Latin American Perspectives: Colombia’s Left-Its Power, Influence and Challenges
Issue Editors: William Avilés and Miguel Angel Urrego
Throughout South America reformist and radical movements and parties have made significant progress in obtaining greater political power and influence in the region promoting trenchant critiques of neoliberalism while seeking greater national autonomy in economic/political development. This “shift to the left” or “pink tide” is in no way uniform in ideology and/or in its relationship with U.S. power in the hemisphere, however this discernible movement to the left has seemingly bypassed Colombia . Since 1990 Colombia has been governed by a series of neoliberal governments focused upon implementing free markets reforms, maintaining close ties to the United States and an implicit/explicit support for state/para-state repression. Alvaro Uribe (2002-2006, 2006-2010) has represented an extreme example of this trend. Uribe has consistently enjoyed popularity ratings over 70% while openly vilifying leftist parties and movements that challenge his market driven agenda or militarist counter-insurgency strategies. As of this writing his government has recently been directly lobbying the U.S. Congress in order to obtain a free trade agreement and all indications are that either Uribe or a candidate that he supports will win the 2010 presidential election.
All this is not to suggest that the Colombian "left" has made no progress during the Uribe government. Social movements representing indigenous rights and peace communities seeking autonomy from the conflict have been prominent. These groups have been struggling to force the actors within the conflict--guerrillas, paramilitaries and the state--to abandon rural and indigenous areas.
The leftist coalition of political parties and movements that make up the Polo Democratico have emerged in the last few years as Uribe’s most important political opposition, labor unions continue to mobilize in resistance to privatization policies, peasant associations from Chocó or Magdalena actively seek land reform and the displaced and human rights groups continue to seek justice for themselves or those that have been killed or disappeared by the Colombian state and its allies. The Polo Democratico in particular has vocally denounced the government’s ties with the paramilitaries and the use of terrorism and kidnapping by the guerrillas. Finally, the FARC continues to prioritize an armed strategy of political opposition over competing strategies while intensifying its linkages with narcotraffickers, surviving almost a decade of intensified military assaults against its forces.
A forthcoming issue of Latin American Perspectives will analyze the conditions and character of the array of organizations, movements and parties that make up Colombia ’s left, its national and international context and the implications of its continuing struggles for Colombia and the region.
Article submissions are welcome on these and other topics:
How do we define what it means to be “left” in the Colombian context? How can we explain the relative lack of progress Colombia ’s left in the context of a regional shift toward nationalist/populist strategies? Is it simply the consequence of a repressive state that has undermined the possibilities for a political left to legitimately compete or are there other factors at work?
Has Colombia ’s economic integration with global capitalism worked to narrow the scope and parameters that Colombia’s left can maneuver or does space still exist for radical change?
Does the Polo Democratico represent the vehicle that will allow the left greater access to national power? Do its internal divisions undermine this possibility? Are there alternatives in the electoral arena?
Countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador have witnessed the power of social movements to pressure and remove neoliberal governments through protests in the streets and only later obtaining greater influence in the electoral arena, is this a possible avenue for Colombia ’s leftist opposition?
Does the FARC represent a genuine political movement or alternative? Is it simply a terrorist organization engrossed in narcotrafficking and the predatory tactics of survival? How does the FARC’s continued existence complicate or affect the goals/objectives of the various groups, movements and parties seeking alternatives to capitalist globalization and Colombia ’s submission to U.S. economic/political policies? Should the Colombian left eliminate any ties to the FARC and/or should it seek ways of integrating the group into the political process?
What role has U.S. policy played in the development and strength of Colombia ’s leftist movements? Has the U.S. “drug war” or its promotion of “market democracy” played a central role? What connections or linkages exist between groups active in Colombia and the movements/governments active in countries such as Venezuela , Ecuador or Bolivia?
Please contact: William Avilés: firstname.lastname@example.org or, Latin American Perspectives: email@example.com
Manuscripts should be no longer than 25 pages of double-spaced text in English, Spanish, or Portuguese. If possible, submit two copies along with a cover sheet and basic biographical information. With these items, we also require that the manuscript be sent on a CD-R, by e-mail, or on a floppy disk if the other formats are not available. The LAP style guide is available on request or online.
Please send any manuscript submissions to:
Managing Editor, Latin American Perspectives¸ P.O. Box 5703, Riverside , California 92517-5703
Contact Information for Latin American Perspectives
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