US General Hypes China as Threat in Latin America / By W.T. Whitney Jr.

The U.S. government has long intervened in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Now the U.S. military is paying attention to China’s economic activities there. 

General Laura Richardson on March 8 reported to the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on actions and needs of the Southern Command, which she heads. She has charge of all U.S. military operations in the region. 

Citing the 2022 National Security Strategy, Richardson declared that “no region impacts the United States more directly than the Western Hemisphere …. [There] autocrats are working overtime to undermine democracy.” And security there “is critical to homeland defense.”

Richardson stated that “the PRC (People’s Republic of China) has both the capability and intent to eschew international norms, advance its brand of authoritarianism, and amass power and influence at the expense of the existing and emerging democracies in our hemisphere.” The Southern Command’s “main priority … is to expose and mitigate PRC malign activity.”

She sees a “myriad of ways in which the PRC is spreading its malign influence, wielding its economic might, and conducting gray zone activities to expand its military and political access and influence.” A “grey zone,” according to the NATO-friendly Atlantic Council, is a “set of activities … [like] nefarious economic activities, influence operations, … cyberattacks, mercenary operations, assassinations, and disinformation campaigns.”

Richardson highlighted China’s trade with LAC that is heading toward “$700 billion [annually] by 2035.” The United States, in her view, will be facing intense competition and presently “its comparative trade advantage is eroding.”

She added that, “The PRC’s efforts to extract South America’s natural resources to support its own population … are conducted at the expense of our partner nations and their citizens.” And opportunities for “quality private sector investment” are disappearing.

Competition extends to space: “11 PRC-linked space facilities across five countries in this region [enable] space tracking and surveillance capabilities.” Richardson complained of “24 countries [that] have existing Chinese telecommunication infrastructure (3G/4G), increasing their potential to transition to Chinese 5G.” 

She expressed concern both about surveillance networks supplied by China that represent a “potential counterintelligence threat” and about Latin Americans going to China “to receive training on cybersecurity and military doctrine.” Richardson denounced China’s role in facilitating environmental crimes and pointed to “potential dual use for malign commercial and military activities.”

“Relationships absolutely matter,” she insisted, “and our partner democracies are desperate for assistance from the United States.” Plus, “if we’re not there in time, they … take what’s available, creating opportunities for the PRC.”

Moving beyond China, Richardson indicated that “many partner nations …  see TCOs (transnational criminal organizations) as their primary security challenge.” That’s because drug-cartel violence leads to deaths and poverty and “illicit funds exacerbate regionalcorruption, insecurity, and instability.”

Her report avoids mention of particular countries other than offering brief references to Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. She criticized Russia for “military engagements with Venezuela and Nicaragua” and for spreading “false narratives.” Richardson praised Colombia for providing military training in other countries. 

The Southern Command gains “exponential return” on supplying various countries with U.S. weapons and supplies. It conducts joint military exercises, and “provides professional military education to personnel from 28 countries.”

Richardson reported at length on processes she sees as fostering useful relationships between her command and the various governments and military services. The tone of urgency characterizing her discussion on China was entirely lacking. 

Economic intervention

General Richardson’s view that China has greatly expanded its economic involvement with the LAC nations is on target.

Since 2005, China’s state-owned banks have arranged for 117 loans in the region worth, in all, more than $140 billion. They averaged over $10 billion annually. Since 2020, China has made fewer loans.

Chinese trade with Latin America grew from $12 billion in 2000 to $448 billion in 2021. China’s imports of “ores (42%), soybeans (16%), mineral fuels and oils (10%), meat (6%), and copper (5%)” totaled $221 billion in 2021. The value of exported manufactured goods that year was $227 billion. By 2022, China had become the biggest trading partner in four Latin American countries and the second-largest in many others.  

China’s foreign direct investment (FDI) has long represented China’s strongest economic tie to the region. FDI signifies funding of projects abroad directed at long-term impact. China’s FDI from 2005 to mid-2022 was $143 billion. Energy projects and “metals/mining” accounted for 59% and 24% of the total, respectively. Of that total, Brazil and Peru received 45% and 17%, respectively. 

The FDI flow since 2016 has averaged $4.5 billion annually; worldwide, China’s FDI has contracted.

Chinese banks and corporations have invested heavily in lithium production in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, which, together, account for 56% of the world’s lithium deposits. China is the largest investor in Peru’s mining sector, controlling seven large mines and owning two of Peru’s biggest copper mines. Brazil is the world’s largest recipient of Chinese investments.  

China’s government has linked FDI to its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that began in 2013. As of May 2022, 21 Latin American and Caribbean countries were cooperating with the BRI and 11 of them had formally joined.

On the ground

U.S. military intervention in LAC is far from new. Analyst Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein complements Richardson’s report with a three-part survey, accessible herehere, and here, of recent U.S. military activities in the region.

He indicates the United States now has “12 military bases in Panamá, 12 in Puerto Rico, 9 in Colombia, 8 in Perú, 3 in Honduras, 2 in Paraguay, as well as similar installations in Aruba, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Cuba (Guantánamo), and in other countries.”

Rodríguez maintains that, “levels of aggressive interference by Washington in the region have increased dramatically” and that U.S. embassies there are supplied with more military, Cuba, Nicaragua, and CIA personnel than ever before.

Rodríguez notes features of the LAC region that attract U.S. attention, among them: closeness to strategically-important Antarctica; reserves of fresh water and biodiversity in Amazonian regions; the Guarani Aquifer near the triple frontier of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, the largest in the world; and huge reserves of valuable natural resources.

Among ongoing or recent U.S. military interventions are these:

·        The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is implementing a “master plan” for navigability of the Paraguay River and Plata River Basin. The nearby Triple Frontier area supposedly harbors international terrorism and drug-trafficking.

·        The U.S. military facility in Neuquén, Argentina is turning from its alleged humanitarian mission to activities in line with local preparations for oil extraction.            

·        U.S. officials on October 13, 2022 announced that 95 military vehicles were being donated to Guatemala for drug-war activities.   

·        In Brazil in September 2022, General Richardson indicated that U.S. forces would join Brazilian counterparts to fight fires in the Amazon..

·        The Southern Command’s fostering of good relations with Peru’s military has borne fruit. Under consideration in Peru’s Congress is a proposal to authorize the entry of foreign military forces. To what nation would they belong? Hint: former CIA operative and U.S. Ambassador Lisa Kenna met with Peru’s Defense Minister the day before President Pedro Castillo was removed in a parliamentary coup on December 7, 2022.

·        In March 2023, two U.S. congresspersons proposed that U.S. troops enter Mexico to carry out drug-war operations.

·        Presently the United States is making great efforts to establish a naval base on Gorgona island off Colombia’s Pacific coast. It would be the ninth U.S. base in Colombia, a NATO “global partner.”

·        In Colombia, U.S. troops acting on behalf of NATO, are active in that country’s Amazon region supposedly to protect the environment and combat drug-trafficking.

·        The U.S. National Defense Authorization Act of December 2022 awarded the Southern Command $858 million for military operations in Ecuador.

·        In a second visit, the US Coast Guard Cutter Stone was plying Uruguayan waters in February ostensibly to train with local counterparts for search and rescue operations. The ship was also monitoring the nearby Chinese fishing fleet.

Rodríguez does not comment on U.S. interventions in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. That’s because they’ve persisted for “more than 60, 40, and 20 years, respectively” and each requires a “special report.”

John Quincy Adams returns

Proclaiming the Monroe Doctrine 200 years ago, Secretary of State Adams informed European powers that the United States regarded “any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.”

General Richardson would apply the warning of that era to the PRC. Yet signs of hegemonic aspirations from that quarter are absent.

Commenting recently, Argentinian economist and academician Claudio Katz notes that, “China concentrates its forces in the economic arena while avoiding confrontations at the political or military level … Investments are not accompanied by troops and bases, useful for guaranteeing return on investments.”

Besides, China “does business with all governments, without regard to their internal politics.” That tendency, Katz writes, stems from the PRC having “arisen from a socialist experience, having hybrid characteristics, and not completing a passage to capitalism.” He maintains that China, with its economic involvement, contributes nothing to advancing socialism in the region.   

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Chomsky and Prashad: Cuba is not a state sponsor of terrorism / BY Noam Chomsky, Vijay Prashad

José Rodríguez Fuster (Cuba), Granma, 2013. Source: “A Bit of Hope That Doesn’t Come from Miami: The Sixteenth Newsletter (2021),” The Tricontinental, April 22, 2021.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Cuba, a country of 11 million people, has been under an illegal embargo by the United States government for over six decades.

Despite this embargo, Cuba’s people have been able to transcend the indignities of hunger, ill health, and illiteracy, all three being social plagues that continue to trouble much of the world.

Due to its innovations in health care delivery, for instance, Cuba has been able to send its medical workers to other countries, including during the pandemic, to provide vital assistance. Cuba exports its medical workers, not terrorism.

In the last days of the Trump administration, the U.S. government returned Cuba to its state sponsors of terrorism list.

This was a vindictive act. Trump said it was because Cuba played host to guerrilla groups from Colombia, which was actually part of Cuba’s role as host of the peace talks.

Cuba played a key role in bringing peace in Colombia, a country that has been wracked by a terrible civil war since 1948 that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. For two years, the Biden administration has maintained Trump’s vindictive policy, one that punishes Cuba not for terrorism but for the promotion of peace.

Biden can remove Cuba from this list with a stroke of his pen. It’s as simple as that. When he was running for the presidency, Biden said he would even reverse the harsher of Trump’s sanctions. But he has not done so. He must do so now.

Noam Chomsky is a linguist, philosopher, and political activist. He is the laureate professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona. His most recent books are Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet and The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

MR Online, February 14, 2023,

Court Says Colombian State Responsible for Patriotic Union “Extermination” – No Mention of US Role / By W.T. Whitney Jr.

The survivors and family members of the victims of the genocide against the Patriotic Union party celebrated the IACHR Court’s ruling, which declared the Colombian State responsible for the extermination of UP militants and members in the mid-1980s. Photo: Corporación Reiniciar/Twitter

Rubí Andrea Forero, 52 years old, talked to Prensa Latina about the recent court ruling in the Patriotic Union’s case against Colombia’s government. She felt relief. She has coped with her father’s murder on February 27, 1989 and her awareness of “impunity and continuing crimes”. She recalls “silent longings and frustrated dreams from the war” and the “fears, absences, and frustrations” of families and friends. 

Teofilo Forero, Rubí’s father, was a union president, a deputy in the Cundinamarca legislature, and Bogota City councilor. Nationally, he was a leader of the CTC Labor Federation and organization secretary of Colombia’s Communist Party. That party, the interviewer explains, was the “vertebral column of the Patriotic Union (UP in Spanish-language initials).” The UP dates from 1985.

On January 30, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR Court) announced its long-anticipated ruling in the UP case. The Court named the Colombian state as responsible “for violations of human rights committed against more than 6000 members of the Patriotic Union political party during a period that began in 1984 and lasted for more than 20 years.”

(The Special Jurisdiction for Peace, established under the 2016 Peace Agreement between the FARC and Colombian government, indicated in 2022 that “5,733 persons were assassinated or disappeared in attacks directed against the UP.”)  

The Court ruling cites a “plan of systematic extermination … relying on participation by state agents and acquiescence by authorities.” It cites “forced disappearances, massacres, extrajudicial executions, assassinations … [and] impunity.”

The peace agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Colombia’s government in 1984 enabled demobilized FARC insurgents, Communist Party activists, and others to create the UP. The organization undertook to “promote the social, economic, and political transformations necessary for building a peace with social justice,” according to the Reiniciar Corporation, stalwart defender of the UP since 1992.

As 1985 closed, the UP had established “2,229 grassroots organizations” in more than 200 municipalities and rural districts. In early 1986, 15 UP candidates were elected to Colombia’s Congress, 18 to departmental legislatures, and 335 to city councils; there were 23 UP mayors. In elections a few weeks later, UP candidate Jaime Pardo Leal proved to be the third most popular presidential candidate. The UP was a powerful political force.

Then came catastrophe. Assassins killed “nine congresspersons, 70 city council members, and dozens of deputies, mayors, and grassroots leaders,” and also “labor leaders, students, artists, activists, and sympathizers” from all sectors. Two presidential candidates would be murdered. 

The IACHR Court ordered reparations. The state must pursue investigations of “gross violations of human rights and [that way] determine penal responsibilities.”  In addition, disappeared victims must be located, victims cared for, and the Court’s decision publicized. The Court called for protecting UP activists now, a national educational campaign, recompense for “material and immaterial damages” and a national day of commemorating UP victims.

The Reiniciar Corporation in 1993 led in submitting the UP case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). That agency collected evidence and collaborated  with the Colombian government to reach a settlement, but to no avail. The case moved to the IACHR Court in 2017.

No longer able to field electoral candidates, the UP in 2002 lost its “judicial personhood” and state recognition of its status as a political party. Reacting to IACHR verification of persecution, election officials in 2013 restored the UP’s former status.

UP participation in elections was evident recently in the party having joined the victorious Historic Pact coalition of President Gustavo Petro. Former UP activist Germán Umaña serves as minister of commerce in the Petro government. He had abandoned political life after the assassination in 1998 of his brother Eduardo Umaña, law professor and defender of human rights.

Revival of the UP and its distancing from a violent past go along with Colombia’s tentative turn to peace. In that regard, the government on January 1 announced a ceasefire among combatant groups; among them the Colombian Army, National Liberation Army guerrillas, two groups of narco-trafficking paramilitaries, and two dissident insurgencies formerly part of the now defunct FARC.  

However, the UP story is about U.S. military intervention as well as peace in Colombia.

Journalist Nelson Lombana Silva sees the IACHR Court decision as “not solely applying to the Colombia state, but also to Colombia’s liberal-conservative, criminal oligarchy that decided to remove this political movement,” and did so “with U.S. participation.”

Historian Ivan David Ortiz, investigating the failure of the 1984 peace agreement, notes the FARC’s explanation at the time, that “hegemonic political and economic sectors continued the warlike policies of the United States.” He cites the FARC’s claim that, “the anti-peace offensive in Colombia came from the Pentagon.” (1)

An Amnesty International report of 2005 covers the same ground:

Efforts by the government of President Belisario Betancur (1982-1986) to initiate peace talks with guerrilla groups in the mid-1980s heightened concern that any peace agreement would have entailed land and other socio-economic reforms. This dynamic strengthened the alliance between the traditional economic elites and the armed forces and spurred on the development of paramilitary structures under the coordination of the armed forces.

Accessory information points to U.S. involvement within this context. Paramilitaries bore most of the direct responsibly for massacring the Patriotic Union. Paramilitaries coordinate their operations with Colombia’s military, which has a supervisory role, as documented here and here. The impetus for the paramilitary phenomenon derived from recommendations of a U.S. “Special Warfare” consulting team in 1962. 

Secondly, Colombia’s military, the paramilitaries’ senior partner, thrives due in part to the U.S. government’s generous support and financing. The flow of billions of dollars to Colombia’s military is notable.  It began in 2000 under U.S. Plan Colombia and continued for more than ten years. Drug war, the usual justification for U.S. partnering with Colombia’s military, has been useful as a cover for war against leftist guerrillas and against left-leaning political groups and social movements.

Ultimately, it seems, there was a big element of U.S. proxy war in the deadly suppression of the UP. U.S. would-be masters of global affairs have long manifested instant readiness to blot out popular risings viewed as threatening to their accustomed ways. Viewed like this, perpetrators of the anti-UP violence were kin to Bay of Pigs assailants in Cuba, Contra warriors in Nicaragua and Ukraine’s military fighting against Russians now.

Note: (1) Iván David Ortiz Palacios, “El Genocidio Político contra la Unión Patriótica,” (Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, 2007), p. 17

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Colombia’s First Leftist President Will Bring Historic Change, if the US Lets Him / by Daniel Kovalik

Colombia is the latest Latin American country to turn from the right, and possibly stand up to Washington, with the inauguration of Gustavo Petro.

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. This was unthinkable not long ago, and before this unlikely team now lie the combined challenges of standing up to US domination and fixing decades of social injustice.

The last time it appeared Colombia would have a leftist president was in 1948 with the candidacy of the fiery and 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.

RELATED CONTENT: Colombia’s President Petro: Guaidó’s Presidency is Non-Existent

Even after La Violencia, Colombia has continued to be marked by gruesome political violence, even to the present time, with over 220,000 killed in such violence since 1958. In recent years, this violence has mostly been carried out by US-backed military and paramilitary death squads closely aligned with the right-wing governments which have seamlessly governed Colombia since 2002. The state violence since 2002 has been staggering, with the military murdering at least 6,400 and possibly 10,000 people from 2002 to 2008 alone. Meanwhile, over 92,000 Colombians have been disappeared, and over 5 million Colombians are internally displaced, amounting to one of the largest numbers of internally-displaced people in the world.

Given this landscape and the numerous death threats both Petro and Marquez received during the presidential campaign, and for years before, many have feared they could suffer the same fate as Gaitan. Indeed, the two campaigned behind bullet-proof shields to protect them from the very real threat of assassination. This threat has not abated simply because they have been elected, and just surviving their full term in office will be a very real feat.

The threat Petro and Marquez pose to the system and powers-that-be, both in Colombia and Washington, is their promise to break the hold that the rich oligarchs have had over Colombia for centuries and to redistribute wealth by shifting the tax burden and boosting the social safety net in order to benefit the poor and the disenfranchised indigenous and black population. Colombia is, by design, one of the most unequal societies on Earth, and those on the top will not cede their wealth, land, or power easily, and the US, which dominates Colombia through this elite, will not allow this to easily happen. 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. The US, still wedded to the Monroe Doctrine, will resist mightily any attempt of Petro and Marquez to change this.

RELATED CONTENT: Petro Reveals Timetable for Resumption of Diplomatic Relations with Venezuela (+Monómeros)

Washington is already panicking at the fact that, with the election of the two, five of the largest economies in Latin America are now being led by leftist presidents, and this may soon become six if Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the current frontrunner in Brazil, is re-elected this year. 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. The head of US Southern Command, General Laura Richardson, 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. As she explained, “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.

In short, the real threat of regime change looms over the new Petro/Marquez administration in Colombia, and it will take vigilance and international solidarity to ensure that this threat is not realized. Latin America desperately needs the type of social change that Petro and Marquez promise, and we must ensure that there is no repeat of the fate which befell others like Gaitan, or President Salvador Allende in Chile, who promised the same.

Dan Kovalik is a US labor and human rights lawyer, writer and activist. He has been a peace activist throughout his life and has been deeply involved in the movement for peace and social justice in Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and other countries in the Global South. He has taught International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law since 2012.

Orinoco Tribune, August 16, 2022,

Don’t Forget Comrade Simón Trinidad / by “Agamemnon” (Nelson Lombana Silva)

Simón Trinidad

Originally Published: Nelson Lombana Silva: No olvidar al camarada Simón Trinidad, July 13, 2022

With the brilliant triumph of the Historical Pact, Colombia is seeing promising developments, full of hope and expectation. These should be strengthening our spirit of solidarity towards all those political fighters stuffed into the hellholes of imperialism. They have to go free, and be compensated by the state!

One of them is comrade Simón Trinidad. He continues to resist, in one of the inhuman prisons of the United States. He does so for the sake of the right simply to rebel against the savage system that is Colombia. To forget him is not ethical.

The present movement for freedom for political prisoners must be strengthened now. The struggle must be deepened by getting into areas that matter, until freedom for revolutionaries is real.

Political prisoners are not criminals. They are social and political fighters who deserve our full admiration. They deserve our support so that, as quickly as possible, they regain their freedom.

With their sacrifice, they have contributed to the successes of democracy we see ahead of us in Colombia, with so much hope. Ours is a country hugely shaken by the violence and criminality that the regime inflicts on the people.

Comrade Simón Trinidad’s personality is democratic to the core. He gave up his position of economic and social power to put himself on the side of the people. He entered into the political and revolutionary struggle of the people with courage, loyalty and commitment. By no means does he deserve to remain as a prisoner in an imperialist dungeon. We must, as in a chorus, demand his immediate freedom.

W.T. Whitney Jr. translated this contribution.

Nelson Lombana Silva of Tolima, Colombia writes for Semanario Vox, the Newspaper of the Columbian Communist Party. 

Prisoner Simón Trinidad Is Victim of Toxic US – Colombia Alliance / by W. T. Whitney Jr

In this Jan. 13, 2002 photo, the Commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Simón Trinidad, reads a declaration during a press conference in Los Pozos, Colombia. | AP

Simón Trinidad’s 72nd birthday is July 30. Don’t think about sending him a card. U.S. prison authorities have blocked his mail since 2004. Extradited from Colombia, he would remain in solitary confinement until 2018. He is lodged in a maximum-security federal prison in Colorado.

As a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Trinidad was in charge of political education and propaganda. He was captured in Ecuador in 2003, with CIA assistance. He had been conferring there with a United Nations official about the release of FARC-held prisoners.

Transferred to Colombia, Trinidad was a high-profile prisoner.  He had family connections with upper elements of Colombian society and had been a lead FARC negotiator in peace talks with Colombia’s government from 1998 to 2002. The Colombian government and its U.S. ally might have detected a propaganda advantage in a public trial and severe punishment. Putting him away, out of sight, as a prisoner of war in Colombia would have offered little gain.

Ideas may also have cropped up that Trinidad extradited would be an object lesson for Colombia’s political dissidents, display damage done to the FARC, and advertise the newly strengthened U.S. – Colombian alliance. Colombian officials asked the U.S. government to request his extradition.

U.S. Plan Colombia took effect in the early 2000s. At the cost eventually of more than $10 billion, the U.S government provided military equipment, intelligence services, and funding for Colombia’s military, police, and prisons. The purpose, claims the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition was “to provide security and economic development assistance to help combat the spread of narcotics … and promote economic growth.”

Narco-trafficking was a secondary matter. Plan Colombia was mainly about fighting leftist insurgents, primarily the FARC. A stiffened alliance was background to the targeting of Trinidad and to enhanced political oppression in Colombia.

Interviewed recently, Colombian historian Renán Vega Cantor mentions “80 years, during which Colombia became the main US ally in the region.” He cites seven U.S. military bases, “a U.S. presence in 50 [other] places …[and] 25 secret U.S. agencies” operating in Colombia.  Crucially, the paramilitaries, long notorious as agents of deadly violence, are “Colombian Army proxies sponsored, financed, trained, and supported by the United States, which have carried out all kinds of atrocities that the Armed Forces, openly, cannot legally carry out.”  

Says Vega Cantor, “Plan Colombia militarized [Colombian] society in an impressive way, propelling the growth of the Colombian Armed Forces to unthinkable levels.” Colombia presently fields 500,000 troops; its army is one of the world’s largest. Some 50,000 Colombian military and police officers received training at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas in Georgia, referred to by some as the “school of assassins.”

The U.S. government has readily accepted the cruelty marking its partner’s civil war. Cruelty was on display recently. The Truth Commission, set up via the 2016 Peace agreement between the FARC and Colombian government released its ten-volume Final Report on June 28, 2022. Cruelty portrayed there is vast enough to have infected the criminal justice system of its ally, or so it seems.    

Analyst Camilo Rengifo Marín, referring to the Report, takes note of “an armed conflict of more than 60 years that goes on still and led to more than 10 million victims of whom 80 percent were civilians.” He writes that, “50.770 were kidnapped, 121.768 disappeared, 450.664 murdered and 7.7 million forcibly disappeared.” Another observer indicates that, “The report is critical of the role played by various U.S. administrations in developing security policies, in militarizing society, and in hiding relations between paramilitary groups and the Colombian Army.”

The Final Report itself states that, “During many years, the victims got little attention and often were defended only by human rights organizations or by churches. From torture victims and kidnappings by guerrillas … to victims belonging to political movements like the Patriot Union and other opposition groups, those victims were invisible to most Colombians over the course of decades.” 

Simón Trinidad has been all but invisible in the United States. U.S. authorities sought his extradition solely because of alleged narco-trafficking. After all, international law does forbid extradition on political grounds, like rebellion. The indictment greeting Trinidad on arrival in Washington charged him with providing material support to terrorists, taking hostages, and dealing in illicit drugs.

It took four trials between 2006 and 2008 to exonerate him on the charges of narco-trafficking and providing material support for terrorists, and to convict him of conspiring to capture three U.S. drug-war contractors.  FARC gunfire had brought down their plane. The idea of conspiracy derived exclusively from Trinidad’s status as a FARC member. 

In 2008, 57-year-old Trinidad received a 60 -year sentence. Since 2018, he’s been allowed to eat a midday meal in a dining hall. Phone calls are rare. Emails and periodicals are prohibited, along with letters. Trinidad’s only visitors are his lawyers and rarely his brother and Colombians conferring about Peace-Agreement arrangements.

Trinidad faces charges in Colombia relating to possible crimes committed during the Civil War. The Peace Agreement provided for a “Special Jurisdiction for Peace” (JEP in Spanish) whose role is to decide on punishment or pardon for former combatants on both sides charged with crimes. To be pardoned they must tell the truth.

Simón Trinidad is eligible to appear before the JEP. Trinidad’s U.S. lawyer Mark Burton indicated via email that a first step towards his virtual appearance there is for Colombia’s Foreign Ministry to ask the U.S. Justice Department to approve of Trinidad’s appearance before the JEP.

Burton is hopeful. The new foreign minister of the incoming Gustavo Petro government may be receptive; Álvaro Leyva Duran “worked on the negotiating team of the FARC in Havana” during the peace talks, Burton recalls. The JEP could pardon Trinidad or require court appearances in Colombia. Either way, pressure would mount for the U.S. government to commute his sentence to allow for deportation.

President-elect Gustavo Petro, campaigning, protested the ongoing killings of community leaders and former FARC combatants. A central demand of his Historical Pact coalition has been full implementation of the 2016 peace agreement. Ultimately, relief for Trinidad rests on realizing peace in Colombia.

Any affinity of the U.S. government with the goals of the new Historical Pact government would be good news for Trinidad. For the United States to back away, even a little, from intervening in Colombia would also be good news.  Secretary of State Blinken, speaking with Petro, “underscored our countries’ shared democratic values and pledged to further strengthen the 200-year U.S.-Colombia friendship,” according to an announcement on June 20. The mouthing of hypocrisy is bad news.

Peace in Colombia, and Trinidad’s fate, depends on the U.S. relaxing its cop-on-the-beat posture for an entire region, that of monitoring any and all stirrings of fundamental political and social change. A new kind of U.S. openness, however, doesn’t jibe with U.S. determination to protect the interests of corporations and the moneyed classes at home and abroad.

Until a new anti-imperialist consciousness has inspired a meaningful and potentially effective, all-points opposition, collective effort is in order now towards organizing and fighting for Simón Trinidad’s return to Colombia. Even so, that struggle would have to fit within a larger context of anti-imperialism, peace now in Colombia, and support for the new government there.

W. T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

People’s World, July 18, 2022,

Historic! Gustavo Petro wins elections in Colombia / by Martin Hacthoun

According to data from the National Registrar’s Office, Petro and Francia Marquez, his running mate, will govern Colombia after a triumph already described as historic in this country that has been for over 200 years under right-wing rule.

With 89.35 percent of the tables reported, Petro obtained 10 million 75 thousand 836 votes for 50.88 percent of the valid votes.

Hernandez, from the League of Anticorruption Leaders, got 46.85 percent of the votes. Colombia’s president-elect, Gustavo Petro, affirmed that today is a day of celebration for the people.

“Let them celebrate the first popular victory. May so much suffering be cushioned in the joy that today floods the heart of the Homeland”, expressed the leader of the Historical Pact in his Twitter account upon learning the results of the ballot, which declared him the winner.

He dedicated this victory for God and for the People and its history. “Today is the day of the streets and the squares,” emphasized Petro, who has called for a great national pact.

Leaders from the region sent the winning ticket messages of congratulations, specially the presidents of Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba were the first to hail Petro’s victory.

Prensa Latina, June 19, 2022,

Petro wins first-round victory against right wing in Colombian presidential vote / by William T. Whitney, Jr.

Presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, left, and his running mate Francia Marquez, with the Historical Pact coalition, stand before supporters on election night in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, May 29, 2022. Their ticket will advance to a runoff contest in June after none of the six candidates in Sunday’s first round got half the vote. | Fernando Vergara / AP

During 212 years of Colombia’s national independence, the propertied and wealthy classes, with military backing, have held the reins of power. Gustavo Petro and Francia Marquez, presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the Historical Pact coalition, scored a first-round victory in elections held on May 29. They are forerunners of a new kind of government for Colombia.

If they prevail in second-round voting on June 19, they will head Colombia’s first ever people-centered government. Petro’s opponent will be the May 29 runner-up Rodolfo Hernández.

The tallies were: Petro, 40.3 percent (8.333.338 votes); Hernández, 28.1 percent (5.815.377 votes); Federico Gutiérrez, 23.9 percent (4.939.579 votes). Other candidates shared the remaining votes. The voter participation rate was 54 percent, standard for Colombia.

Petro’s rightwing electoral opponents represented varying degrees of attachment to the extremist ex-President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010) and his protegee, current President Ivan Duque, who was not a candidate.

Oscar Zuluaga, the early standard-bearer for the Uribe cause ended his non-prospering campaign in March in favor of Federico Gutiérrez and his “Team for Colombia” party. Opinion polls showed Gutiérrez losing ground while, coincidentally, the candidacy of the conservative Hernández was gaining support. 

Petro, 62 years old, was a leader of the radical April 19 Movement, mayor of Bogota, twice a presidential candidate, and has been a senator. As such, he led in calling to account ex- President Uribe for political corruption and ties with paramilitaries.  He defines his politics as “not based on building socialism, but on building democracy and peace, period.”

Vice-presidential candidate Francia Márquez projects what looks, from this vantage point, to be star-power. She is a 40-year-old African-descended lawyer and award-winning environmentalist who, from her rural base, organized against plunder of natural resources. As a presidential candidate in the primary elections in March, she gained 780,000 votes from Historical Pact electors – third place within that coalition. Her candidacy reflects a merger of sorts between social-movement and political-party kinds of activism.

Candidate Rodolfo Hernández is a special case. Analyst Horacio Duque claims that, “The Gringos’ Embassy and the [Colombian] ultraright are moving to catapult” this former mayor of Bucaramanga “onto a platform for existential salvation … by forcing a way toward a second round.”  The wealthy real estate profiteer and mega landlord for low-income renters faces bribery charges relating to a “brokerage contract” and trash disposal. With a slogan of “no lying, no stealing, and no treason,” Hernández is a self-described enemy of the “traditional clans.” He is a devotee of social media.

The Historical Pact campaign benefited from circumstances. The failings of 2016 Peace Agreement with the FARC insurgency are clear, namely: persisting violence, no agrarian reform, and continuing drug war in the countryside. Blame falls upon Uribe’s machinations and the Duque government.

The campaign follows two years of demonstrations that, led by young people, were violently repressed by the police. Protesters called for full access to healthcare and education, pension reforms and new labor legislation. They set an agenda for change.

Death threats greeting Petro and Francia Márquez on the campaign trail forced them to cancel some events and deliver speeches from behind protective shields. Earlier popular mobilizations had also triggered ugly reactions.   

Rodolfo Hernandez, presidential candidate of the right. | Mauricio Pinzon / AP

Commentators recalled the assassinations of four leftist or liberal presidential candidates between 1987 and 1990 and the murder of prospective presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán on April 9, 1948. Petro and Gaitan are the only progressively-oriented political figures in Colombia’s history to have had realistic hopes for becoming president.

For a few days in early May the “Clan del Golfo” paramilitary group reacted to its leader’s extradition to the United States on drug-trafficking charges; paramilitaries “stole, threatened, killed, and burned trucks and taxis” throughout northern Colombia. They coordinated their mayhem with the police and soldiers, and “the Duque government didn’t move a finger to contain them.” Reasserting their role as enforcers and destabilizers, the paramilitaries disrupted the Historical Pact’s campaign.

Petro and Márquez promised much. They would to improve food security, education, healthcare, pensions and reverse the privatization of human services. Petro would rein in extractive industries, cut back on fossil-fuel use, and renegotiate free trade agreements. He called for land for small farmers, peace with insurgent National Liberation Army, and for restraining the paramilitaries. He promised to respect Venezuela’s sovereignty.

Colombia’s military is displeased about a prospective Petro government. In April, Petro criticized military commanders’ close ties with paramilitary bosses. In a revealing response that violated constitutional norms, General Eduardo Zapateiro accused Petro of harassing the military for political reasons and of having taken illegal campaign funds.

An interventionist U.S. government is uneasy about a change-oriented government in Colombia. U.S. General Laura Richardson, head of the U.S. Southern Command, met with Colombian General Luis Navarro in March. She sought assurance that a Petro victory would not lead to the dismantling of seven U.S. Air Force bases in Colombia. Navarro indicated military leaders and most congresspersons would oppose such a step. The Southern Command issued a press release confirming that “Colombia is a staunch security partner.”  

U.S. Ambassador Phillip Goldberg’s comment on electoral fraud, delivered to an interviewer in mid-May, had destabilizing potential. He mentioned the “real risk posed by the eventual interference in the elections by the Russians, Venezuelans, or Cubans.” Goldberg’s excessive zeal for U.S. interests had been on display in Bolivia. As ambassador there in 2008, he immersed himself in an unsuccessful coup attempt against President Evo Morales – and was expelled.  

 The U.S. impulse to determine who governs in Colombia was on display on May 13 with a debate involving Colombian vice-presidential candidates. It was staged in Washington, not in Colombia. The congressionally-funded U.S. Institute of Peace session hosted the session. The appearance was that of a junior partner auditioning, as in seeking approval from a boss.

Commenting on his victory, Petro remarked that “forces allied to Duque have been defeated … The message to the world is that an era is finished.” Reaching out to “fearful businesspersons,” he proposed that “social justice and economic stability are good for productivity.”

The Historical Pact faces an uphill battle as it approaches the voting on June 19. According to an observer, opposition candidate Rodolfo Hernández will inherit the institutional and personnel resources the Duque government dedicated to the Federico Gutiérrez campaign. First – round voters for the several rightwing candidates will now turn to Hernández. The Historical Pact will have to engage with Colombians who did not vote on May 29.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

People’s World, May 31, 2022,

Francia Márquez Mina: the Triumph of a Pedagogy of the Oppressed in Progress / by Charo Mina Rojas

Colombian Vice Presidential Candidate Francia Marquez (Photo: Twitter @FranciaMarquezM)

Francia Marquez is Colombia’s vice presidencial candidate, the first Black national candidate in that country. Her triumph is not just personal, but the result of a strong mass movement.

I am excited and moved by the process that has been unleashed after anger and indignation led Francia Márquez Mina to declare: “I want to be President of this country ,” and I am excited to think about the growth and maturity of the Afro-descendant people in the face of the Colombian political-electoral process in 2022.

Francia as vice-presidential candidate of the Pacto Histórico (Historical Pact), is the result of her daring as much as the stubbornness, audacity and nonconformist disposition of the young spirits who didn’t hesitate, when she said “walk with me”, in responding: “let’s go”. And, what a path that has been undertaken!

In my opinion, the route is quite clear, but the map remains to be drawn and not everyone knows how to make maps, nor does everyone know how to read and follow them.

It is very interesting and important how Francia has learned to be respectful and coherent in echoing the voices of the people, instead of the phony politicking to which we are used to. The enormous growth in her political narrative is not only due to her beautiful and natural intelligence, (not in vain blessed by [the Orisha] Orunmila). It’s also fundamentally due thanks to her life experience as a Being who has suffered all the forms of oppression, against which she rosed up in rebellion, allowing her a capacity for listening and transcending words in action and deeds, resonating in those of us who come from the same place. These are capabilities and attitudes only typical of those who always dare to know that, with nothing more to lose in a white-male supremacist, arrogant, violent predatory world like this one, at the end of the day we have everything to gain by facing risk. Risks that are existential because either we are, or we are not.

For centuries a place of non-existence has been imposed on us, being dehumanized and dispossessed.  For centuries we have sustained ourselves in the sense of the complex, deep, multidimensional, and spiritual essence interlocked in the African philosophical principle of Ubuntu: “I am because we are”. From this place of identity, Francia stands with us, armed with the dignity and humanity that the domineering people of this world don’t know.

That is why I will continue to vote for “Francia President”, because I understand that it is not a question of today, but of the future, looking toward a horizon of dignified and human well-being that corresponds to us to finish building. The challenge posed by this process as Ubuntu people is to make it sustainable. It’s not just about the votes we’ll put in this electoral election. It is mainly about the personal and collective work that allows us to transform from within. Political-electoral education is an imperative, the strengthening of identity and belonging that implies practical exercise, not discourse, remains in demand; organization and sustainability as a movement has been shown to be urgent; to heal communally and spiritually a disintegrated society drowned in a borehole reflected in those dehumanizing practices that have the country submerged in a dreadful place. These are all issues that are part of what it means to venture on a different life project.

Francia comes from the struggle, and the struggle goes on. We face a system that has managed to take away the joy from the hearts of our reborn; in which our young men do not manage to look forward, recognizing themselves in their future because the system does not leave them with options beyond 20 years of age. A system anchored in the bellicose militarist ideology that solves everything with blood, criminality and corruption, denying the right to justice. We have to expect to be charged for the audacity to impose a black woman who projects the voices of people that no one has heard before. We must expect to bring down from their seats Senators and House Representatives, mayors and governors, “representatives” of international organizations and spokespersons who act as the black butlers of the white house. We have to let more young people and women take the lead, until, finally, life governs in its distinguished suit of dignity and humanity.

We have been walking for a few centuries, sometimes under the guidance of the spirits and the higher forces that have traced the path, sometimes lost in the tricky tangles of an obsolete value system. Today we are brought again ahead in light that shows us that we must return to the root to chart the course.

In 2014 I wrote about the pedagogical process that characterized the “Mobilization of women for the care of life in ancestral territories ,” a march led by 80 afro-descendant women to Colombia’s capitol, Bogotá, among them Francia. The objective of the march was to demand from the national government rectification of the error of allowing illegal mining in ancestral territories, product of the corrupt action of the Ministry of the Interior that declared the non-existence of Afro-descendant people in the Community Council of La Toma, municipality of Suarez – territory of Francia Márquez Mina, vice presidential candidate 2022. The campaign “I am because we are,” is a pedagogical process of the oppressed informed in a philosophy of liberation that, with Francia in the political-electoral arena and the national scenery of presidential campaign, does what 80 women did through the streets of Colombia walking to Bogotá at the end of November 2014, I quote:

“The women recreated a political discourse based on their rights as an Afro-descendant people, formulated, recreated and appropriated from the action itself. The mobilization was an educational process configured from their own thought and conviction; a thought that, however, is not unique and original because it has been formulated by others from their own processes, but it was authentic to the extent that it comes from life experience and actions in the face of injustices that prevent Black/Afro-descendant people from completely overcoming the place of subalternity,  of the colonized, of the oppressed.

Their message went beyond denouncing mining and demandings on the state-government to stop it. Forbidden public, male, political spaces were symbolically taken; spaces that had not seemed to be for them before. Their message reaffirmed the existence of a black person different from the one the system of coloniality has insisted on representing as lazy, incapable, cowardly and dispossessed.

They exposed a philosophy of life that reveals a counter-hegemonic logic that was questioning the unidimensional, homocentric, Eurocentric, patriarchal and racist world-system that dominates the logics and actions of non-black Colombia.

Walking through the streets of Colombia alien to the strange place that [for them] is the North of Cauca, they crossed the symbolic limits of the separation between the good Colombians and the subaltern beings that are not even mentioned. In a loud voice and inescapable presence, they determined “here we are”, “they cannot make us invisible”. It was a way of stripping their apprehended, self-asserted humanity naked in front of those who have dehumanized them. In that sense it was an act of liberation, of decolonization.

But they were also women, Black women. Their path marked an event to be written in the present and future history of the Black movement.” (Mina, Machado, 2015).

Sounds familiar? While the announcement of Francia as vice-presidential candidate of the Historical Pact was happening on March 23th, and looking at photographs of the people close to me and those who have made this moment possible, excited and ready for whatever comes, I remembered the mobilization of 2014 and its close relationship with this today and that tomorrow visioned. The common thread is in its historicity in the passage from a thought to the praxis that makes the moment a political historical process (in addition to the coherence of someone determined by her history and awareness of it). The wounded cry of a black/Afro-descendant woman who said I want to preside over this country, has a collective resonance because it is not a simply idealistic, futile, personal individualistic issue, but a rationality that comes from the experiential, existential objective historical realities that define injustices and inequalities lived by so many dehumanized. It is from this existential experiential historical consciousness that a philosophy and a movement emerge: “I am because we are,” beyond a leader and a possible caudillismo and populism. The 723,000 votes [from the primaries] are each individual consciousness transformed by a creative pedagogical process, into collective consciousness and political praxis confronting the paradigms that sustain oppression, and proposing to build a new place of humanity and dignity of life, as a historical length of a process for liberation.

Our challenge as people of the black/Afro-descendant, raizal and palenquero people  is to make the mobilization of “soy porque somos” (I’m because we are) to continue, until there is no need to shed our blood or be transhumed between being negro, “white-mestizo” or indigenous (like so many Polo Polo), to be and exercise our rights as a people.  To resist is not to endure, our historical resistance must be reflected in an electoral political process that does not simply add votes, but political consciences ready for radical systematic structural changes. Only in this way will we have the joy of our own and many Francias in the next presidencies of Colombia.

Charo Mina Rojas is a decolonial Black feminist, she is part of the Black Communities Process (PCN) in Colombia.

Black Agenda Report, April 13, 2022,

Progressive Coalition Campaigning in Colombia Promises Real Change / by W. T. Whitney Jr.

Historic Pact confirms Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez presidential ticket in Colombia | Peoples Dispatch

In Colombia Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez on March 24 registered as presidential and vice-presidential candidates, respectively, for elections taking place on May 29. On behalf of the Historic Pact coalition, Petro stated that, “today is the first day of a campaign that promises to actually change the history of Colombia.”

He was, in effect, proposing that someday killings, disappearances and dispossessions would be gone. And no longer would elections be the exclusive province of oligarchs.  Real democracy would replace the hollow version of Colombian democracy regularly proclaimed by U.S. officials.

The Historic Pact campaign scored well in primary elections held on March 13. Of 5.6 million Colombians voting in the coalition’s primary, 4.5 million of them chose Petro as presidential candidate. Significantly, 783,160 of them opted for Francia Márquez for the same office. Later, of course, Petro selected her as his vice-presidential running mate.

Other primary results were: of the 4.0 million people voting for the rightwing Team Colombia coalition, 2.2 million (54.2%) selected Federico Gutierrez as that coalition’s presidential candidate. Colombians loyal to the centrist Center of Hope coalition, 2.2 million in all, picked Sergio Fajardo as presidential candidate with 723,084 votes (33.5%).  Results were reported also on many other presidential candidates running either as individuals or as candidates of other coalitions.

Voters also cast ballots on March 13 to fill 108 seats in the Senate and 187 in the House of Representatives. In Senate voting, the Historic Pact led with 2.7 million votes and 21 seats.  The Conservative Party followed with 2.2 million votes and 15 seats. The Liberal Party with 2.1 million votes and 15 seats was in third place. Voting for delegates to the House of Representatives gave 33 seats to Liberal Party candidates, 29 to the Historic Pact, and 27 to Conservative Party candidates.

Because most legislators joining the new Congress represent many political groupings.  For the Historic Pact legislators to do their work, they will have to form alliances.  

Petro, a former M-19 urban guerrilla and mayor of Bogota, served in Colombia’s Senate. There he established himself as an implacable foe of two-term former president Alvaro Uribe, who personifies and has led the extreme right-wing sector of Colombian politics.  In 2018, Iván Duque, an Uribe protegee and now the outgoing president, defeated Petro in second-round voting, gaining 10.3 million votes to the latter’s 8.0 million votes. Petro’s first presidential campaign was the first outing for the brand-new Historic Pact, whose formation Petro had engineered.

For progressives, the Historic Pact this year has star-power. Francia Márquez herself gathered more votes for a presidential run than did Sergio Fajardo, the candidate of the third largest electoral coalition. Márquez is a 39-year-old African-descended lawyer and environmentalist, whose activism has centered on the environment harm caused by mining activities in Cauca Department – from where she was forced to leave because of threats.

Márquez won the National Prize for the Defense of Human Rights in 2015 and the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2018. The BBC named her as one the 100 most influential women in the world.

On announcing Márquez’s vice-presidential candidacy, Petro asserted that Márquez would represent “three pillars [of] the first people’s government of Colombia,” specifically “the women of Colombia, the excluded territories, and peoples excluded by the color of their skin.”

Márquez responded, dedicating her words to Colombia’s youth: “Our job will be to close gaps arising from inequity and inequality in those regions where people are excluded and silenced.” Reports suggest that in a Petro government she would serve as environmental minister and fill a newly created Ministry of Equality.

Troubles emerged after the March 13 elections. At issue were voting irregularities marking the elections for the Senate and House of Representatives. The Election Observation Mission on March 18 reported that not one of more than 28,000 polling booths produced a ballot showing a vote for a candidate supported by the Historic Pact or by other left-leaning groups.

Former President Uribe reacted: “These elections leave mistrust everywhere. To these inconsistences must be added the overwhelming vote for Petro in the narco-trafficking regions. This result cannot be accepted.” His Democratic Center Party called for a total recount, insisting that otherwise “the new Congress would be illegitimate.”

Petro on March 20 called upon “all political parties to reject [Uribe’s] invitation to a coup d’état. It’s time for everyone to defend democracy.”  In a recount, almost 400,00 additional votes were discovered. The Historic Pact gained three more Senate seats at the expense of three other parties.

Obstacles remain. According to  an observer, “Voting for the Historic Pact took shape in spite of and against massive buying of votes by the Mafias of the traditional parties and the new parties of the oligarchy …[and] against the multimillion dollar machinery of the establishment’s electoral businesses.”   

Two recent opinion polls have Gustavo Petro winning the first round of elections on May 29. One points to 37% of likely voters favoring Petro. Next in line, Federico Gutiérrez, candidate of the Team Colombia coalition, polled at 19%. Another poll gives Petro a 32% favorability rating, with Gutiérrez at 23%.

Analysts say that the Historic Pact must win a first-round victory, that a “second-round election would be very dangerous.” Coalition strategists envision a broad-front approach aimed at opening up “political space beyond the Historic Pact.”

Youth activism and popular resistance beyond the orbit of left-leaning political parties did fuel the growth of the Historic Pact – as exemplified by the vice-presidential candidacy of Francia Márquez.  As part of the political uprisings of 2021 in Colombia, these sectors recalled the upsurge of social movements in Chile that helped to install the new progressive government there headed by President Gabriel Boric

Alexander Escobar is a senator whose political party, the Democratic Pole, is part of the Historic Pact; he was a presidential candidate within that coalition. His advice for Petro now is for the Historic Pact to be cautious in assimilating social movements into the campaign.

Escobar insists that electoral success must precede efforts at fostering mobilizations outside regular politics. While admiring activists who “have big dreams, that are so strong and have so many roots,” he relies on “real organizing and decision-making spaces.”

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.