With the induction of Gustavo Petro, Colombia has become the latest Latin American nation to move to the left and maybe stand up against Washington.
It’s a historic day in Colombia, as the country inaugurates former guerrilla Gustavo Petro as its first leftist president, and Francia Marquez as its first vice president of African descent. These were unimaginable just a few years ago. Before this team, lies the challenge of resisting US domination as well as fixing social injustices for decades.
It was 1948 when Colombia had a leftist presidential candidate. This candidacy came from the popular Liberal Party leader Jorge Gaitan. Tragically, Gaitan was assassinated before the election, leading to the period of ‘La Violencia’, in which between 200,000 and 300,000 Colombians were killed over the following decade. In the melee which immediately followed Gaitan’s assassination, a young Fidel Castro and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who would later become life-long friends, would briefly encounter each other in the streets of Bogota. It is uncertain who was behind the assassination of Gaitan, though one of the main versions, and certainly my belief, is that it was the newly-created CIA, which became the US’ regime-change instrument for decades to come.
Colombia’s political violence has been a constant problem since the time of La Violencia. Over 220,000 have died in this violence since 1958. These violences have been mostly carried out by paramilitary death squads and the US-backed military. They are close allies with right-wing governments, who have successfully ruled Colombia since 2002. It is believed that the 2002 state violence was quite alarming, with over 6,400 deaths and potentially 10,000 victims by the military in just two years. In the meantime, more than 92,000 Colombians disappeared and 5,000,000 Colombians live in displacement, making them one of the most displaced countries on the planet.
Many have been concerned that Petro and Marquez could be subject to the same death threats as Gaitan, given the context and this environment. The two men fought against the real danger of being assassinated and hid behind bulletproof shields. The threat is not diminishing simply because the two were elected. It will still be very difficult to just survive their term.
Petro and Marquez represent a threat to both the system and Washington’s powers-that-be. Their promise to lift the grip that rich oligarchs hold over Colombia for centuries, to shift the tax burden and boost the social safety net to help the low-income and disenfranchised black and native populations, as well as to redistribute their wealth. Colombia, as a society, is one of the most inequal on Earth. The top 1% will not give up their land and wealth easily. This will be a problem for the US which has dominated Colombia by its elite. In addition, Colombia, the only NATO partner in this hemisphere outside of North America, is the US’ closest ally in Latin America and the base of operations to dominate the region. Petro Marquez and Petro will not change the Monroe Doctrine. The US is still firmly attached to it.
Washington has already started to panic over the fact that the elections of the two have resulted in five Latin American countries now having leftist leaders. If Luiz Inacio Lula Silva, Brazil’s current frontrunner, wins a second term, this could mean six. US officials are open about the fact that they wish to maintain control over the region’s vast resources, and these leftist presidents, who wish to use their countries’ resources for the benefit of their own people, stand in the way of this control. General Laura Richardson is the head of US Southern Command. made it clear recently that the focus of US operations in the region is to maintain control of the region’s “off the charts” resources. She explained that “60% of the world’s lithium is in the region; you have heavy crude, you have light sweet crude, you have rare earth elements, you have the Amazon…” The US has no intention of letting these resources slip through its fingers.
The real threat to regime change is looming over the Petro/Marquez government in Colombia. It will require international solidarity and vigilance to prevent this from happening. Latin America is desperate for the social change Petro and Marquez promise. It’s important that we prevent the same fate from happening to other leaders like Gaitan or Salvador Allende in Chile.
Statements, opinions and views expressed in this column do not reflect those of RT.
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