ESSAY: The Colombian conflict: from ideology to drug traffic

Mali Navia | Contributor

523229_10151433041805015_1040041980_nFor more than 60 years, Colombia has been living in fear and terror caused by a long and complicated conflict. The complexity of the conflict resides in the number of actors implicated in it. These actors are, The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARCS), the Paramilitaries, drug Cartels and the State. Their present Government have now started negotiations with the FARC in order to resolve this conflict. To clearly understand what is at stake, here is a retrospective of the Colombian Civil war.

 – In April 1948, the head of the Liberal Colombian Party Jorge Eliécer Gaitan was assassinated. Without rivals, the Conservative Party was elected in 1950. Some political groups were then under the influence of the Cuban revolution and driven by the Che’s ideology and discourse. The people started to reunite against the Conservative party’s politics and the Civil War known as ‘’La violencia’’ started. During this conflict, more than 200 000 perished in less than four years. It was also the beginning of the first Guerrillas. In 1964, Manuel Marulanda Velez forms the FARC. These terrorist groups were considered left wing revolutionaries and were fighting for a better repartition of Colombia’s resources. Although the main principle may seem fair, they used violence and symbolic attacks to propagate their message. In order to finance their operation they also started sequestrating people for ransom.

 -In the meantime, the Government was encouraging the formation of Paramilitary groups that would fight the Guerrillas. These groups where mainly form by peasants and militaries who suffered from the Guerrillas violent acts.  Even though there were also responsible for violence and sequestration, they were tolerated and even partially financed by the State. The Paramilitaries were working officially or non-officially with the Colombian Army against the FARC. It is only during the 1980’s, when they got involved with some drug Cartels that the State decided to make the Paramilitary groups illegal. Since their formation, Paramilitaries have been held responsible for more than 70 per cent of murders and sequestration that occurred in Colombia during this period. However, due to their ambiguous legal status, they rarely purged any type of sentence.

On their side, the FARCS also got involved in drug traffic to finance their operations. The conflict between the FARC and the Paramilitaries became less ideological and more territorial. Both parties would associate with drug lords, allowing them to cultivate Cocaïne on their territories in exchange for a part of the profits.

 In 2002, the Uribe Government tries to implement a programme to encourage the social reintegration of Paramilitaries members. In exchange for their weapons, they would be given a job and a chance to live a normal life. This program was heavily criticised by the international community because it was like giving to thousands of criminals a get out of jail free card. This initiative was far from being a success since most paramilitaries groups continued their activities.

As for the FARC, the Uribe government has shown to be firm and pitiless towards them. He reinforced military presence all over Colombia and was also supported by the U.S. Government. His drastic mesures have had a significative impact on the portion of territory controled by the FARCS and their number of soldiers decreased dramatically. However, these methods have been openly criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The on going negociations are crucial in Colombia’s future. It is not the first attempt to find a peaceful solution to the conflict but both sides have reasons to be more compliant than before. According to both parties, the negociations are realistic because they do not include discussion on demilitarisation or the ceasing of military activities. The position of the Governement is simple, they want a permanent cease fire. The FARC are asking for a place on the political scene and social reintegration of the guerilleros. The war against drug traffic will also be a main topic during these negotiations.

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