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A Country in Paint

Colombian presidential election

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

28 May 2018

At the end of the Colombian film, The Strategy of the Snail, the “owners” finally manage to evict the poor people and open the door to the building and find that there is nothing left, four exterior walls, that is all, not even interior walls, and a mural of a house with the slogan Here You Have Your Fucking House in Paint. On May 27th, the peace process fans, the social democrats, the NGOs amongst others opened the door on the country and found the candidate Duque, surrounded by Uribe, Escobar’s hitman Popeye, the La Gata Crew and other criminals smiling in front of a recently painted mural whose slogan said Here You Have Your Fucking Country in Paint.

Since 2012, they have told us that the country was going to change through the peace process and that the countryside would be transformed to such a degree that we wouldn’t recognise the country we live in.  Academics, such as Alejo Vargas, decorated for his service to the Colombian army, preached the new gospel of progress and prosperity, along with the lukewarm “social democrats” the country has, such as Victor de Currea-Lugo, Carlos Medina Gallego, NGOs such as Indepaz, Arcoiris, political parties such as the now terminally ill Polo, amongst others on the long list.  Even international academics put their horse in the race.  Two years ago I had the misfortune to share a platform with the French historian Daniel Pecault where he stated that the peace process would lead to a blossoming of the grassroots movement.  On May 27th they found their country in paint.

There is a slight chance that Petro wins the second round, but the maths are not in his favour.  Many of Fajardo’s voters are lukewarm Uribistas and will not vote for Petro.  Fajardo, himself is of neoliberal stock and it is unlikely that he will support Petro and should he do so, he will do so with little enthusiasm.  Fajardo is a neoliberal without a chainsaw.  As governor of Antioquia he didn’t hesitate in putting down the protests of the peasants who protested against the construction of the Ituango hydroelectric dam that almost collapsed in the weeks running up to the elections.  Moreover, there are no guarantees that Duque’s campaign will not engage in the same fraud they engaged in for the first round.  The only hope is that the fear of a return to the dark times of the Uribista regime with its murders, corruption, criminality, parallel state of police and military intelligence agencies mobilises those who abstained, that 46% who did not vote.  There is no point in crying about the undeniable political illiteracy in Colombia, in a country where political pedagogy is reduced to buying votes, handing out perks and in this last case, a charismatic autocrat (caudillo) as saviour.  The left has always emulated the right in how it conducts campaigns.  You only have to look at the trading in positions and projects during the three terms of office when the left governed in Bogotá.

How did we get here?

Following the peace process which was going to transform the country, how did we end up here?  It is due in part, to the very nature of the process.  In the process the FARC followed the advice of the peaceniks that it was easier to reach a peace accord if the negotiations were not public.  It is true, but that way the agreement is between the parts, nobody else.  Nobody feels represented, nobody took part and the accord does not have mass support.  The majority of those who voted in a favour of the accord in the plebiscite, did not read the accord.  Later statements by various politicians from the Polo indicate that they didn’t read it either.  The people were war weary, that is all.

Thus, the social sectors that did not take part in the negotiations have nothing to show to the world.  There is an accord which is very nefarious in various parts and the government has not complied with the implementation of the few positive points in the accord.  Thus, last Sunday, a vision for the country was not in play, but rather the electoral machinery of the Uribistas against a candidate whose trajectory has been mainly electoral.  The peace process did not transform the country and the irony of the elections is that the accord included a chapter on political participation in purely electoral terms to guarantee seats for the FARC and also the victims (though Congress did not come through for the victims and once again they were excluded).

The peace process and its methodology are of no use to anyone other than the bourgeoisie, as they are the main beneficiaries of the electoral focus, with the buying of votes and the passivity of the people.  What do the peaceniks say?  Nothing.  Like Dr Frankenstein they are horrified by the monster they have created.  Although, in the novel, at least the villagers actively participate in burning the monster.  Colombia is the country of passivity, a tendency elevated to a dogma by the peaceniks.  There You Have Your Fucking Country in Paint.

Should we manage to survive the second round, the lessons must be learnt, passivity and electioneering only benefit the rich.  If the left wants to change the country it has to dump its clientelist practices and mobilise the people and not just to vote once every four years nor to receive the perks of one or other assistentialist project from international aid agencies.  Dr Frankenstein, what is needed is vision and mobilisation beyond filling up town squares in an election campaign, or, once again , they will come to burn your castle.

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