Colombia: Colombian Catastrophe

Colombia is caught in a war without principles, which might produce peace without honour. Drug dealing organisations have amassed enormous wealth and power – much of it now legitimate. The state is failing and armed groups are creating terror at the expense of human rights. Real change is needed – not more military aid or intervention.

The World Today Updated 27 October 2020 Published 1 January 2000 4 minute READ

Juan Gabriel Tokatlian

Associate Professor, Institute de Estudios Políticios y Relaciones Internacionales, Colombian National University

The situation in Colombia is terrifying. Political violence has produced ten deaths a day for a whole decade. Nearly a hundred municipalities are ghost towns, having been devastated by left-wing guerrillas. In 1998 alone there were almost two hundred massacres with 1,231 defenceless victims.

The majority of these were committed by right-wing paramilitaries operating with the support of state security forces, many large landowners and some local political bosses. The political disappeared number around 4,000.

Between January 1998 and last September, there were about 3,000 kidnappings. These were mostly carried out by guerrillas, paramilitaries, criminal gangs and even by police and military personnel. More than a quarter of a million people have been murdered in the 1990s. In the same period, some 300,000 Colombians opted to leave their country. Since the late 1980s, more than a million and a half people have been internally displaced or become refugees.

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