Friday 25 December 2020

Operation Christmas (Updated).


In June 2016 FARC (Spanish acronym for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the long-running Marxist-Leninist guerrilla insurgency, signed a ceasefire with the Government of Juan Manuel Santos. A year later FARC handed over its weapons to the United Nations, in accordance with the ceasefire agreement.

After fighting on the losing side of a 50 odd year revolutionary war, the writing had been on the wall for FARC for a while. FARC’s surrender was an admission a strategy that had once looked so promising to then young, New Left-inspired, would-be revolutionaries all over Latin America, had failed.

That’s not to say FARC had lost all its spunk. Even by 2016 it still represented enough of a threat to the Colombian ruling classes – including those thriving on drug traffic – and their masters and puppeteers abroad, to earn FARC a worldwide demonisation campaign, depicting its members as murderers, terrorists, and – in a masterstroke of cynicism – drug traffickers.

Then President Àlvaro Uribe (centre) holds hands with presidential candidate Iván Duque and running mate Marta Lucía Ramírez, during an election event in 2018. Duque was elected President that year (Ramírez became Vice President). (source)

And that’s not to say, either, that FARC members were angels. War is as brutal as it is expensive and it only gets worse over decades of warfare. People are forced into outgrowing youthful illusions – or into corruption, depending on your perspective. That’s a recipe for making “bad hombres” and “mujeres”.


Still, what makes the internal propaganda campaign against FARC particularly enlightening is that it was based on the realisation that not all FARC members were evil and that they had good reasons to revolt.

Colombian advertising guru José Miguel Sokoloff, one of its creators, as quoted by the ABC’s Erin Handley, put it thus:
“Our approach was that the people who fight, the guerrillas, do not get up one morning and say, ‘All right, now I’m going to be a bad man, or a bad woman’ … No, they get up one morning and say, ‘I’m surrounded by social injustice’.”

It was a devilishly clever idea. To reach out to homesick and demoralised guerrillas holed up in some God-forsaken jungle, during Christmas time, as you see in the photo opening, with the promise of a direct-for-TV movie miracle.


They called that “Operation Christmas” and, if you believe them, it worked a treat. Guerrilla fighters deserted in droves.

But once the advertising creatives went home and weapons were surrendered, reality hit hard those former combatants – now unarmed:

“Around 2,000 former FARC guerrillas rallied in the Colombian capital Sunday to protest the murder of 236 ex-combatants since signing a 2016 peace agreement.”

Christmas miracles happen in movies only. Once taken, the path of armed insurgency affords no way back – unlike it happened to former Latin American Right wing dictators and their henchmen.

And it’s not just former combatants, either: hundreds of community and union leaders and environmentalists and human rights activists killed with impunity – against the Government’s promise – by drug traffickers, Right wing paramilitary gangs and big farmers and sometimes by former and active military, under Iván Duque’s Administration.

One could see that coming. Indeed, it’s been happening for a while now, largely away from the media’s gaze (January 2019, February 2020)


It’s clear that – against prevailing narrative – FARC never had a monopoly on “bad hombres.” What remains to be seen is whether the lesser evil actually prevailed.

Another thing clear is that that was another defeat traceable to the New Left. Half-baked ideas, no matter how fashionable among the literati, have tragic real-life consequences.
Update (28/12/2020).
The mass murder of the opposition, using as pretext the murder of former armed insurgents (because, you know, it’s okay to murder unarmed former combatants), is not new in Latin America. Jacobin’s Branko Marcetic offers an account of Operation Condor, a campaign of extermination nominally directed against subversives and the far Left, but ultimately targeting anyone Latin American dictators deemed deserving of death.

No comments:

Post a Comment