Thursday, August 18, 2022

A Brief History of Violence in Colombia

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Colombia is a young country, it has no more than 300 years of history. Before the Discovery and Conquest by Cristóbal Colón in 1492, a large number of indigenous tribes inhabited the territory. They didn’t have a calendar, neither writing nor numerical systems. They had cultures,songs and pottery. A view of the world. The biggest tribes were led by single rulers. Social complexity was not of a state, which is based mostly on animal domestication and food production. And they were naturally violent, as any other living creature in this planet.

Colón came and the Spaniards settled. European tradition spent the following two hundred years adapting this land to their view of things. By the XIX century, the Colony was established, with towns and markets and cities and political parties. Violence happened naturally, as in any colony in this planet.

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After the war of independence, Colombia has been really violent ever since. It all led one war after another, until 1903 when the War of the Thousand Days left the territory unable to perform any other entrepreneur, peaceful or bellicose, for some thirty years, in which the country decided to invest in reconstruction and building a modern world. But, again, near the decade of the 30’s, violence encountered the souls of leaders and civilians alike, and it was again war, as in any unstable state in this planet.

One leader rose, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a liberal by heart, and as he gained popular support, threatened the conservatives with overtaking power. He would have become a truthful president, but in 1948 was assassinated, and it led to another civil war. El Bogotazo burst out with full might. The Years of the Violence got their own name in history.

The military took over. From that time on, the two fractions were at open-battle against each other. People who belonged to a party, had to flee from their lands if they belonged to the other; if you happened to find yourself in the enemy’s territory, or with the wrong color’s shirt, you would be killed for sure. As in any other civil world in this planet.

General Rojas Pinilla was the man in charge for some five years, since the death of Gaitán until the Frente Nacional was decreed. This political maneuver determined that every presidential period would be carried by a party, and the next one by the other. It was a plebiscite decided by General Rojas Pinilla, and lasted from 1958 until 1974. However, since the Years of Violence, a number of armed groups started to form. Major groups flourished in the 60’s: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), Ejército Popular the Liberación (EPL), among others. And they did guerrilla war, like any other guerrilla in this planet.

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Due to this increasing of confrontations between parties and ideologies — as in any state yet to be formed (a biological thing) — left the population in the middle of the struggle, and many were killed. Entire families, from the agricultural sector, were displaced and their wandering steps led them to populate the main cities, but to settle in no-man’s land. Thus, slums were created. The government, busy as it was, had no way to incorporate this massive amount of people into civil life, and they were left on their own for decades. As in any natural, perilous environment, full of hatred and hunger, delinquent groups started to form in the slums as well.

Pablo Escobar copied a business idea from the drug tradition of Vietnam, discovered during the war, and made it flourish world-wide. This made Colombian violence step up to the next level. It went international. During the following three decades, drug dealers have recruited ready-to-fire children from the slums, turned them into hitmen, and the world has profited from the market of drugs and arms like never before.

It is 2015, and those armed fractions, are far from in-wont of settling down. As in any natural environment in this world, violence — as the Greeks of old understood — in the father of all things.

By Santiago Bustamante

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