Communist Party of Colombia (M-L)

Santos’ Government: demagogy, hopes and non-existent dilemmas

With the arrival of Juan Manuel Santos in office apparent dilemmas were created and his contrived inaugural address was used to raise hopes about the supposed basic differences between himself and Alvaro Uribe. All these were strengthened with the demagogic posturing of the former leftist Angelino Garzon, the Vice-President of Colombia. Among other issues was the concealing of fraud with 9 million votes assigned to Santos and in the middle of a victorious and deliberately hidden abstention.

However, after a year and a half of the Santos government, besides the style and form of governing, the essence of his measures has been defined. In his economic decisions we see a repeat of the neoliberalism designed for the poor to pay for the crisis by ensuring the salvation of the rich and, in policy matters, deepening the most negative aspects of the reactionary political regime in Colombia, guaranteeing the old road of social polarization and the rise of the workers’ and popular struggles.

False national unity

It is worth considering the much discussed "Agreement on National Unity," announced as a new great "democratic" motor force of the Santos government. This agreement is a partial vision of the so-called "governability", always converted into a bureaucratic distribution to control Congress and to try to label the opposition to the government and the regime as extremists and without sense.

The worst thing for his mentors is that the "national agreement" does not prevent the intensification of contradictions among the bourgeois nor does it guarantee control to the people or hold back their desire to struggle. Thus we have as the spearhead the former trade unionist and Vice President Angelino Garzon who, leading several social-democratic currents - officiates as master of ceremonies of the agreement or conciliation between sections of the people and Santos.

Despite his role as Vice President, the attempt to integrate the trade union movement into the "national agreement" quickly failed – only adopted by a majority of the small General Federation of Labour – and today there is a broad refusal of the trade unions to give support to the aspiration of Santos to make his Vice the chair of his ILO.

In Colombia the struggle against the agents of Juan Manuel Santos in the social and mass movement has strengthened opposition to the regime. At the beginning of this government, the opposition succeeded in mobilizing large sections of the masses and they were at the front in the struggles such as the civic strike in La Guajira and the partial stoppage in Villavicencio (the capital of Meta) against the cutbacks in the bonuses which put the populations of the plains onto the street on May 26, 2011, passing onto the strong struggles of the oil and coal workers against multinationals such as Drummond and Pacific Rubiales.

The strike of the transport workers was vigorous; the protests of the peasants and teachers as well as the actions of the victims of violence and the casualties of human rights violations greeted his presidency. The series of protests against the electoral fraud in October took the country by surprise, leading to the great victory of the broad masses of university youth in November 2011, forcing Congress to withdraw the government bill for more privatization of higher education and other impositions of the Free Trade Agreement with Yankee imperialism.

Therefore the so-called governability of Santos with his "agreement of national unity" is an attempt to put a lid on the rising social discontent and not an effective solution to curb it. The struggles around the practical preparation for the National Civic Strike teach and make clear which political forces are interested in strengthening them, many of which are centred in Comosocol (Coordinator of Social Organizations of Colombia).

In order to promote fascism from above Santos is not limited to the "agreement on national unity"; he is using an increased populist demagogy toward the peasantry with the misleading "Agrarian Law" promoted by the presence of the UN Secretary-General. The measure does not return the land to those ruined by official violence nor is it an "agrarian revolution"; it proposes to legalize the dispossession with the example of Talanqueras to demand proof of legal acquisition by the holder of the land, including large national and foreign companies. It also only recognizes what happened from 1985 onwards, ignoring the fact that the greatest number of victims of State terrorism came after the rise in violence that occurred with the murder of Gaitan in April of 1948. This deception is shown by the lack of full reparations and the absence of guarantees not to repeat these, as reflected in the "Law of Victims".

They are hiding the authoritarianism

The President conceals his presidential authoritarianism by using political adventurers disguised as left-wing, trade unionist sell-outs who have signed the agreement of "national unity" and social-democratic opportunists such as his Vice President Angelino Garzon who are temporarily successful in the co-optation of unions, since the agreement has corporate-fascist overtones, attacking the independence of the social organizations before the State and outlining a new neoliberal labour reform.

Santos has also strengthened presidential rule by such means as the new law on payments approved in December of 2011. This law takes a large part of these resources to eliminate the fiscal deficit; it gives a little money to the regions and takes away the little autonomy given by the Constitution of 1991, allowing Santos to get from Congress the presidential power to intervene in its projects under the pretext of efficiency and fighting corruption.

Santos’ administrative reform creates high-level agencies and councils that gravitate around the presidency. Likewise it promotes the "fiscal rules" that put limits on the expenses and social investment for the benefit of the State accounting and to the detriment of public well-being. It allows for direct action by the President as a holder of the privilege to take the initiative in spending (Budget and Development Plan), weakening the independence of the legislative branch.

The idea of presenting himself as a democratic victim of the extreme right (or the "black hand") and of the extreme left (all the revolutionaries and democrats) is a political gimmick to try to distinguish himself from Uribe while preserving his war policies, para-militarism and the persecution of the opposition by the government and the Attorney General. The persecutor Ordoñez operates mystically with issues such as abortion and cracks his disciplinary whip against the left and right, defending the regimes of Uribe and Santos through sanctions such as the dismissal of Senator Piedad Cordoba.

State terrorism is being accentuated

Under Uribe, State terrorism was ruthless and included the bombardment of Ecuador, the so-called "false positive" assassinations, the fascist criminal provocations with the alleged computers of FARC Commander Raul Reyes and Uribe’s paramilitary link with connections to "parapolitics". Santos today appears to be above all this although he was the star minister under Uribe. This is another skilful tactic to rid himself of the political crisis generated under eight years of misrule by the re-elected fascist Uribe.

Terrorism as a major trend in the process of fascistization has been made harsher under Santos. The law of the "citizens’ coexistence" has increased the criminalization of social protest, condemning organizers of protest marches to four years in prison. The "law on intelligence" has reduced political liberties and has the precedent of massive telephone taps by the DAS (now the National Intelligence Agency); at the same time the justice reform is accentuating militarism by strengthening the jurisdiction of the military and the impunity of the police.

At the same time, Santos is trampling over and over again on the remnants of the misnamed "rule of law" through presidential authoritarianism. He is returning to the practice of the "State of Opinion" used by Uribe to confront the judicial branch, rejecting the democratic judgments of the Supreme Court on significant issues such as rejecting the use of "Reyes’ computers" as valid evidence to accuse the forces of the opposition.

In the same way, the President confronted the decision of the State Council for assuming responsibilities of the State in the 1990s with the battle between the army and the guerrillas at the Las Delicias base.

In particular Santos confronted the Superior Tribunal of Bogota, which ratified the sentence of Colonel Plazas Vega for the forced disappearance and ordered him to apologize to the victims of the outrages of the army. Not only did he not ask forgiveness, he congratulated former President Betancur and the top brass of the armed forces, while trampling on the legal value of the pardon to the defunct M-19. In this way the President is validating the limitless brutality in the retaking of the Palace of Justice in November of 1985.

Also today we have Santos admitting the existence of the armed conflict in Colombia but treating it as a war and not as a political conflict, basically not differing much from the thesis that it is a "terrorist threat." He is trying to justify his practices as a militarist minister and gaining international approval by shouting for peace and international humanitarian law, while continuing the warmongering and militarist policy of Alvaro Uribe. He is continuing decades of the war economy whose expenditure increases while there is a decrease in Yankee contributions; the stark reality is leading the government to look for other cards to play.

Santos says he "has the key to peace" and feints at dialogue with the insurgency, but when the insurgents raise this he calls them a "circus" because he does not want a political solution, he wants the peace of the vanquished and the tombs; in contrast he strives to create conditions for negotiating with the paramilitaries and drug-traffickers.

In reality, the insurgent organizations, despite the harsh blows with the loss of leaders, have not reduced the action that are relentlessly and successfully shaking the army in the south-west, the coast and the east, showing the failure of the theories of the Santos government on the post conflict. The guerrillas are facing some government military forces, which have nothing to "consolidate" given the failures of the "democratic security" of Uribe and Santos. It has been worn away by corruption within their ranks, hemmed in by the failure to put forward reforms attractive to the people and undermined in morale by the defeats inflicted by the FARC, the ELN and our EPL. The latter has been strengthened in combat by the leadership of the Communist Party of Colombia (M-L), which guides it in the fight for the unity of action of the insurgent movement and the people, arguing that the differences should be resolved fraternally and without military action that lead to irreparable damage to the people.

Pragmatic international relations

Another blow to public opinion by the Santos government has been the change in the way it relates to its counterparts in Caracas and Quito. This pragmatism aims at improving trade, receiving applause from the bourgeoisie and presenting contradictory statements. Santos does not support the Bolivarian integration of the President of Venezuela, but he does put permanent pressure on these countries for counterinsurgency support on the borders without his repairing the damage caused by his warmongering as Minister of Defense.

The convening of the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena has left bare the role of Juan Manuel Santos as an imperialist agent, very committed to looking good with Washington he travelled to Cuba to meet with Castro and Chavez to keep up appearances and try the impossible task of being consistent with his lying integrationist speeches in his tour through members countries of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America), Mercosur (Common Market of the South) and Unasur (Union of South American Nations).

The phony "fight against corruption"

The bold change of the method and image of the current president compared to his weakened predecessor utilizes the progressive exposure of the multiple relations of the government of former President Uribe with corruption; the scandals in hiring, the donations with agro income insurance which remains in force and the vulgar exploitation of the National Narcotics Fund as a form of state capitalism for the expropriation of vast fortunes in the "war on drugs" and as a way to channel them to the bourgeoisie and imperialists.

As the corruption scandals in Saludcoop (Health Cooperative) and other large companies providing health care broke out, Santos is trying to silence them, but the State intervention does not change the cause of the evasion with the coming into force of Law 100. The health care providers are pampered by the financial system and under its shadow the multinational drug companies favoured by the freedom of prices and the monopoly of the market are prospering, leaving baseless the logic of the advantages of privatization of health care and social security.

In this order of interests, Santos favours the parasitism of the financial oligarchy; among other methods he attacks the right to pensions, just as his predecessor did. Through tricks he promotes massive affiliation of pensions to the private funds to attract savings without guaranteeing the right to a pension and giving them more power to speculate in the financial markets. In the meantime Social Security is drying up, creating Colpensiones (Colombian Pension Administration) to eliminate the system of average premium that indeed generates pensioners.

Air for financial capital and suffocation for the people

The propping up of finance capital and the choking off of the popular economy are increasing, giving continuity to the war economy, confirming "investor confidence" in the Uribe Government and deepening the role of the so-called economic "locomotives" or energy mining sector. Today they are comfortable with Santos as he leaves them without taxes while increasing the base and taxes among the wage workers and the middle strata of the city and the countryside with indirect taxes and the threat of a new tax reform.

Imports (loaded with fictitious billing) are growing without aiming at strengthening the productive apparatus and invigorating the domestic market, the export direction marks a pattern which does not have the aim of the industrial and economic development of the country. At the time, the overvaluation of the peso and the raising of the interest rate by the Bank of the Republic are fanning contradictions within the bourgeoisie to the detriment of the exporters and in favour of the invasion of legal and illegal capital.

The figures for the growth of the Domestic Product in 2011 are looked at critically by different prestigious economists of various schools and experiences, indicating their instability, in contrast to the siren songs about the "perfect situation" sung by the government and the National Association of Industrialists, who look at the wallets of the exporters but not at the reality of the small and medium-sized enterprises as providers of jobs.

One of the factors pushing the discussion is the danger that the world economic crisis can block exports. The other factor is the increase in consumer credit and the risks of the portfolio generated to constitute progress on expectations of income without assurances. The demagoguery about the increase in the minimum wage was exposed and deflated; only the struggles such as those of the air traffic controllers, oil workers and other fighting unions can achieve victories that come close to the cost of living of the workers and their families.

Economic issues such as unemployment do not cease to be reflected in troubling headlines and polls. The "First Employment" Law reduced the minimum wage for young people and fattened the wallets of the capitalists without making a reality of the announced forecasts or new jobs. "According to a study by the National Administrative Department of Statistics in October-December of 2011, 34.3% of the (economically active) population was inactive (12,144,000 people)." (El Nuevo Siglo (The New Century), February 13, 2010).

As a result of the economic measures and policies discussed above, social polarization continues to increase despite attempts to show a prosperous Colombia united around Santos and "against the violent ones" (that is, democrats and the left wing).

The government is torn between the expectations created over a year and a half by headlines and publicity about a false "democratic prosperity", but the reality is one of an economy with insurmountable structural difficulties and an illusory unsustainable "stellar" moment.

They are hiding the raw realities from the Colombians who are demanding government initiatives, such as the lack of funds to provide an urgent solution to the severe damage to the infrastructure caused by more than one year of rains and reparation to the victims. The cost of the “Victims Law” does not have a budget and the huge increase in the cost of the war puts Santos in a difficult situation to cover it.

In the meantime, the immense profits of the multinationals and the financial oligarchy are clear, as well as the care that Santos takes in dutifully paying the debt to the international creditors and maintaining the costs of war and security, draining the current national budget.

Despite measures such as the fiscal regulation, the commitments to social expenditure and investment remain without funds. This is why there is the offensive against pensions, free education and public health care. These herald new social struggles and conditions to develop the movement of opposition to the regime in the heat of local and sectoral struggles linked to the preparation for the National Civic Strike with a list of demands capable of attracting the popular majorities to the streets actions.

Actually, it is wrong to ask: is Santos or Uribe better?

"As a result of the economic measures and policies discussed above, social polarization continues to increase despite attempts to show a prosperous Colombia united around Santos and ‘against the violent ones’…"

Colombia, March 2012

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