Colombian elections bring no peace

IssueJune - August 2002
News by Ippy D

Since the violent breakdown in February of the three-year-old peace talks, Colombians have been plunged into yet another round of skirmishes and killings.

From the Colombian state military's massive bombing raids on the demilitarised zone and unofficial support for right-wing paramilitary groups, to FARC's supposedly accidental killing of hundreds of civilians during combat, Colombians are experiencing intensified military activity across the country on a scale not seen for several years.

In early May fierce battles in the Choco region between the leftist FARC and right-wing United Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitaries resulted in more than 100 civilians being killed in a church bombing.

The peace movement has been hit particularly hard with the hostage-taking of moderate Governor Gaviria and two others who were kidnapped from a 1000-strong peace march after FARC guerrillas blocked the march.

A combination of increased violence and presidential electioneering has also meant that the National Mobilisation of Women Against War have postponed a national peace march which was due to take place in mid-May. It now scheduled to take place in July after the 26 May elections.

Against the backdrop of increased military activity, presidential frontrunner the hard-line anti-rebel independent Alvaro Uribe is making big gains in the polls over the Liberal candidate Horacio Serpa. Uribe promises to crush the FARC while Serpa suggests a more conciliatory approach to the 38-year-old conflict.

Meanwhile the US government continues to give money to the Colombian state military as part of the “war on drugs”: in May a further US$60m was released by Bush from the Plan Colombia war chest. An estimated 3,500 people are killed each year in Colombia's ongoing conflict.