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The recent publication of the book by Alfredo Molano En Medio del Magdalena Medio offers us the the opportunity to look again at various issues of political importance in Colombia: social partnership as a mechanism of conflict resolution; African palm as an alternative for the country and the role of the World Bank.

Molano has a positive positive position towards the World Bank and African palm, which may surprise more than one reader of his columns in El Espectdor and, unsurprisingly, he believes in social partnership as mechanism for development. Here I will try to deal with the political questions and not engage in a journalistic critique of the book as such, although there are some aspects of that which are inevitable. However, I must point out that the book is full of mistakes and inaccuracies, although for reasons of space they won’t be dealt with here.

In 1998 more than 10,000 peasants took over the city of Barrancabermeja and occupied it for a total of 103 days. The Peasant Exodus, as it was known, was the result of the non fulfilment of the accords signed with the government in 1996; poverty, neglect of the State and the violence meted out to the communities in Southern Bolivar and the Valley of the Cimitarra River. That violence was generalised throughout the region. Prior to the mobilisation, the Mesa Regional (Regional Roundtable) was created and comprised the Peasant Association of the Valley of the Cimitarra River (ACVC) and the Agromining Association of Southern Bolivar, now known as the Agromining Federation of Southern Bolivar (Fedeagrominisbol). In this book we are offered a different vision, as it states that the central point of the “discussion was the full validity of human rights and in particular the protection of the lives of the inhabitants of the Cimitarra Valley”. In reality it aimed to protect the lives of the inhabitants of both the Cimitarra Valley and Southern Bolivar in general as well as a whole series of socio-economic demands. So much so that of the spokespersons for the Mesa, three were Agrominers, amongst them the disappeared leader Edgar Quiroga and three were from the ACVC, amongst the Libardo Traslaviña who is currently in exile. Molano continues to inform us that “in the roundtable starring roles were played by CREDHOS, OFP and the PDPMM” ignoring the starring role of the two social organisations from the region in order to praise those that did not form part of the roundtable but rather accompanied the Exodus. (...)

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh