People’s Mobilization in Latin America, from the Vision of the ELN

Peoples Dispatch

Peoples Dispatch and other media projects carried out an exclusive interview with Antonio García, military chief and member of the Central Command of the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Latin America has been permeated by a wave of mobilizations over the past couple of months. The indignation has been expressed in the streets in countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, where people’s movements have presented a possible path for transformation, through mobilization and social protest.

On November 21, 2019 -21N-, the largest mobilization took place in Colombia since the 1960s. This year on September 9 and 10, the same indignation from 21N was expressed on the streets, after the police assassinated Javier Ordóñez, a 46 year-old lawyer. After this, the police massacred 14 more people in the mobilizations that took place in Bogotá and Soacha.

Despite the evident police brutality, the corporate media pushed a narrative that criminalized the protesters and was reinforced by public figures and members of the National Government.

In some of their declarations they assured that those who had participated in the protests are members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and that this insurgent group is the one that orchestrated the mobilizations and the actions such as the burning of some Commands of Immediate Attention (CAI) in Bogotá.

These affirmations put the lives of the protesters in Colombia at risk, infringing on the right to protest and legitimizing police violence.

The media projects Brasil de Fato, Marcha Noticias, Peoples Dispatch, Colombia Informa and Resumen Latinoamericano, carried out an exclusive interview with Antonio García, military chief and member of the Central Command of the National Liberation Army (ELN).

In this first part, of four, García talks to us about his perspective on social mobilization, not only in Colombia but also in the other countries of Latin America.

What is your view of the working class mobilizations in Latin America? Can the current correlation of forces be reversed?

For a few years now, I have seen a struggle in the continent to find solutions to old problems, which have to do with democracy, social inequality, alternative forms of government, which seek independence for our peoples, which seek sovereignty.

Over the past decade a different correlation of forces has been taking shape on the continent, which has to do with these struggles of a national order, of greater democratic participation in the search for solutions to the problems faced by the peoples of Latin America.

In response to the countries that were changing the map of Latin America, US imperialism carried out a policy of aggression, harassment, blockade, interference, in order to place the governments in crisis that were seeking to solve our countries’ problems in a democratic manner. US interventionism ended up attacking our peoples, changing governments, manipulating them, interfering with them. And the map of Latin America was changing. The new institutions that were created –  ALBA, Mercosur, with other economic and political alternatives for Latin America – were blocked, and imperialism began to create new organizations and political projection around right-wing governments that have once against taken up the project of neoliberalism.

And the political map apparently swings more to the right. Imperialism was confident that these attempts to return to the right were going to be long term. But we are presently seeing how their aspirations fail. Just as neoliberalism failed, so does this attempt to retake a right-wing project in these Latin American countries. We see an alternative option returning to Argentina. In Brazil, Bolsonaro has not managed to stabilize his government. We see Evo coming back with his movement to retake Bolivia. The difficulties that Ecuador is facing with the uprisings and social protests. The great social and political mobilization in Chile. And to top it all off, the new impulse of the social and political struggle in Colombia, which was felt again in November last year.

So we are facing a situation in Latin America of instability from governments that tried to return to right-wing paths. And options are opening up for change and transformation, for a return to independence and sovereignty, for social solutions to the problems of the countries of Latin America. That is the map that is beginning to take shape in Latin America today. And particularly in Colombia, which is moving towards an awakening with massive participation by new social and political actors, like the youth, for example. And the old problems that accumulated are creating a favorable situation such as that of November 21 last year.

How do you evaluate the mobilizations of 9 and 10 September?

The response given by the social movement on September 9 is the continuity of the process of mobilizations of the previous year, which were expressed in a powerful way with the strike of November 21.

New mobilizations had been proposed for the beginning of this year, but due to the pandemic, they had to be postponed. This is where governments, especially in Latin America, took advantage of the pandemic to stop the rise in social and political mobilizations that had been taking place, in search of transformations.

But the pandemic could not stop this popular mobilization effort and the people’s direct protest spontaneously erupted. In Colombia, September 9, which reached all the people through social networks, there was a spontaneous mobilization against police brutality.

But it was totally spontaneous. It was a legitimate action against the police.

The police responded aggressively, disproportionately. It was a big massacre. Many people died, many were injured, many were imprisoned. And that is the message that remains for society. We are facing a brutal police that responds disproportionately to the spontaneous mobilization of the people.

Much has been said about this mobilization that the ELN was involved in these protests. We all know that a military action requires a plan, preparation and logistics for moving our units. The ELN couldn’t be there at that protest, because we couldn’t get there, our logistics weren’t going to get there in time. It was a spontaneous protest by the people. If the ELN had participated, it would have been another way.

What happens is that the government, especially Duque, throws out information, accusing the ELN of being there to cover up, to distract from the massacre that is being carried out against the population. That is the analysis that needs to be presented to the country. People are not so clumsy to believe Duque’s story. Those of us who move on the military level know how actions are prepared, how attacks are prepared when they are on police or military units. In this case it was not the police who were killed. The dead were the people who were unarmed and it was the use of disproportionate violence against the society.