Colombia has been plagued by violence for the past 40 years.  Leftist guerrillas are battling both the government and right wing paramilitaries for control over the country.  The two largest and most prominent left wing organizations are the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), both of which claim to promote Marxist ideology and are working to overthrow the current Colombian government.  On the right, there are numerous bands of paramilitary organizations, most of which are organized under the umbrella organization the United-Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).  Landlords and other upper-income civilians mobilized the self-defense forces in response to the abuses of the left-wing guerrilla groups.  While they were formed for self-defense, the AUC groups often attack trade unionists and peasant leaders, who they see as “pro-guerrilla.” Both sides are heavily linked to the drug trade within the country, and both target civilians thought to be collaborating with the other side.  Drug trafficking and kidnapping ransoms are the two main ways in which the rebel groups finance their attacks.  The nature of the massacres committed in the country is often extremely brutal and involves mutilation and torture.   

In 1998 President Andres Pastrana Arango granted FARC a safe haven in the south-east, and in 1999 peace talks were formally launched between the government and the rebels.  Peace talks ensued for another three years.  However, in February 2002, Pastrana broke off peace talks with the rebels and ordered them out of the demilitarized zone.  Current President Alvaro Uribe, who came to power promising to crack down on the rebel groups, brought the groups to negotiate peace; however, the AUC withdrew, causing concerns of further deterioration of the situation.

The country is still marked as one of the most dangerous places in the world, but communities do not seem anymore to be specifically targeted. Threats and kidnappings of politicians frequently occur, but despite continuous threats and continuous harassment of union workers by the AUC, there were no reports of massive, serious human rights abuses.

Latest News Links:

Colombia fears rebels killing deserters
June 13, 2003

Trade Unionists condemn Colombia
June 10, 2003

Colombian rebels execute 10 hostages as army attempts rescue
May 7, 2003,11502,950520,00.html 

Analysis: Colombia’s security crisis
May 4, 2002

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