Colombian media are in a firestorm: Juan Carlos Vélez Uribe — senator and candidate for mayor of Medellín — essentially confessing that the recent referendum on the Havana Accords, which would have put an end to the decades-old Colombian civil war, was stolen by the oligarchy. Gustavo Petro, mayor of Bogotá and a former senator himself, had the following to say about that on his blog:
Just a few days after the plebiscite, a confession has been discovered by the head of the No campaign himself, ex-senator Juan Carlos Vélez Uribe, saying that powerful businessmen financed the campaign, among them the proprietor of the RCN news channel and Postobón soda, Carlos Ardila Lulle, and that the financing in question was to construct a strategy to fool voters with topics having nothing to do with the Havana Accords, in order to upset voters and cause them to vote NO.
We all watched the campaign, we all saw how on TV and in church, politicians disguised as pastors told voters they would lose their pensions, that taxi-drivers would have to give their taxis up to guerrillas, that families would disintegrate, and that their children would become homosexuals because the FARC were waging a so-called “gender dictatorship”; that the poor would lose their subsidies because those would go toward financing the juicy salaries of the guerrillas; that Colombia would end up with a government like that of Venezuela; that Santos is a secretly communist friend of Castro, that God is with the NO side, etc., etc….
They even manipulated a video of an old interview of mine, editing it and making it look like even I was urging people to vote NO. The video was widely shared at a high cost.
They committed a crime. The deception of voters is an offence listed in the Criminal Code, and carries a prison sentence.
Even though they don’t want to hear it, the directors of the No campaign which took part in this deceptive strategy are criminals, their attitude aggravated by the fact that the electoral fraud was not to obtain legislative seats, but to keep the people submerged in war. Their deception was in order to kill more Colombians.
We are so accustomed to voter fraud, to the buying of votes, that we consider this to be just a normal part of democracy. The reality is that our democracy has been a lie, and that majority of those who have made the laws of Colombia have done so thanks to being elected via fraud, via crime: the buying of votes.
We have a delinquent political system which has been used by drug traffickers to make laws.
But the confession of Juan Carlos Vélez is more serious. He speaks of the use of electoral fraud not only for making laws and obtaining seats, but to keep the civil war raging in Colombia, in order to involve millions of young people in the armed fratricidal conflicts of the land, to condemn them to death and violence. Young people who are for the vast majority poor and without opportunities in the public education system of Colombia.
A criminal electoral strategy that requires low levels of information and public knowledge doesn’t surprise us, because [Andrés] Pastrana and [Álvaro] Uribe cut education funding, which was established in the 1991 Constitution. The only way to keep people in the war which destroys them is to keep them in ignorance.
But it is important now to know what the directors of NO are really looking for with the continuation of the war in Colombia, though they preach another falsehood: that they are for peace.
Many of the businessmen who financed the NO campaign are accused of financing paramilitary groups, which is to say, they support the genocide the paramilitaries are committing in Colombia. They don’t want a special tribunal to investigate.
Ex-president Uribe said that he doesn’t want military members accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity to be tried, like the guerrillas, in a special tribunal, to confess and in exchange receive juridical benefits which would permit them to be pardoned by society and rebuild their family lives.
Uribe is terrified that the soldiers will confess, that they would be handed over to international justice. He is sacrificing them so that his name will not appear in inquiries as a sponsor of crimes when he was governor of Antioquia, or when he was president.
Uribe’s fear is turning the land into a bloodbath.
The NO campaign conceals the fact that they don’t want lands illicitly amassed, and with blood, through drug trafficking, to launder their cocaine-trafficking dollars, more than ten million hectares, to be returned once more to their previous legitimate owners, or to the peasants and businesspeople who want to produce foodstuffs.
The generalized deception in Colombian society, and triumphant in the regions of Antioquia, Santander and coffee country, is to conceal one of the worst facts of Colombian history, the accumulation of political and economic power on the basis of death, genocide and forced displacement in society.
And now it’s at the point, thanks to the weakness of President Santos and the fraudulent collapse of his plebiscite, of condemning everyone to war.
For that reason, as never before, Colombian society must act. The young people, those called to violence, have given the example. They rebel against war and have turned out to march for hundreds of miles.
As we have done in Bogotá Humana, the mobilization must be permanent: Again and again. But this time, it must reach all the corners of Colombia.
The student movement, now unleashed and organizing public assemblies in parks, where they co-ordinate actions to follow and evaluate the situation of the land, must articulate itself in an organized manner, a strong indigenous and peasant mobilization for peace.
That’s how we’ll break the deception woven by the lords of war in the barrios, the municipalities, and the cities.
We call for an open town-hall meeting, an assembly movement, which must have all the constituent sense of a sovereign people.
We have to put an end to deception, disgrace, the lords of war, everything that brings us to fratricidal death. We have to to make constitutional that which enables us to live together. Even the Havana Accords, which must be respected, will be small if as a society we are capable of not tolerating deception and of turning out in multitudes to constitute peace.
We have arrived at a determining historical moment for Colombia and it is worthwhile to live it and act with intelligence and thoroughness. This is not the time to stay home; it is time for massive democratic action. The time of Constitutional Multitudes.
There really isn’t much to add to this. And really: if a government like Venezuela’s is such a nightmare to the Colombian fascist right-wing, it bears asking why. Because the fact is, Venezuela has a robust and popular democracy going on. Colombia? Not so much.