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Eyewitness to a new chapter for Colombia: Interview with James Jordan

Interview by Meredith Aby-Keirstead |
July 2, 2016
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Meredith Aby-Keirstead, of Fight Back! interviews James Jordan, with the Alliance For Global Justice in Tucson, Arizona. Jordan recently returned from the Accompaniment Delegation to Support Colombia’s Peace Process.

Fight Back!: Want do Colombian activists say about the prospects for peace?

James Jordan: We just got the good news that an accord was signed on June 23. This is really exciting -an end to more than 52 years of war.

However, the accord still has to be voted on in a plebiscite to be fully implemented. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) are in favor of a much more extensive discussion and inclusion of the popular and social movements, with a constitutional assembly. That's a good idea because it doesn't just reduce the conflict to an up-down vote. The armed conflict is an extension of conflicts that are still all too present. Even so, this is a huge victory. Conditions are different today than they were before, including that a majority of people want the war to end. The hope of the Left, including the FARC-EP, is that space is being opened for a new and revitalized political movement that will ideally be able to operate without the fear of violence and repression by the state and paramilitary death squads. More than 70% of political violence has been at the hands of the state [the right-wing Colombian government] and paras [paramilitary armies which are an offshoot of the government], and Colombia still is one of the three countries in the world with the highest rate of impunity for political murders. But the left is more organized than ever, and national and international observers are better equipped to monitor the situation. It will take a truly internationalist effort to make this peace durable.

Fight Back!: What evidence did you see of U.S. intervention in Colombia on this recent trip?

Jordan: Lots. First of all, there's the legacy of $10 billion in funding for Plan Colombia, mostly to pay for arming the military and police and to build new jails - that sort of thing. The U.S. also has thrown up many roadblocks to the peace process. They have refused to allow FARC negotiator Simón Trinidad [also known as Ricardo Palmera] to leave his jail in Florence, Colorado even though his conviction was based on a frame up. The U.S. government has also been denying visas to major progressive political and labor leaders from Colombia. We need to hear from these people because awareness of their struggles is key to making sure this peace is just, and that it lasts. And to top all this off, the Obama administration has proposed a new "Plan Peace Colombia" that actually increases military aid and other for other repressive institutions.

Fight Back!: How is the Colombian labor movement fighting back against U.S.-promoted free trade policies?

Jordan: It's not easy. I'm mainly familiar with Fensuagro, the agricultural workers union, and USO, the oil workers union. We also visited with people from the miners union, Sintramientergetica, including strikers near Valledupar. All of these unions are waging battles against transnational corporate exploitation and privatization of national resources. Since the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement was approved, Colombia has become dependent on big agriculture from the U.S. This is despite the fact that historically, Colombia has had no problem producing enough food for its population. However, a recent national strike led by farmers and indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities quickly forced important concessions from the government. The popular movements are strategizing around building unity among rural, student and labor movements. That, along with their class consciousness and militancy, is a winning combination.

Fight Back!: What can Americans do to support the people's movements given the peace process in Colombia?

Jordan: We have to stay aware and vocal about abuses and threats we hear about. In this age of empire and globalization of capital, we have to realize that our solidarity as workers and students must be stronger than that of the capitalists and their political servants. If we workers can learn to be loyal allies to each other whatever our nationalities then we will have removed a big obstacle to revolutionary change. A good place to start learning this lesson is for us to be vigilant in our defense of peace, justice and human and labor rights in Colombia.