Colombia: Escalation of Murders, Drugs and Uribism

From Bogota

Colombia overflows with death and drugs. The last murder was that of Esteban Mosquera, a student leader, Sicariado in Popayán, capital of the department of Cauca, one of the most marked by violence, producer of coca and marijuana. Right there, in Cauca, in the town of Santander de Quilichao, three people were murdered the day before. That same Sunday, they killed a social leader in the rural area of ​​Cúcuta, Norte de Santander department, on the border with Venezuela, an area with the largest amount of coca crops in the country.

The numbers speak for themselves: only in 2021 67 massacres occurred with 243 victims, 109 social leaders were killed and 35 signatories of the 2016 Peace Agreement between Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), and the massive population displacements, like those that occurred in the department of Ituango weeks ago. It is an escalation of violence that has deepened since Iván Duque assumed the presidency in 2018, and that there is nothing to indicate that it will stop.

The drug business

Armed violence is not new in Colombia, it is, in fact, constant. There is a continuity that can be traced from the assassination of Jorge Eliecer Gaitán in 1948, the first guerrilla formations, a plot that has a point of modification from the end of the 70s with the appearance followed by the rise and reign of drugs, and its transverse impact. Carlos Castaño, criminal and leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the main paramilitary organization Between 1994 and 2006, he explained it to the French philosopher Bernard Henry-Lévy in a conversation published in 2001: “this conflict is linked to drugs and cannot be understood at all if one does not continually think in terms of drugs.”

The drug business explains, as a common thread, a central part of the politics and violence in Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine producer. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2020 143 thousand hectares of illicit crops were counted, a number that decreased 7% compared to 2019, but with an 8% increase in yield due to technological changes, going from 1,337 tons per hectare to 1,228.

This is not an invisible business. The plantations, at various sites, are situated in places of public knowledge. Their presence marks with blood and fire the dynamics of the territories, where different Armed groups are fighting for control of vast areas of cultivation and circulation routes. Producing is the first step, it continues the transformation into drugs and their exports with a central destination to the United States, the main consumer country. “There are very few importers of sulfuric acid, acetone, glycerin, which are products they use to refine cocaine. Who has the technology to set up a laboratory? Who has the economy to buy these imported products? They are not the peasants, ”explains, for example, César Díaz, spokesman for the Integration Committee of the Colombian Massif of Cauca and Nariño.

The chain has several links. The first is the peasantry, in a country with a neoliberal economy: producing coca was one of the main options when the economic opening began at the beginning of the 90s, under the presidency of César Gaviria, installing a model that, since then, has deepened . Then there are the other actors: Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, armed groups, dissidents post Peace Accords, paramilitaries, members of the Military Forces, politicians, businessmen, ranchers, bankers, until conforming what in Colombia is known as parapolitics and, as many say, a narco-state.

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This evolution and metamorphosis of actors is at the heart of 40 years of history. Some were modified, the posters, for example, opted for discretion and their best propaganda: do not talk about them. The paramilitary groups went from small structures in the 80s, to a parallel army articulated to sectors of the Military Forces in the 90s, to return in the last 15 years to regional formations, such as the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia or the Rastrojos. The parties are connected, thus, some drug trafficking bosses were also paramilitaries, like alias Don Berna, and in the center there is always the same business and a man who appears from beginning to end: Álvaro Uribe.

The former president and leader of the current government party, Centro Democrático, connects with all parties: the Medellín cartel, the Sinaloa cartel, the AUC and their Dantesque massacres, the evolution of paramilitary formations and drug circuits, with a protection by Washington which has in Colombia a nerve center on the continent with a permanent deployment of military and anti-drug agencies. Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s vice president, called Uribe a “hero” in August 2020, when he had to face house arrest. Uribe’s story was publicly denounced, for example, by Senator Iván Cepeda.

The current president, Iván Duque, is involved, in turn, in different links with drug traffickers and paramilitaries: his presidential campaign pilot, Samuel Niño Cataño, was part of the Sinaloa cartel and contributed to the Uribe Senate campaign; appeared photographed together to the drug trafficker Ñeñe Hernández that he bought votes in his presidential campaign and was part of the La Guajira cartel until he was hired; or photographed with Tony Intriago and Alfred Santamaría, businessmen who hired the mercenaries who assassinated the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moise.

Colombia is overflowing with violence, drugs and evidence of ties to Uribism. The systematic murders of social leaders, of human rights, members of the demobilized Farc, the massacres, are part of a territory control strategy for the business of illicit crops or projects, for example, miners, for the permanent injection of terror into the social fabric, and for the attempt to paralyze communities and organizations.

In these actions, the illegal armed groups that operate in the territories appear publicly, and the sectors of the Armed Forces and politicians that are a central part of the plot are invisible – in national terms – actors who appear periodically involved in scandals that link them with some of the business areas that explains a large part of death in Colombia.


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