From the May-June 2018 issue of News & Letters
In March, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree formalizing land ownership for 2.5 million Colombian farmers. Up to now, 60% of them have not had formal title to the land they work.
At the same time, while overall violence has diminished following the 2016 peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), territorial disputes are being fought between other guerrilla forces, new paramilitaries, and FARC dissidents.
It is a turning point for Colombia with implications beyond its borders.
CAMPAIGN CATCHES THE MOMENT
Colombia Humana presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, a former M19 guerrilla, has caught the imagination of Indigenous people, Afrocolombians, and many other poor Colombians with a campaign that aims at closing the gap between rich and poor; raising corporate taxes; ending the drug war; and an alternative route to development based on clean energy (oil and gas are central exports today), land to farmers, and increased access to education.
Colombia’s oppressed understand that to implement this program, close in some respects to Venezuela’s 1999 Bolivarian Constitution, would require revolutionary changes in human relationships. It should be noted that Petro criticizes the direction ultimately taken by Venezuela: “We would not be an ally of Venezuela, because Venezuela entered the world of the fossil economy.”
A STRUGGLE JUST BEGINNING
Petro has survived an assassination attempt. His right-wing opponent, Ivan Duque, would tear up the hard-won peace agreement. Petro advocates a deepening of it into social reform.
Even if Petro loses his presidential bid, Colombia Humana raises important questions now, when authoritarian rule and the logic of capitalist crisis have come to the fore. Latin America is facing threats from many directions. A democratic socialism that begins by recognizing Black, Indigenous, and feminist struggle places it on a higher plane than many such First World efforts.
The election will be held May 27.