SM: How and where dos Polo place itself in the political spectrum? Does it have a project of radical transformation of society or does it maintain the prudence of the Third Way?
CBC: The Third Way is a stealth of the thought of Enrico Berlinguer operated by the right. That was a Third Way, because what Berlinguer put forward in the 1980s was a position which was distinct from Real Socialism and a centre social democracy that reigned in Europe and which in this moment is bent towards the right. Suffice it to look at the Labour Party in the UK, which is undeniably a right-wing party, even though its social base is composed of workers and trade unions. So, in the first place the Third Way is a robbery of Giddens and Tony Blair of a correct position, that is Eurocommunism of the decade of the 80s.
Polo’s position is by unanimity one of democratic left, and as such it presupposes the co-existence of different matrices; not only because of the different origins of the people who compose the Party, but also because a democratic left party should contain tendencies that are shaped according to national and world events. Different positions are debated and processed, and a unified platform comes out. The position of Polo is one of programmatic opposition to Uribe’s government, a radical democracy position. On this we need to be clear and concise: within Polo we do not talk of socialism, but it cannot be defined social democratic either.
You have very strong opinions about drugs. What are your thoughts on this issue?
Nowadays, cultivations increase despite fumigations. In 2007, 27,000 hectares were incorporated to drugs cultivations. Paradoxically, the more is fumigated, the more is cultivated. Consumptions is also on the increase: Colombia is by now not just a producer, but also a consumer, whereas in Europe consumption is almost legalised. The fact is that in the world there is a fear of opening up the debate because of the conservative position of the United Nations and the aggressive attitude of the United States on this issue.
Our first proposal is to open up the debate. The struggle against narco-traffic and drugs addiction has been an incredible failure, as in Colombia it rests on four false columns. The first one is prohibition, which produces the revenues. Narcotraffickers and paramilitaries are the first prohibitionists, as that permits them to make profits. The second column is indiscriminate repression, the third is the useless fumigation, which is also harmful for the environment, not to mention the interests of Monsanto from whom fertilisers are bought to remedy the situation. The fourth column is extradition, the symbol of a country which disowns its justice. There four columns must be abated. Decriminalisation, on the contrary, would constitute a salvation for Colombia.
One of the major accusations against Polo is that of being politically close to the FARC…
One of the aims of this government is that of getting Polo to put the FARC and the guerrilla in general on the same level of the paramilitaries: this we cannot do, it would be like negating history. Guerrilla warfare in Colombia has its origins in relation to a dictatorship [that of Rojas Pinilla], in relation to the agrarian problem, and in relation to the influence of the Cuban Revolution. They were guerrillas with a revolutionary and democratic program. Paramilitaries have their origin in the narco-traffic and in the defence of big landowning interests, in crime, and in murder.
We will never put on the same level Carlos CastaÃ±o with father Camilo Torres. As for the current position of Polo, Polo must confront guerrillas with a democratic left position, not that of the government. On this we have to be clear: we do not need very deep sociological investigations to say that, first, we are against FARC. We do not sustain armed struggle. We consider that it has lost not only credibility, but also the reason in our country. Second, the FARC have committed terrorist acts that involve the civilian population. One of these is kidnapping. Polo employs the tactic of reaching power through electoral means, and we refuse any use of violence in the exercise of politics. Now, Polo has different compositions: some of us have a personal history of [involvement with guerrillas], some do not. We have to accept this. They are political experiences that enrich the history of the country.
What kind of way out of the armed conflict does Polo suggest?
The position of the guerrilla is so out of place, that is responsible for the government’s high levels of popularity. It has lost any possibility of political sympathy in all sectors of national life. We are involved in the search for a peaceful, political and negotiated solution. This does not mean that, being in power, if guerrillas attacked, we would not answer. No state in the world could accept this.
What do you think about the paramilitaries’ demobilitasion led by Uribe?
I cannot say that the government is not waging a struggle against narcotraffic in its own way. And I cannot say there are no contradictions today between the government and sectors of paramilitarism. The fact is that Colombian well-off classes and the traditional political class first arm groups of narcotraffickers and murderers, convert them into paramilitaries, then use them electorally and paramilitarily, hence demobilise them, and finally, when they start to talk, extradite them. This is the relationship that exists between the government, narcotraffic and paramilitaries.
Mao-tse Tung used to talk about contradictions within the people, well these are contradictions within the right. How deep are they? We do not know this yet, but their existence is undeniable. Proof of this is the position of the Supreme Court and the arrested MPs.
The bombing that killed [FARC member] Raul Reyes in March has provoked a serious crisis between Ecuador and Colombia. What position did Polo adopt?
This is an issue on which we need to resort to principles, otherwise we risk that sentiments prevail over intelligence. The that the victim was a guerrilla fighter of a discredited armed group has been used to justify this violation of international law. President Correa and Ecuador are right in rejecting this act of aggression. No State can invade another for any reason.
As we say that there is no noble cause that justifies kidnapping, there is noble cause that justifies the invasion of another country. Polo has also created a commission directed by NariÃ±o’s governor (Antonio Navarro Wolff) to favour the re-establishment of diplomatic relationships. We have to propose Correa to direct the process himself, not on terms imposed by Jimmy Carter or the Colombian Foreign Minister.
On some occasions, Polo has been critical of ChÃ¡vez’s interferences in Colombian politics. How do you relate to the Venezuelan President?
ChÃ¡vez has made an important proposal in the middle of the tensions that developed around the conflict. Unfortunately, ChÃ¡vez sometimes does not discern what is important from what is secondary, and lends himself to the harsh criticism of the Colombian right. Nevertheless, he has put forward an extremely interesting idea, which is that of reconstituting Gran Colombia, the union between Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama, and has said that peace in Colombia is the essential condition. Here, we have not understood that, but the US have, and that is why their anti-drugs policy is like a Trojan horse in Latin America to impede this process. However, I think that Correa is the most adequate person to direct these processes.
Carlos Bula Camacho is the Secretary General of Polo DemocrÃ¡tico Alternativo.
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This post was written by Samuele Mazzolini