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Citizens Suffer from Conflict in Colombia

Citizens Suffer from Conflict in Colombia

Earlier this week, I sat in my Economics class and listened to a disturbingly depressing lecture on the “War on Drugs”. It’s one of those subjects that are especially controversial. In the world of economics, the arguments revolve around which is more profitable: maintaining the status quo, decriminalizing drugs, or legalizing and regulating drugs? I wasn’t quite sure how to formulate my opinion on the issue for several reasons. First of all, I am only a senior in high school and by no means feel like I have firm grasp on the economic elements that make the world go round. Second of all, I feel that I have a strong bias founded in the fact that – call me a traditionalist if you want – I think drugs are really bad for people and no amount of GDP increase will change that.
    Regardless, as my teacher continued the discussion, I found myself stuck on a certain facet of the topic – one of the most heart-breaking stories that has been unfolding throughout the past several decades: the struggling South American nation of Colombia. Colombia, more so than others, has been torn apart by the drug industry that has grown extremely rapidly – a fact that serves as the lethal cherry on top of the giant cake of explosive materials. The country has already been struggling for virtually its entire existence, dealing with political conflicts that have victimized millions of innocent citizens.
     Currently, the Colombian government struggles to keep its head above the toxic waters of the struggle, receiving a meager amount of financial backing to fight the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), guerilla organizations that brings in billions more than the Colombian government, principally from illegal drug trading.
    On a slightly brighter note, however, Amnesty International reported earlier this week that the FARC has set free two hostages that were captured in 2002. The guerilla group has accumulated a significant number of war crimes on their record through thousands of abductions. Unfortunately, the FARC still holds countless people hostage, some of whom were kidnapped more than 11 years ago. The Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, has attempted to negotiate the release of many of the hostages; however, the FARC refuses to release any unless it is in an exchange of FARC members who are currently in prison.
    The turmoil in Colombia has reached epic proportions, largely because of the atrocious drug issue. However, the war on drugs has overshadowed less prominent but incredibly significant human rights violations that are also taking place in the country. Statistics have shown that a shockingly large number of persons have been internally displaced, more than half of whom are women (one fifth of whom are victims of sexual abuse). Amnesty International is fighting vigorously to influence leaders to help better the situation of the country; but, looking at the events up to date, it is clear that Colombia is going to need nothing short of a miracle to fix this crisis.

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Gretha Loubser

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7 comments

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8:07AM PST on Feb 18, 2009

Let me begin by thanking Gretha for a very insightful article. The War on Drugs, however, is not about oil. Although Colombia is the fifth largest oil producer in South America with reserves of 1.3 billion barrels, it pales in comparison with Venezuela (99 billion) and Brazil (12 billion). Furthermore, multinational corporations already hold significant sway in the politics of the country (if we stick to oil, BP owns the rights to the largest oil reserves in Colombia). The War on Drugs, however, has provided the US with an unconditional ally in a region that has shown increasing signs of independence and distancing from the American party line. What we have here are Cold War sphere-of-influence-politics at their worst. America must stand to defend the sovereignty of a nation-state, not because of the intrinsic value of such organization, but because their so-called independence serves as a foil for the international capitalist markets in which American interest reign supreme. American imperialism is not based on territorial expansion, or direct control of foreign resources, but the maintenance of a system, which under the guise of the freedom and independence of nation states, furthers neo-liberal agendas that retain social and economic inequalities in order to sustain the status-quo.
In the Colombian case, the next step in this process will be the passage of a free trade agreement that will allow new corporations to occupy the land vacated by those displaced by the war.

2:15PM PST on Feb 17, 2009

Firstly I congratulate Gretha on the article.
Secondly, while you go on about American interests, the point here is Colombian interests. Last year I was on a peace march with millions of Colombians, all wanting the Guerrilla to stop, an elderly couple in front of me came from a small town, they were carrying a photo of their son, a pliceman who was kidnapped 11 years ago. Everyone mentioned that they wanted to get rid of the guerrilla - no one made any reference to the US. In the last two days it has been confirmed that the guerilla have brutally murdered a number of indiginous tribespeople, when other members of the tribe went to try and recover the bodies they had to call for the military to help as the body was ringed with land-mines. Last night, in a meeting of a foundation I help run, to sponsor poor kids in schools in a slum area of the city, we were told by a resident that in the last few weeks there have been daily gun battles; one of our kids has a stray bullet in his neck. Even worse, the police are afraid to go in because the guerilla are paying around USD1,000 for every policeman killed, with weapons that they supply. The wort of all - it's 13, 14, 15 year old kids that they're paying to do the killing.
Things have VASTLY improved in the last few years, due in a large part to American funding.
I haven't read the books, I've talked to the people here. They want to get rid of the guerilla, the killings and the kidnappings, and they support President Uribe and his

7:19PM PST on Feb 16, 2009

Inevitable Revolutons by Walter La Feber, will show you that American interests in Latin America have always perpetuated poverty, oppression and murder in the name of Capitalism. From Spanish rule, British rule and American rule, Latin America has always been regarded as product, while the people are regarded as slaves and targets. America is the largest terrorist State.

7:05PM PST on Feb 16, 2009

Amnesty International will tell you that most of the problems stem from all that U.S "aid" and guns getting into paramilitary groups. THey will also tell you that the main issue that is not publicized is that North America stays involved in hopes of getting it's hands on all the gems and oil in Colombia. Pamylle G is absolutely right! The war on drugs is a smokescreen and it is all the indigenous people who get hurt. There was an entire Amnesty International film on it.

9:32AM PST on Feb 16, 2009

The Columbian government is one of the largest recipients of US military aid (largest in the western hemisphere) even though it has a horrible human rights record. Since 1994 Amnesty International has called for a complete cut off of military aid until the government's human rights record improves. US involvement is mostly about securing Columbia's oil reserves. I doubt you'll learn much about what goes on in school and would also recommend "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" or http://www.amazonwatch.org/amazon/CO/plancol/index.php?page_number=1

6:16AM PST on Feb 16, 2009

Great point Pamylle. I have read that book and it is very eye-opening. I am also keeping my eye on Bolivia as that nation is going through some political and social changes that are geared to the indigenous people there. The same thing exists too that the multinationals and forgein investors want to extract the local national resources for thier own wealth. I hope nothing happens to thier president Morales but I fear there are already forgein led plots against his safety already.

4:59AM PST on Feb 16, 2009

The "war on drugs" is a smokescreen for many other activities, particulary the role of U.S. "interests" and multinational corporations. The people who suffer the most are the indigenous population - who continue to be at the bottom of society in their own homeland. Do not listen to any news spin on the U.S. mainstream media - it is all distorted in favor of huge financial interests. I highly recommend John Perkins' "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" to get a sense of how this dynamic really works.

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