BY JOSÉ CARLOS MARULANDA
Note: The following is a work of fiction projecting a reality that could very possibly unfold in Colombia given the current political and socio-economic reality.
Smoke engulfs Bogotá as far as the eye can see.
The Cerro de Monserrate, the mountain that dominates the capital city’s skyline, has become a hideout for the military commanders of the old regime — those who were unable to escape due to communist units setting up checkpoints on the main arterial highways. Most of the country’s elites, including ousted President Germán Vargas Lleras, have escaped to Miami using military helicopters.
A series of battles took place in all of the major cities between July 8-20, with the latter date being when communist forces emerged victorious in Bogotá, coinciding with the country’s 19th Century “independence” from Spain. One eye-witness from the middle-class Chapinero neighborhood recounted how the government’s military forces began to lose public support due to their indiscriminate use of force, often bombing whole neighborhoods to the ground using their U.S.-made A-10C Thunderbolt aircraft bombers.
They had finally experienced the military’s tyranny and heavy-handedness that campesino communities had been victims of for decades, but which city dwellers had always dismissed as guerrilla propaganda.
Communist forces, on the other hand, took neighborhoods by evacuating residents to designated safe areas, such as shopping malls and military barracks that had been taken over early on in the fighting. Jenny Martínez, an eyewitness, saw how many young people in the overpopulated slums of Bogotá voluntarily joined the communist units after they had read pamphlets saying they were there to protect the civilian population and ultimately take them out of poverty.
The massive compound, which only two weeks ago served as the embassy of the United States, is now in the hands of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, and National Liberation Army, ELN, communist troops. The compound has been set up as a People’s Court, where captured war criminals and paramilitaries such as former President Álvaro Uribe and others will be trialled and sentenced. Embassy staff were evacuated on July 12 once it became clear that communist forces had successfully taken over the cities of Medellín and Cali and were heading to the capital.
A 20-minute drive from the People’s Court is the Casa de Nariño, the historical presidential palace, now known as the People’s Parliament, where the new communist government will be temporarily based. Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño, the provisional president of the Democratic People’s Republic of the New Colombia, stated that they will move the parliament to a compound to the south of Bogotá where the majority of people live and work.
In a press conference given by provisional Vice President Victoria Sandino, the new government declared that their first and most urgent policy will be to turn all major supermarkets — Tiendas Jumbo, Exito and Alkosto — into emergency food, drink and medicine outlets. Since the country’s currency, the Peso, has been discontinued, people will simply have to register themselves onto a digital ration system that will allocate them a value each month that assures them their basic necessities.
The rise in food costs, which was the breaking point for Colombian society and what made millions turn to the communists for an alternative, has been reversed successfully with the new system. The multiple supermarkets, now known as Las Bodegas del Pueblo, or the People’s Warehouses, are staffed by thousands of soldiers who defected to the communist Central Command during the uprising. The provisional government has made it clear that the People’s Warehouses are only a temporary measure as they work towards organizing worker cooperatives that will control the country’s diverse industries and equally distribute all the wealth among citizens in their respective neighborhoods.
Even though the cities are engulfed by a thick smoke from the various battles between communist troops and the military, the mood on the streets is one of hope and joy at what everyone is calling the “New Colombia.” Millions across the country have joined the Brigada Nueva Colombia, the New Colombia Brigade, dedicated to cleaning up the debris left behind by the war. The brigades are also in charge of making sure each barrio has access to basic healthcare, especially in the regions most affected by the war.
There are still quite a number of citizens, especially in middle-class sectors, who do not agree with the revolution and want the country to return to “democracy.” The provisional government has encouraged the brigades to open spaces where everyone can debate and discuss tensions created by the current political and economic environment.
The new government’s army has grown from an initial 55,000 at the start of the war to an astounding 1.5 million, about four times the size of the old government’s regular army. Another one million civilians have enlisted in a civil militia commanded by communist leaders to protect the new republic from any potential invasions led by the U.S. and the European Union.
The United States, Canada, the European Union, Brazil, Peru, Chile and Argentina have announced sanctions against the new republic, stating that the communists must immediately hand over government powers to the United Nations until they are able to hold “free elections.” China and Russia have warned Western powers that any military move would be vetoed by them and that they would have no option but to give the new government political and military aid if they make a move.
As a response to the threats made by the U.S. and their allies, the provisional president, Londoño, and the military chief, Pablo Beltran, have stated in a press conference that there will be elections in which citizens will elect members of the Communist Party to the Council of State. Legislative power is currently suspended but will resume by mid-August, when citizens will elect a new National Constituent Assembly made up of Communist Party members.
It was also announced that they will not negotiate any internal affairs with foreign powers, but will meet with Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia to help the country transition from “a period of revolutionary war” to one of “revolutionary democracy.” They have also made it clear that they won’t copy any country’s process as they understand that Colombia has its own unique culture and political and economic conditions.
The new government and its leaders have also expressed deep gratitude to the Latin American diaspora in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom for their financial contributions which allowed the communist army to purchase weapons and print pamphlets. Sandino asked that Colombians who had to flee the country due to state violence return and that they would be guaranteed housing, food and roles in the new cooperatives.
Since the communist troops finally shut down the old regime’s channels, which moved their operations to Miami, there has only been one channel on TV. The new channel, Nueva Colombia, operates 24 hours a day and has recruited thousands of journalists who have left their old employers to help with the new communist project. The format of the new channel is distinctly informal and bears no resemblance to Caracol and RCN, which are now funded and operated from the United States.
The channel is based in the Universidad Nacional, where the new Ministry of Education is also based. According to Education Minister Alfredo Molano, education will now be free from nursery to university level. He also stated that whilst the old regime focused on students pursuing individual careers, the new system will prioritize student groups who will be trained and then move to rural communities where they will, in turn, teach the population the skills they have learnt.
The themes prioritized by the new government in schools are sustainable agro-development, national self-sufficiency, socialist architecture, urban planning and socialist industrial production.
To conclude, Colombia has been transformed in every sense in the space of just over two weeks.
A communist revolution which was seemingly not on the table has, after a short bloody war, been achieved by a relatively small group who had the courage to play out their dreams of a more just and fair society. Although in its early stages yet, the Democratic People’s Republic of the New Colombia is already uprooting the old system and bringing about a new society where everyone, except the old capitalist elite, is given a chance to live in peace and to their full human capacity.