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

Return to Home Page