Colombia: March 17, 2000


The guerrilla war in Colombia is a product of the culture there. While Colombia has had democracy for longer than any country in the hemisphere except the US, this has been a strange "winner take all" version of the original Greek concept. The losers are not simply sent to private jobs until the next election, but oppressed by the winners who do just about anything to stay in power. Corruption is rampant, and so is crime and conflict. There has been a civil war in Colombia in almost every decade, including the Thousand Day War in 1899-1902 during which 100,000 people were killed. The next major upheaval was The Violence in 1948-58, during which 200,000 people died. The current rebels (FARC, ELN) and the militia units (described as "right wing" simply because the American media doesn't know what else to call them) are nothing new, but just the latest in similar forces that have been active in Colombia for a century and a half. The current situation has become desperate simply because the drug trade has, for the first time, provided a rebel force with a dependable stream of income with which to buy weapons. --Stephen V Cole


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