Colombia and the 'War' on Terror: Rhetoric and Reality

The Islamic fundamentalism that inspired the September 11 2001 attacks on the United States is unknown in Colombia. Yet the aftermath has changed the country’s relationship to the world and especially America.

The World Today Updated 16 October 2020 Published 1 March 2004 5 minute READ

Robin Kirk

Colombia Specialist at Human Rights Watch

Colombia’s decades-old internal armed dispute is now described and understood differently, through the newly energised rhetoric of a global ‘war’ on terrorism. The political incentive behind such rhetoric is obvious: it allows Colombia to reposition its conflict as worthy of international attention and, with it, financial and military support for government efforts to combat the violence.

But there are other more disturbing consequences. Particularly when terrorism is presented as a phenomenon influenced by or linked to the Middle East, it can mask serious deficiencies or even profound contradictions in the way that Colombia and its allies search for an end to political violence, respond to groups that employ terror, and develop realistic solutions to the country’s problems.

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