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Colombia, the United States, and Montesquieu

In this column, Johan Galtung, rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University and author of ‘50 Years - 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives’, writes that structural violence in the U.S. and Colombia will continue until the old cycle of power is interrupted. In Colombia, the triumvirate of landowners-military-clerics must be replaced by expanded zones of peace, and the U.S. must break the structural links between the Pentagon, Congress, the military industry and the media, which exist to ensure the continued domination of the U.S. dollar, rather than the well-being of the people.

ALFAZ, Spain, Jun 18 2013 (IPS) - The United States and Colombia are the leaders in mental anxiety in the Americas.

Both have good reasons: Colombia has witnessed the longest lasting violence in any contemporary country: from 1949, with some interruptions, then on again from 1964 with the notorious guerilla group, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

Johan Galtung, rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University. Credit: IPS

Johan Galtung, rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University. Credit: IPS

The U.S., with its conviction that evil is lurking around every corner, domestic and global, believes it better have the arms to handle those bad guys.

Both countries have among the highest rates of structural violence, and the most unequal distributions of economic wealth, in the world.

There is a difference, though: one country submits its problem to third party mediation, of all places in Havana, facilitated by Cuba and Norway; the other submits its problem to nobody, nor does anyone seem to offer their services.

Colombia admits openly to the world that it does not have sufficient capacity for self-regulation; from the U.S. no such admission has been forthcoming.

Recently there was news from Havana: a breakthrough in the peace negotiations about a rather basic economic issue: land, and land reform – a redistribution of land, and of better land, to small impoverished peasants.

There are four other problems on the agenda: political participation (the problem being real democracy), ceasefire, drugs, and the rights of the victims and the bereaved in a country where four million have been displaced and thousands kidnapped and killed.

Reasons to celebrate? Wait. The class differences in a country ruled by the triumvirate of landowners, the military and clerics (like three brothers in many families – the Iberian heritage) force upon us a sad prediction: there will be one more military coup in the chain of coups, supported by the Church.

Let us not pray. Let us hope for disarmament of the FARC and the other guerrillas (particularly the reactionary paramilitary) and control of the army, lest we end up with Nepal: disarmament to the left, not centre-right.

To produce food, not only land, but also water, seeds, manure and some technology are needed. Water and seeds may become privatised – by Monsanto – so where does the credit to buy these inputs come from? And at what price?

What’s needed is collective, cooperative farming on communal land with direct democracy for decisions, not corruptible multi-party national elections. And can farming compete with drug commissions when drugs change hands until finally traveling via submarines to the U.S.? Or on the long road to the Mexican border?

Small farms cannot compete; cooperatives would do better. Well, let’s hope.

Expand the zones of peace, have them intersect, and aim at all of huge Colombia.

The U.S.: On May 23, President Barack Obama concluded that he should pull back the drones, and close the Guantanamo prison. Does he have the guts to do so, by executive orders, using vetoes?

There will be no military coup in the U.S. There are permanent, structural links between the Pentagon, Congress, the military industry and the media (owned by the former, and for whom news of peace is bad news) designed to keep the war industry going.

That industry has one major purpose: to stamp out any initiative to eliminate the special status of the dollar as the world’s “reserve currency” – like by Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, by Iran, now by BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) – so that the U.S. can pay by printing money, and even get the naive to buy U.S. bonds, meaning lending the U.S. petro-dollars or China dollars.

Alas, the U.S.’ efforts are self-defeating. The more wars against terror for U.S. security, the more insecurity and terrorism; the more wars to save the dollar, the closer the collapse of the currency of that bankrupt country: by inflation, by stock exchange crashes, by serving debts rather than people.

The synergy of these three factors will catch up with the economy. In the meantime Monsanto is at work, like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other lobbies threatening anyone whose voting is not to their liking that they will not be reelected.

The finance industry is at work forcing the administration to withdraw one step behind the other from the tiny measures introduced after the Grand Repression to control the finance industry.

The U.S. Supreme Court did its part of the job granting money to politicians under “freedom of expression.”

And Obama did his job, offering to cut Social Security entitlements in return for some compromise with Republicans, the average retirement package in the U.S. now being only 40 percent of a salary as opposed to 70 percent in developed countries.

Montesquieu’s plan of separating legislative, executive and judiciary power so that they check each other does not work. In the U.S. today all three powers are on the same course set by the finance industry, to which the dollar status is key.

Politicians are bought and cowed and the president once again betrays those who elected him. Democracy does not work. The U.S. blessing – the Occupy Movement – was itself occupied: by armies of FBI agents.

All of this and worse was Colombia’s fate; the answer was FARC, armed revolt. Will there be a similar armed revolt in the U.S., given that the guns are well distributed?

For Anglo-American global direct violence, yes. As the suspected Boston bombers said, an attack on one Muslim is an attack on all Muslims, an eye for an eye – except when it comes to domestic structural violence.

Let us hope for the revival of Montesquieu and democracy or, if not, submission to outside mediation.

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