Minister Stigmatises Patriotic March
News from Colombia |
on: Thursday, 11 April 2013
On Tuesday as over a million people marched in Bogota to support the peace process taking place in Havana, in a demonstration organised by the Patriotic March social movement, the Minister of Defence, Juan Carlos Pinzon, accused the March of being financed by the FARC. Yesterday the allegations were seconded by the Chief of Police, General Jose Leon Riano.
Such stigmatisation is nothing new in Colombia, where the political opposition is routinely accused of insurgent links. In the past these accusations have led activists of the Patriotic March to be targeted by shadowy death squads linked to the military, with several leaders receiving death threats, and several having been killed or disappeared, as in the cases of Jose Alonso Lozano, found dead on 26th March this year, and Henry Diaz who disappeared on 18th April 2012. One 16 year-old organiser in Bogota was severely beaten and had his skull crushed by a gang of about 30 neo-nazi’s from the ‘Radical Nationalist Commando’.
The leaders of the Patriotic March deny the accusations, stating that the organisation is decentralised, and that each social organisation or communal component organisation organises its own fundraising within its community. They point to the recent revelations about the links of former President Alvaro Uribe to senior military commanders, and the Minister of Defence’s need to cover this news up as the motive for these dangerous allegations.
Former President Uribe recently disclosed the area where the armed forces have ceased operations in order to allow a senior FARC commander to leave the country and join his negotiating team in Havana. The only way Uribe could have known this was through talking to senior Generals in the army. Colombians for Peace leader, Piedad Cordoba, has voiced concerns that Uribe, a strident militarist and opponent of the peace process, is seeking to destabilise it, and may even be planning a coup alongside hardline military officers.
Social organisations fear that if the current peace process fails, they will be targeted in a re-run of the annihilation of the Patriotic Union (UP) during the late 1980s, where up to 5,000 representatives and activists were murdered.