“We are grateful for the people of the world who have fought for colombia’s peace”.
Colombia is a country with 48 million inhabitants, and since reaching independence in 1810 from Spain has tried to reach political stability. However, geographical conditions, the Andeans mountains, have divided the country in three ridges. Integrating all regions has been very difficult. Civil wars in the nineteenth century were the way to build the Colombian nation, and in the twentieth century, although progress was obtained, social conflicts have divided the country. The liberal leader, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, was assassinated in 1948, when he would have been elected president, and the violence spread into the entire country, which left 300,000 murdered. The communist guerrilla FARC movement was created in 1964 as peasant resistance against the violence and a fight for lands. Belisario Betancur in 1982 started a peace process to answer the problem with the FARC, but it was a failure. In February of 2000 the president of Colombia of that time, Andres Pastrana Arango, was forced again to cancel the peace process he started. At this moment, the Colombian government of Juan Manuel Santos is trying to reach an agreement with the FARC in La Habana to end the armed conflict, which has remained for almost fifty years. However, right now a hard-right wing presidential candidate could end the fragile dream of peace and modernity for the next generation. In general, the armed conflict in Colombia has had three consequences.
First, Colombian people have been living with a humanitarian crisis and a systematic violation of human rights. The Union Patriotica political party, which was created by the FARC during the peace process of the government of Belisario Betancur, was exterminated. Furthermore, according to Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES), there were 250,000 people displaced by armed conflict in 2012, but it is difficult to be precise the exact number of displaced or killed since 1982, beginning of the peace process, until now. But, for sure, the most severely affected by the armed conflict has been civil society. According to the Centro de Memoria Histórica (CMH), Paramilitary forces, irregular army created to combat the guerillas, committed 1116 massacres and the FARC took hostages, kidnapped civilians and destroyed towns to attack police stations with cylinder pumps in the south of Colombia. To sum up, life is the first casualty of armed conflict.
Second, without political stability, it is impossible to think about human development. Colombia had a similar GNP to South Korea in 1950, since that time the latter has invested in education, and with few natural resources has a strong economy and better social indicators than Colombia. According to Departamento Nacional de Estadística from Colombia (DANE), 32 percent of the population in Colombia is poor and 10 percent are extremely poor. Moreover, the national budget has had to invest in military and police to protect infrastructure and to defend a weak state. Some foreign companies have abstained from investing in Colombia, considering it a risky country, and only large oil and coal companies feel their investment save safe. However, this had little impact in the region to transform the conditions of the people. As we have seen, political stability is a requirement for human development.
Third, in Colombia today the cocaine economy feeds the armed conflict. The FARC handles 50% of this business, which reports great incomes every year. They are at war to control territories to ensure production and to manage the routes to export abroad. Furthermore, the cocaine cartels defend this profitable business with deadly force, and the FARC wants an attractive treaty with the Colombian government to guaranty political participation for the guerrillas and to resolve the problems of the peasants’ lands. To sum up, the cocaine economy will continue to feed the armed conflict in Colombia.
In conclusion, the lack of political stability in Colombia has brought a humanitarian crisis and a violation of human rights. Colombia has excluded many people from human development and access to opportunities to obtain a life with dignity. Moreover, the same armed conflict ensures that these conditions will continue. However, the Colombian Government, the FARC and the Colombian people must have the political will to end this situation, which has remained for too long.