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Colombia struggles to survive terrorist wave

  • (July 1999) Colombia struggles to survive terrorist wave. The FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) and the ELN (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional) is taking advantage of the worst economic crisis in the history of Colombia (gross national product grew constantly during the 80's and most of the 90's and it's declining now for the first time), especially in the poor southeastern part of the country.
    Andres Pastrana is continuing a tradition of questionable presidents. He started some of the most questionable constructions that have cost Colombia ten and twelve times more than it was formerly planned. He was owner and shareholder of companies favored during his government in the transportations, media and disposal industry. Right after he lost the elections, he caused a major crisis in Colombia by revealing narco-cassettes content to the press.
    Colombians would gladly welcome a more authoritarian figure, capable of doing what Alberto Fujimori did in Peru.

    Colombia is literally the last outpost of the marxist guerrillas that threatened the stability of Latin America. The FARC and the other smaller rebel groups have carved out a piece of the country for themselves. Pedro Antonio Marin (better known as Manuel Marulanda), who succeeded Jacobo Arenas in 1990, leads an army of about 15,000 men, cannot be dismissed as an accident of incompetent generals. His guerrillas are a legacy of the drug cartels. On one hand, it is fairly easy for them to recruit armed bandits that used to transport, sell, control drugs. On the other hand, they can use their growing arsenal to protect drug routes at a fee. The money they receive from drug traffickers is used to buy guns and recruit bandits. The loop has been growing in financial size over the years and it has now reached proportions that threaten the stability of the country. Blame it on the cartels, blame it on the inertia of the Colombian political elite, which has never dared fight the cartels, blame it on Colombians themselves, who voted one corrupted and weak leader after the other, but ultimately blame it on the USA, where Colombian heroin flows by the millions of dollars. The guns that Marulanda uses to kill Colombian paesants have been purchased with money payed by Americans to purchase heroin. It is no mystery that the DEA has failed to assist the Colombian government, that no US drug trafficker has ever been arrested, that only poor drug addicts end up in American jails. The whole American system has failed to fight the spread of drugs, and the unwanted consequence is the destabilization of Colombia. 110,000 hectares of land are now owned by coca-growers.
    Incidentally, 40-50 civilians a month are killed by right-wing paramilitaries, far more than by the FARC. There are nine major militias, with a total of about 10,000 soldiers. Carlos Castano, leader of the largest militia, has never been hunted as fiercely as the FARC leaders (as a matter of fact, neither Colombia nor the US has ever offered a reward for information leading to his arrest). Ramon Isaza, founder of the first right-wing paramilitary groups in 1978, has been responsible for 360 murders in the first seven months of 1999 alone.
    The year 1992 (when the most feared drug-lord of all, Pablo Escobar, was killed in a shoot-out with the Colombian army) was a turning point in Colombia history but not for the best: the money and the weapons started flowing towards the guerrilla leaders.

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