Tensions have strikingly arisen between the South American countries of Venezuela and Educador on one side, and Columbia on the other, after Columbian forces crossed over into Educador and assassinated guerrilla army leader Paul Reyes, part of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia. This is an interview of Paul Reyes that appeared in the Columbia Journal, originally published July 12, 2007.
by Garry Leech
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a peasant-based guerrilla army with an estimated 18,000 fighters, has been waging war against the Colombian government for more than 40 years. In recent years, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and US President George W. Bush have both intensified their efforts to defeat the FARC as part of the so-called war on terror. However, despite receiving more than $4.5 billion in US aid over the past six years, the Colombian government has yet to achieve a military victory. In June, I travelled to a remote jungle camp to meet with FARC Commander Raúl Reyes. During a two hour interview, Reyes discussed the para-politics scandal, the revolutionary struggle, the dirty war, child soldiers, the FARC’s controversial use of home-made mortars and landmines, Plan Colombia, Plan Patriota, neoliberalism and the prospects for peace in Colombia.
Q: What is the significance of the para-politics scandal for democracy in Colombia?
Raúl Reyes: The para-politics scandal is the result of many years of the existence of drug trafficking in Colombian politics. Drug trafficking money circulates at every level of the government, in all the apparatuses of the State, all the governmental institutions. Drug trafficking has carried various presidents to the presidency. But aside from the money for presidential candidates, the money also funds congresspersons in the House and the Senate. Many judicial processes are also bought with drug trafficking money. Drug trafficking money has also penetrated inside the police, inside the army, inside the DAS, the SIJIN, that is to say, inside all the components of state security. The president is compromised with this money. This money is also found in industry, in commerce, in the pharmaceutical industry, in the chemical industry, in all of these.
For these reasons the situation in Colombia is serious. Here in Colombia, it is true what some say about it being a narco-democracy. I believe there is a narco-state, a narco-economy, but there is also a great hypocrisy in the Colombian political establishment because they sell the story that they are fighting drug trafficking. They go to the United States to ask for support to fight against drug trafficking. And they go to the European Union to ask for support to fight against drug trafficking. They organize forums and seminars about the fight against drug trafficking when they themselves are the drug-traffickers and the beneficiaries of drug trafficking. This is an extreme degree of hypocrisy, no?
[For the remainder of this interview,