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Issue #1541      28 March 2012

The people’s truth in Colombia – 55 years of La Voz

Carlos Lozano is the editor of the Colombian Communist Party’s weekly newspaper La Voz. It has a wide readership and, in one of the many contradictions in that beautiful but politically oppressed country, it can be seen on sale by street corner merchants all over the capital of Bogotá and elsewhere. BOB BRITON met Carlos during a recent visit to Colombia and recorded this interview about its 55th anniversary and political developments in the country.

Carlos Lozano, editor of the Colombian Communist Party’s weekly newspaper La Voz.

Bob Briton: I notice from the masthead of its newspaper that the Colombian Communist Party (CCP) is commemorating the 55th anniversary of La Voz this year. What is the assessment of the CCP regarding the success of the paper in fulfilling its role? Has that role changed over the years?

Carlos Lozano: It’s a very important celebration that’s taking place with the 55th anniversary because we are working in very difficult circumstances in the country. It hasn’t been easy to reach the 55th anniversary for various reasons. One reason is the absence of freedom of the press in Colombia. The other has been our own weakness within the Party with regards to financing the paper and ensuring its circulation throughout the territory of the country.

Another huge factor has been the dirty war in Colombia, the suppression of our Party and the paper. In fact our previous editor, Comrade Manuel Cepeda Vargas, was assassinated. So it has been very difficult to keep publication going and we’ve had to overcome a lot of obstacles to reach this anniversary.

Another challenge we have is that La Voz, as well as being the organ of the Central Committee of the Party, has to direct itself to the entire left to try to unify those forces, in particular those under the umbrella of the Polo Democratico Alternativo (Alternative Democratic Pole). What we have to do now is to open our message up to other audiences such as the trade unions, peasants, women and other sectors in order to gather more sympathisers for the Party.

Clearly, one of the main themes in our paper right now has to be the theme of peace. Peace means different things to different people. To the Colombian oligarchy it means the surrender of the guerrilla forces. It doesn’t mean that to us. It means we are going to change the underlying social problems that led to the insurgency in this country. We are trying to carry out these social transformations in Colombia.

We have an enormous responsibility because La Voz is the point of reference of the left in Colombia for everybody. We distribute it all over the country and it comes out every Wednesday. This is something we are very proud of and everybody, including the political right, sees it as the voice of the left. As well as being the voice of the entire left it has to be the voice of our Party carrying a very clear ideological position to our members.

There are some elements who would like to separate La Voz from the Party saying the Party is an anachronism and that the paper is part of the current left. We don’t agree with that at all. We see it as an integral part of the Communist Party and, even though it is a tool for communication to the entire left, it is also a vehicle for revolutionary change in this country.

We are very proud of the fact that La Voz is not only our paper but is also a place for debate, the exchange of ideas in the country at large. Even people from the right look to it to understand our ideas and it’s an integral part of our program.

BB: What is the Party doing to mark the anniversary?

CL: We’re having this celebration at the same time as the 21st Congress of the Colombian Communist Party. This is happening at a very important point in the life of the country. We see these as events for helping to unify the left and work towards peace and a negotiated solution to the armed and social struggle in Colombia.

Every year we have the festival of La Voz. This will take place in August and this year we’re planning a mass activity for the people of Colombia and act in support of freedom of the press in the country.

We are going to hold approximately ten seminars at universities throughout the country. Members of the board of the newspaper will be in attendance. These academic events have been initiated by directors of these universities who recognise La Voz as an important part of Colombian political culture and they expect they will have a lot of interaction with students and others in the academic community.

The Party is also holding regional festivals in the bigger centres – Medellin, Baranquilla and others. That’s another important way we’re going to be celebrating the anniversary.

BB: I have heard there are a number of optimistic developments in Colombia with regards to the armed and social struggle in the country. What is your evaluation of these and what do you think the role of the PCC in them will be in them?

CL: The Party is very optimistic about these matters, particularly when it comes to the struggle of the masses. We are joining forces with other popular sectors – trade unions, other forces on the left – to face the neo-liberal offensive. We are preparing a national strike and we have a schedule of popular events. One of the really important things is the mobilisation of the students who have stopped the law that was going to privatise education at universities.

There is a sort of rebirth of the popular struggle in Colombia, which has been quiet all those years due to the dirty war, paramilitary activity, assassinations and so on. This is very important because, even though the dirty war and the assassinations continue, we have a new challenge to organise the masses and this is like a rebirth.

In terms of the armed struggle and the possibility for an end to the armed struggle, I am moderately optimistic. This is because of developments like the FARC* announcement that they are no longer going to kidnap for financial motives and are calling for a national dialogue to try to negotiate an end to the armed struggle.

The problem is there are two different focuses on how to approach this problem. One is the focus of the left, which includes the guerrillas. Our view is that to end the social conflict we have to end the reasons for it – the inequality and other social problems in the country. These aren’t “maximalist” demands; they are reforms but of a nature that can lead to an end of the crisis in Colombia.

The problem is the Colombian oligarchy, which is resisting these changes. They don’t want change. The Colombian government is scared of the reforms and of a more just society. You know as well as I do about the voracity of capitalism and how it is always trying to take our resources and extract surplus value. They are scared of a more equitable distribution of income in Colombia. They want peace with no cost. Their idea of peace is simply the demobilisation of the guerrillas or their surrender.

We Communists are humanists. We don’t want war and we do support the guerrillas when they make proposals for peace because we agree with them that peace will only come with social change in Colombia. We celebrate the gestures towards peace from the guerrillas such as the commitment to desist from kidnapping for financial ends; it is very important. But we are waiting for gestures from the government.

We are going to continue to move forward in any case because we believe we are creating the conditions in which we can pressure the Colombian government by means of a mass movement into opening up the possibility for social change in Colombia.

Colombia can’t be an exception to what is happening in the region. We have to open it up to the possibility of a more just and peaceful future. This is going to be one of the central themes at our upcoming Party Congress – how to unify the masses and how the Party can exert a greater influence in the movement. This will not only involve unity of the left. We are trying to unite with other political forces such as the Liberal Piedad Córdoba who also realises we have to have social change in the country in order to move towards a new Colombia.

There are other forces that are coming together such as those that will make up the Patriotic March [see report in The Guardian #1539 of March 14, 2012]. We are very optimistic about the possibilities in the future.

BB: Do you have any other message for the readers of The Guardian?

CL: We send our warmest fraternal greetings, a revolutionary embrace. We hope that you can multiply your advances and your successes towards a more just society in Australia. We hope that you can continue to stand in solidarity with Colombia in the struggle for peace and for the release of the political prisoners.

* The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – the main leftist guerrilla movement in Colombia.

Thanks to Mark Burton for his translation of this interview.  

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