreover gave us the economic aperture which has the peasantry on the verge of collapse and engaged in a strike you consider inconvenient.  To put it succinctly we want to know what common points of reference do you share with them in order to see how a left and right wing version emerges from them.  Or is that you don’t have any?  And that your loyalty to that political formation is because it is convenient and that is more important than all the calamities this party has visited upon the peasantry.

What is convenient is to struggle and not listen to a new political dynasty in a murderous party.  However, for those who believe that good things are going to come out of Havana, Piedad did us a great favour.  She showed that what they aim to do is bind the struggles of the peasantry to reasons of state.


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