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Thu Dec 22, 2016, 06:45 PM

Colombia After Peace

Colombia After Peace

With peace on the horizon, the Colombian left’s future seems hopeful, but daunting challenges confront it.

by Kyla Sankey

A Patriotic March rally in Bogotá, Colombia in 2012. Marcha Patriótica / Flickr

The situation in Colombia in recent years in many ways resembles the experience of other Latin American countries in the 1980s and 1990s. The devastations of neoliberalism — economic turmoil, poverty, an increasingly unequal distribution of wealth, the collapse of agriculture, and the destruction of nature — finally sparked a mass movement resisting the country’s economic model and rejecting its ruling elite. However, unlike many of their Latin American counterparts, the Colombian left has been unable to convert this popular energy into a significant political force. They have lacked the conditions, but also the capacity to transform resistance to neoliberalism into an alternative political project.

A long history of systematic state-sponsored violence against all forms of collective activity has repeatedly thwarted the Left’s organizational efforts. The Patriotic March (PM), one of the country’s most important social movements, has denounced the assassinations of ninety-five of its leaders this year alone. The Left fears it is on the cusp of a new wave of political violence akin to the 1990s, when far-right paramilitary forces killed over four thousand members of the Patriotic Union, almost entirely wiping out this left-wing party.

But political repression alone cannot fully explain the Colombian left’s weakness. The strategic questions it must answer — about sustaining the energy of a mass movement, organizing in urban slums, overcoming fragmentation, and building coalitions — raise contradictions, tensions, and divisions that remain unresolved. These challenges have undermined the Left’s ability to deal a decisive blow to the establishment in this time of crisis.

The Agrarian Strike

In 2013 Colombia experienced a massive series of nationwide mobilizations. With 1,027 protests occurring throughout the country, this was the biggest upsurge in social struggle Colombia has ever seen. The national agrarian strike, which grew out of rural protests against neoliberal dislocations, became the most important of these actions.


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