Wednesday, June 07, 2006


The Bush Oil War in Colombia [Archival Material, 2004]
By Thomas Riggins

Even as the US becomes more bogged down in an unwinnable war in Iraq – fueled by the desire to control Middle East oil, the Bush administration has stepped up the American military presence in Colombia.

For over forty years the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been fighting, in alliance with the Colombian Communist Party (CCP, founded in 1930), for what they perceive to be social justice for the down trodden rural masses.

The FARC came into existence in 1964 as a result of a full-fledged military attack on the peasant movement in Marquetalia, Tolima Department, by the Colombian armed forces in collusion with the US. The peasants had organized themselves outside of the framework of the landed oligarchy. The Colombian state was determined to bring them to heel.

Past attempts to bring about a peaceful solution to this long running revolution in the countryside have been systematically upset by the Colombian authorities backed by the US.

For example, a truce was reached in the 1980s, and the FARC, the CCP, and other left organizations as well as the labor movement founded the Patriotic Union (PU). The PU was created to contest in elections and the violence of the revolutionary war would be ended. All the PU members wanted was an opportunity to be fairly represented in the political process, heretofore monopolized by the elite and the bourgeoisie.

The electoral popularity of the PU was so great among the Colombian workers and peasants that the government, allied with right-wing paramilitaries, unleashed a reign of terror based on murder and high profile assassinations against members of the PU.

Two presidential candidates were murdered (1987, 1990), the only senator elected by the PU was also killed (1990) – and fighting resumed. In 2001 the newspaper Pravda reported that in 2000 another mass murder campaign was launched against the members of the PU who were not a part of the armed resistance. Union leaders, members of the Colombian Congress, and many leaders as well as regular members of the CCP were murdered both in Bogotá and throughout the rural areas of the country.

The war has simmered – but in the last ten months or so it has really heated up, as revealed by Juan Forero in an October 22 article in The New York Times ("Safeguarding Colombia’s Oil"--Business Section).

Bush has changed American policy in Colombia and, for the first time, Special Forces have been sent to Colombia to train units of the Colombian Army to protect the commercial interests of private oil companies.

Colombia is one of the top ten sources for crude oil imported into the US – but it needs to locate new untapped fields. Forero reports that backed by US helicopters, as well as by planning and surveillance assistance, the Colombian Army has attacked in four Colombian states (Putumayo, Caqueta, Meta and Guaviare) to wrest control from the FARC insurgents.

Although the bogus charge of "narco-terrorism" is the reason given by the US, the real reason, indicated by the Times, is "to make potentially oil rich regions safe for exploration by private companies and the government run oil company." If a soldier gets killed it sure looks better if he or she died fighting "narco-terrorists" than making regions safe for oil companies to explore.

Columbia President Alvaro Uribe (a former associate of deceased Drug King Pablo Escobar, according to a recent report in Time magazine) has contributed to the continuing weakening of the state oil company and changed the laws to benefit international oil interests, especially American oil interests. According to Forero, the state oil company has reduced from 50 per cent to 30 per cent its participation in joint ventures – this cedes authority and control to the oil companies. Also, the 20 percent royalty has been replaced by a "sliding scale" – it will most likely slide down!

So, our tax money, and now more of our soldiers too, are down in Colombia protecting the pipe line and oil wells of American companies. Which ones? Here are a few: Argosy Energy International (based in Houston), Occidental Petroleum, Exxon-Mobil (both with name changes from the Standard Oil cartel), Chevron (also from the Standard Oil cartel with a name change)-Texaco, and Harken Energy. Also benefiting are some British (BP), Canadian and Spanish companies among others.

I know we need oil – but its time to vote out the Bush administration and its war policies, and then put pressure on Kerry to find alternate sources of energy and to remove our troops and military equipment from Colombia. We have no business intervening in, and prolonging, a civil war in Colombia. Nor should the government become a private security agency for big American oil companies.

--Thomas Riggins is book review editor of Political Affairs and writes a weekly column for the online edition. He can be reached at

No comments: