Someone who is a communist for convenience,
The people of Colombia have spoken.
Or have they?
Exactly one week ago, by a razor-thin margin of 50.2%, the voters rejected a peace agreement that the government and FARC guerrillas had negotiated over a 4-year period. For the cogent BBC summary, click here.
The rejection came as a total shock. Public opinion polls before the vote showed "Yes" winning handily, even by double-digits.
What on earth (or elsewhere) happened? And what does it have to do with the American elections?
* * *
As usual, the mainstream media are performing the task essential to any successful magic trick: divert attention.
CNN et al are chock full of interviews with Colombian "No" voters who explain that the proposed accord let the guerrillas off too lightly, that they needed to be punished for 50 years of kidnappings, extortions, rapes, murders, robberies, drug trafficking.
Don´t be tricked, dear reader.
The key to the referendum outcome is not why the "No" voters voted the way the did but why so many Colombians -- 63% -- did not vote.
Many peace accord supporters believe the sky is falling. I, too, was disappointed. However, for those favoring a lasting peace, the narrow rejection may prove to be the best thing that could have happened.
The first thing to know about the FARC is that its leadership is riddled with middle class rebels.
Yes, the FARC has always included other people. It was officially founded in 1966 by Manuel Marulanda, alias Tirofijo, a poor peasant who left home at the age of 13. Jorge Briceño Suarez, alias Mono Jojoy, was also of poor peasant origin. Jorge Torres Victoria, alias Pablo Catatumbo, is the son of a poor worker with 10 children.
The FARC co-founder was Jacobo Arenas, a medical student.
Alfonso Cano, leader of FARC after Tirofijo died, was an anthropology student from an upper middle class family. His father was an agronomist, his mother a nurse.
As for the FARC peace accord negotiators:
Lucian Marín Arango, alias Iván Márquez, was a biology teacher.
Jesús Toncel Redondo, alias Joaquín Gómez, was a university agriculture professor.
Jaime Alberto Parra Rodríguez, alias "El Medico," is a dermatologist.
The father of Rodrigo Granda was a school teacher, his grandfather, a latifundista.
Seusis Pausivas Hernández, alias Jesús Santrich, is another son of educators; he did post graduate studies in history and law.
Last but not least, FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias Timochenko, is the son of a small shopkeeper. He is a former cardiology student.
Once the ideology generating and controlling their values, priorities, logic, feelings, sensitivities, even intuitions is understood, middle class rebels can be easily outmaneuvered. But does the Colombian government have that understanding?
The proof will be in the pudding: we will see if further negotiations lead to new FARC concessions.
One item among many: middle class rebels do not distinguish symbolic rewards from real ones.
Case in point:
The proposed peace accord temporarily gave the FARC guaranteed seats in the national assembly. Wikipedia gave this gasp-for-breath summary:
"thirteen single-member constituencies (in addition to regular seats) for three terms, or twelve years, with candidates elected representing social organizations and not political parties with congressional representation. The Peace and Reconciliation Foundation also proposed the creation of nine Ex officio seats for the FARC in the Senate."
Oh brother. I don´t like to tell you, FARC, but Karl Marx is spinning in his grave.
13 single-member constituencies for three terms... We discussed in The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion (pp. 288-9) how such concoctions for better government are effusions of the formulism, doctrinairism, messiahship, and obsession with symbols endemic to middle class rebellion.
Source´s notes were based partly on Karl Marx´s "Heroes of The Exile," an essay that makes Marxists run for cover. The reason: Marx tore into middle class rebel German exiles -- self-styled "revolutionaries" -- living in London after the 1848 revolt failed:
- Marx wrote that the exile Gustav Struve -- “he is part prophet, part speculator, part bunion healer” -- drew up a constitution for a German Federal Republic “in which Germany was to be divided into 24 republics, each with a president and two chambers; he appended a map on which the whole proposal could be seen.” Via a “decree,” Struve even amended in one of his friends, viz., “Article 1. The extra tax of 10 per cent on goods imported from Switzerland is hereby abolished; Article 2. Christian Muller, the Customs Officer is to be given the task of implementing this measure.”[i]
- Struve’s formula for a government had a follow-up: he was contacted by would-be dictator Karl Heinzen who had prepared a draft program for the German Revolutionary Party, about which Marx noted, “This programme was distinguished by the invention of a special ministry ‘to cater for the all-important need for public playgrounds, battlegrounds…and gardens.’” Heinzen was hoping that the two exiles could unite, a difficult task at best for men with differing formulas. Marx:
Heinzen had demanded that during the ‘revolutionary transition period’ there should be a single dictator….Gustav, on the other hand, argued for a triumvirate comprising two Badeners and himself. Moreover, Gustav found that Heinzen had included in his prematurely published programme an ‘idea’ stolen from him.[ii]
- The “hero” Harro Harring, with Poles one day and gauchos the next, was another man with a plan. Marx: “For it is the fate of all great men not to be recognised by their own age whereas the future belongs to them. And Harro had taken care of the future -- he had it in black and white in his bag in the form of the Charter of Brotherhood.”[iii]
- To make sure anarchism did not become anarchistic, [anarchism leader Mikhail] Bakunin had a written, detailed formula: “A federation of permanently functioning barricades and a Council of The Revolutionary Commune shall be set up by delegating one or two deputies from each barricade, one per street or per district,” etc.[iv]
We have a question for FARC leader Timochenko:
Did your demand for legislative seats come with or without chauffeured limousines?
Backwards and forwards, from beginning to end, Karl Marx saw through comunistoides. Eventually, he threw up his hands.
"All I know,” he told Frederick Engels, “is that I am not a Marxist."[v]
* * *
On many issues we firmly disagree with Colombian President Santos. However, we join the long line of people congratulating him for winning the Nobel Peace Price. And we vigorously applaud him for donating the prize money -- $928,000 -- to war victims. Barack Obama and Henry Kissinger: take note.
President Santos´ tireless efforts to negotiate a peace accord are all the more remarkable given the powerful economic and political forces arrayed against him ...
By way of introduction to what is in play, I remind readers of the Salvadoran Civil War.
Between 1980 and 1992, 75,000 people were killed. The Chapultepec Peace Agreement signed in Mexico City ended the conflict.
In the name of fighting communism, the Reagan, Carter and Bush Administrations inundated tiny El Salvador with megabucks. U.S. military aid skyrocked from $22.6 million in 1981, to $1.96 billion in 1984.
In FY1990, according to the Congressional Research Service, El Salvador was in eighth place in US foreign aid. The following year the country dropped off the list of the top 15 recipients. The CRS observed:
"The departure from the list of four Central American countries – Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala – illustrates the conclusion of conflicts in those places that dominated U.S. interest in the 1980s."
The conclusion is obvious, inescapable: peace substantially reduces US foreign aid to a war-torn country.
Which brings us to Colombia.
As millennium 2000 dawned, Colombia was the third largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. From 2000-2016, it received $10 billion from the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.
With that billion-dollar gravy train riding the rails, various and sundry groups are against any peace negotiations with the FARC. They give new meaning to the phrase, "Peace at any price."
For readers who do not believe the gravy train is crammed with corruption ...
I was in El Salvador in 1989-90, writing columns for the El Paso Times. At the El Camino Real hotel where I was staying, a gift shop employee told me that top government officials and guerrilla chiefs met frequently in the bar where they laughed, drank, toasted each other, made merry. Other hotel employees confirmed the story.
I showed her a $100 bill. To earn it all she had to do was call me in my room if the guerrillas showed up. I went into the bar and prepared things to take photos without being seen.
Unfortunately, the guerrillas did not arrive.
* * *
The ironclad proof that guerrilla wars can be colossal money-making ventures for people in power is that the FARC has lasted so long.
That statement requires an explanation...
At the University of Florida I worked with Professor Neill Macaulay. A soldier by training, Neill had been a lieutenant in Fidel Castro´s guerrilla army in the Sierra Maestra mountains. Within days of victory, Che Guevara put Neill in charge of the firing squads that executed 500 Batistiano military officers.
Neil subsequently became disillusioned with the Cuban revolution, returned to the United States and became a prominent historian and writer on Latin America. While studying for a M.A. in Latin American Studies, I had numerous history classes with him; he served on my master´s thesis committee.
Neill revealed in one of his many books -- if memory serves me correctly, The Sandino Affair -- a simple but ingenious strategy to defeat guerrillas:
Out-guerrilla the guerrillas. Small mobile groups track them, engage them, then disappear into the jungle. Apparently, somebody in D.C. listened, which is a large part of why guerrilla wars in Latin America are a thing of the past.
Except of course Colombia.
Our point: because the means to destroy the FARC have been known for decades, only one reasonable explanation exists for the FARC´s longevity: government insiders do not want the guerrilla war to end.
That means President Santos has to fight not only the FARC.
* * *
With opinion polls showing the plebiscite "Yes" vote winning by a wide margin, the enemies of the peace accord had only one way to pull off an upset: keep the turnout down.
Way, way down.
It worked. The minority that showed up to vote did not represent the majority that stayed home. The polls were right -- but wrong.
Suggestions that the 37% turnout was caused by bad weather are preposterous. I lived for 6 months in Bogotá with a Colombian family; I dare say anybody who speaks Spanish and who spent 30 days there knows better than to blame the rain.
What, then, created the low turnout?
The cause is something which CNN and NBC, New York Times and Washington Post, Pentagon and CIA and all the other gravy train engineers and signalmen are not showing you:
Colombians are complaining they received threatening messages on their cell phones:
Don´t Vote or Else.
We will probably never know how many we-are-watching-you messages were received. However, three conclusions follow.
(1) It is reasonable to assume the threats were not sent to all voters. The "No" campaign only wanted voters likely to vote "Yes" to be scared off.
How, then, were those voters identified?
Answer: grosso modo by their party affiliations. People registered or otherwise associated with any of the parties forming the Unidad Nacional coalition backing President Santos would be top targets for death threats.
(2) The persons behind the threatening messages were -- or had contacts with -- government insiders with access to computerized voter registration lists.
(3) Surveillance always implies punishment; otherwise, it has no reason to exist. The menacing messages to Colombian "Yes" voters were no abstract, blanket prank; the surveillants had names and cell phone numbers. What else did they know? Addresses? Where the voters´ children went to school? The threats were to be taken seriously.
Deadly seriously, if you are in Colombia.
* * *
As a political consultant, I worked on numerous plebiscites from everything from pay increases for legislators and retention elections for judges to beer/wine licenses for restaurants.
I will always favor holding referenda -- truth in lending: we never lost one -- but not under any circumstances.
In our opinion:
(i) Colombia´s required turnout of 13% of registered voters to validate a plebiscite´s outcome is far too low. There is no magic formula to determine the "right" number; historic circumstances of individual countries must be considered.
If President Santos wants to avoid a replay of low turnout and the false representation it can create, he should consider instituting mandatory voting. This blog strongly supports it as a way to foster legitimacy for electoral outcomes. (See our post of 9/12/2011 and The Big Movida: The Third American Revolution).
(ii) Even if the 37% turnout is accepted, Colombia´s referendum outcome does not constitute a "No" consensus. In truth, what Sunday showed was a lack of consensus.
The standard definition of consensus is a general agreement. To view a simple majority of less than a 51% as a consensus is to distort the word beyond recognition.
If a minimum of 55% "Yes" or "No" were required for approval/rejection of referendum outcome, such distortions -- actually, misrepresentations -- would be a thing of the past. Ditto the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom.
* * *
Threatening voters on their cell phones ...
Thank God, it can´t happen in America.
Or can it?
The latest public opinion polls show Hillary solidly beating Trump 49% to 41%. The margin is eerily similar to the one showed in Colombian polls approving/disapproving the peace accord.
Our prior post observed: "All things considered, there is only one way Trump can shock the world and prove the polls wrong:
A low turnout."
Somebody in the Republican Party sat up and took notice of how the Colombian public opinion polls were dead wrong.
True, Republicans know they would commit a federal crime if they sent menacing messages to Democrats not to vote. What is needed, therefore, is a sly variation on what happened in Colombia.
You will find it pictured at the top of this post.
Will the New Mexico Republican Party be indicted? Will the future show that its mass-mailed flier was the thin edge of the wedge? Surveillance, fear, threats: are elections in America entering an era of Colombianization?
We close with our perennial watchword:
If they can, they will.
[i] Karl Marx, Heroes of The Exile, in Rodney Livingstone, Editor and Translator, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Cologne Communist Trial, International Publishers, New York, 1971, pp. 170, 171.
[ii] Ibid., pp. 186-7.
[iii] Ibid., p. 194.
[iv] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, “The Alliance of Socialist Democracy and The International Working Men’s Association,” in Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, V.I. Lenin, Anarchism & Anarcho-Syndicalism: Selected Writings by Marx, Engels, Lenin, International Publishers, New York, 1972, p. 110.
[v] Frederick Engels, “Letter to Conradt Schmidt in Berlin, London, August 5, 1890,” in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Werks, Marxism-Leninism Institute, Dietz Verlag, Berlin, 1967, Volume 37, p. 436.