Something is happening in Colombia

Throughout December there were massive demonstrations throughout the country, with the overwhelming dominance of the capital’s youth becoming increasingly evident, though in most regions the protests were declining as Christmas Eve approached. But the movement is far from over.

The National Unemployment Committee introduced 13 demands to negotiate with the government, which later became a 115-point petition; yet somehow there is a growing distance between the Committee’s leaders and the mobilized bases. The government’s willingness for serious dialogue is non-existent; and the tax reform has already been approved in Parliament, which shows the government’s insistence on carrying out the reforms despite the protests.

The last time there was a nationwide urban protest was during the 1977 civic strike. After that, in the perverse and catastrophic dialectic of the Cold War, both the state and parastate counter-insurgency escalated in the face of the perceived insurgent threat to ‘public order’, defined at will by the forces of repression as rural armed insurgencies – not only the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), but also the M-19 and the Ejército Popular de Liberación (EPL) – began to expand beyond their traditional local and regional strongholds and spread nationwide.

While the “urban question” became increasingly important on the Latin American left, in Colombia the strategic target of the left, mainly the Communist Party and the FARC, remained rural, and the tactic, insurgency.

Until Alvaro Uribe became president in 2002, rural insurgencies continued despite the destruction of their real and imagined social bases.

According to a 2018 report, during Uribe’s presidency (2002-2010), while narco-paramilitary groups were “demobilizing” in order to launder their fortunes so they could continue to commit crimes, the Colombian Armed Forces disappeared more than 10,000 young men from the suburbs of the main and secondary cities to inflate the numbers of insurgents killed in combat.

The result was an official figure of more than 80,000 missing in total, according to the Center for Historical Memory, in a seemingly eternal war. Since mid-December 2019, news reports have told of 16 new mass graves in Antioquia, Caldas, Magdalena and Sucre, one of them in Dabeiba, Antioquia, with more than 200 bodies.

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