FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Who Tried to Kill Aida Abella?

by STEPHEN MATHER

On Sunday in Colombia gunmen attempted to murder the presidential candidate for the Patriotic Union (UP) party. Aida Abella’s car was sprayed with bullets while she was out campaigning for the June presidential elections. The UP is promoting the peace talks in Cuba between the Revolutionary Armed Forces in Colombia (Farc) and the government.

The attempted political assassination happened in the oil-rich region of Arauca but the shots would have been echoing loudly in the Cuban capital Havana. Guerilla negotiators agreed terms to guarantee the safety of political parties of the left – and specifically for Farc ex-combatants – in November last year.

But the bullets are also like ghosts from recent history as Abella and the UP are highly symbolic. The UP was first set up by the Farc and sanctioned by the then government in 1985 as on outcome of an earlier peace process (La Uribe Accords of 1984).

The party soon developed into a broad organisation that contained many shades of red and was autonomous from the Farc even though it contained former combatants from the organisation.

Between 3-4,000 UP members were murdered between its creation in 1985 and the mid 1990s. Hundreds of local political representatives were assassinated, eight national congressmen and two presidential candidates. Most of those were not ex-guerrillas.

Abella was president of the UP in 1996 when somebody fired a rocket at her car in Bogotá.  She was forced into exile in Switzerland in 1996 where she stayed for 17 years only returning to her last year. She is from a trade union background.

Who shot at Abella?

Two gunmen on a motorbike were seen carrying out the assassination attempt, but  it is not clear which organization was responsible. Political assassinations against Colombia leftists have usually been carried out by paramilitary death squads, often in collusion with the army. For example, over 2,500 trade unionists have murdered in the last 20 years.

The death squads numbered over 30,000 when they were most active in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They demobilised in 2004 as part of a deal with former president Alvaro Uribe. This demobilisation has been dismissed by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international. The same human rights organisations pointed to links between the death squads and the military.

The word on the Colombian street is that they are keeping a lower profile. Violence has been reduced, but the organizational structures are still in place. They have been much quieter because their job has been done – the guerrillas were pushed back and weakened, poor farmers driven off the best agricultural land and natural resources such as oil, gas and gold secured for multinationals.

And everyone too frightened to challenge politically the status quo. “Wait till we start to give out leaflets and campaign, then we’ll see if they if the paramilitaries still exist,” said one leftist activist from Huila in the south. The answer came on Sunday.

It is the Farc that usually get the bad press. There has a carefully constructed media operation – particularly inside Colombia but also internationally – designed to turn the Farc into monsters while President Juan Manuel Santos is paraded as a statesmen.

But Santos’s party El Partido de la U has been riddled with paramilitary involvement. The government’s approach to the death squads has been to rebrand them. They have been depolticised and are now known as Bacrim or bandas criminales – criminal gangs in English.

How Santos deals with the death squads – whether he has the power or the will to put them out of business – will be the issue that makes or breaks any peace agreement.

Stephen Mather is a UK journalist based in Colombia.

More articles by:
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Muller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OSFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail