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Colombia: “Genesis”

Explaining the inspiration to start a blog, “Bacata” writes, “I decided to set this blog so to allow the English speaking people that are interested in knowing about Colombia have an idea of Colombia. For many people overseas Colombia is a lawless state, which before the war in Afghanistan and the middle-east was one of, if not the most dangerous country in the world. I will try to be as objective as I can about all the topics that i will cover in this blog; since I feel very passionate about some of the topics. I will randomly speak about current issues that affect Colombia, historical events, and the influence the world has on Colombia, and the role that Colombia plays in the “AMERICAN” hemisphere.”

8 comments

  • EL PIBE

    You are completley correct! When asked what they thought of Colombia most Americans would say two words…Coffee and Cocaine. The American public and the world need to know that this is not what Colombia is all about. I recently went on a trip to Bogota, once one of the, if not the most dangerous cities in the world. When i went i had my worries being that I had heard so much bad news. But now it is considered one of the safest cities in all of South America, and also has a lower criminal rate than Washington D.C. The next day we took a ten hour trip south, to the “Coffee Zone” famous for what it is named after. Five years ago this trip was considered a death wish. It has numerous checkpoints run by the rebel factions and an American would have been likely taken hostage. Along this route was the once rebel stronghold of Ibague. Now this once trail of death is now a scenic wonderland. Colombia has taken a turn for the better. This is mostly in part to the tough actions of President Alvaro Uribe. Since being elected in 2002, the AUC has almost completely surrendered. Murder rates have dropped by 50%, abductions have lowered by 75%, and heroin production has been completely eliminated. Also most notably the FARC; South America’s largest and oldest Rebel group, is on the run and in full retreat. On another key the economy is booming and the people are noted as some of the most friendly in the whole world. I was very pleased with Colombia and i am returning this year to both Bogota and Medellin. Anyone visiting Bogota cannot miss La Zona T, Parqe 93, La Candelarria, or Andres Carne de Res; which is located a little out of Bogota in Chia but worth the trip.

  • Sounni

    I got married in Colombia two years ago and ever since I have been travelling back and forth spending weeks & months at a time. Colombia is an absolutely beautiful country with wonderful people. There is so much more to learn and see that what you will hear as a soundbite on American news. Cali (where I have stayed a lot) is relatively safe, though crime has been rising lately.

    However, when you get past Bogota and other major cities and go to Buenaventura (where my wife is from), you see a different story. The poverty in this Afro-Colombian city is horrible with up to 80% umemployment. Being the main exit point for much of the cocoa and with the dismantling of the AUC (thus making a lot of members in this region guns for hire), it has become a virtual war zone. When I went there for the first times in 2005 to get married, I had no problems. Today, there are gun battles, car bombs, etc almost daily. It is a very bad situation that is not being properly covered even in Colombia. Some of the afro-colombian and indian communities which started to feel some security during Uribe’s first term are reverting to battles of the past.

    But this is not at all to take anything away from Colombia. It has come a long way. Just realize that visiting places like Bogota or Cartegena does not tell the whole story.

  • Eduardo

    Although I applaud your intention of showing a positive side to Colombia abroad, I find it almost offensive for you to say that “Colombia has taken a turn for the better,” even worse that you would claim that the Uribe administration has had a positive impact on the conflict. Yes, it is true that there has been an increase in presence of the police forces in the cities and, as a result, common crime has decreased, but it is also true that since Uribe took over, the atrocities committed by the paramilitaries have considerably gotten worse. In fact, the abuses carried out by the AUC (as well as the leftist guerrillas) have risen to an all-time high. Uribe is using the pretext of “Plan Colombia” to wage a war against the guerrillas, while leaving the paramilitaries untouched. The paramilitaries have NOT “almost completely surrendered” like you claim, instead, they have simply gone back to their role of being private death-squads for hire by the elite that control the vaulable land (just look at the maps that show where the paramilitary presence is still strong).
    Colombia is indeed a beautiful country with vast natural resources and people that are full of potential, but the reality is that none of those things are of any value to Colombians if there is no real efforts to eliminate the corruption and impunity that plagues the Colombian legal and political systems.
    If you wish to obtain accurate and unbiased information about the Colombian conflict, check the stats from NGOs and the academic community. Avoid at all costs consulting “El Tiempo” (Colombia’s main newspaper, owned and operated by the family of Uribe’s vice-president). Once you see the reality, please contact your government to stop any type of aid to the corrupt colombian government, until measures are taken to prevent any further misplacement of funds in order to pay for a war that only benefits the upper classes while displacing the peasants, african-colombian, and indigenous communities from their lands.

  • Sounni

    Eduardo,

    While I don’t disagree with you on many points in terms of security and abuses by all sides (just look at the over 3000 union officials assasinated over many years), I think that a balanced look has to be taken (as hard as that can be for people, including myself). You cannot bring prosperity to people without security – and that has happened at least to Europe descended Colombians (and to a much lesser extent Afro-Colombians and Indias – though that is a valid point of debate/contention).

    Nothing will happen overnight, and we must all fight (peacefully) for greater security & prosperity of all Colombians (and by security I mean against abuses, death squads, et al). There is a lot to do, and nothing will be accomplished if we exclude any one group from the equation. Colombia needs help from all quarters, and not just military aid; which is why I have been so disappointed with EU countries.

    But we cannot only just show the bad. Afterall, I only began to learn and understand the complex situation in Colombia after having spent time down there. If I was just to depend on media up in the US, I would never understand the interplay that takes play. We need more people to understand and become more culturally aware of what is happening there and around the world (I guess this is more a critique of Westerners), if we are going to create any solutions.

  • Manolo Martinez

    The first paragraph describes the real situation of Colombia, the other two seems to be written for “Tiro Fijo” or any other of the guerrilla leaders. Try to discredit Uribe is impossible because we can see the improvement of the country
    And this is a fact, no notes written from a comfortable chair in USA

  • Sounni

    Manolo,

    Thank you for your response. While yes I am in a comfortable chair in the USA at the moment. I continously go back to Colombia for extended periods, specifically Cali and Buenaventura. And my wife and son is still there. So I have had to deal with many situations first hand. While I do not have any experience of being born or raised or permanently living in Colombia, I feel it is important to have perspectives from everyone – this is after all Global Voices. I do not claim to be any expert, just someone who loves the country and has a stake in what happens there now.

    Your Truly

  • Eduardo

    Manolo, the stance you take in your comment is a great example of what the political landscape in Colombia is right now. It is not allowed to be a member of the opposition without being instantly labeled a supporter of the guerrillas. Like I said, Uribe has performed well in some areas, but to say that to “discredit Uribe is impossible,” would ignore the evidence presented over the last months linking high-ranking members of his administration and the national army with the paramilitaries.
    I agree with Sounni’s statement that “you cannot bring prosperity to people without security,” but I find it unfortunate that the approach that Colombian officials are taking to achieve security, involves mainly fighting “fire with fire,” which results in the displacement of thousands of people into the cities, which not surprisingly increases the number of homeless people and of course the crime rates.

  • EL PIBE

    Eduardo, the you are right in some areas. Yes, it is true that Colombia needs to focus more on the social aspect of the situation. Plan Colombia II needs to boost these are with more funding. Also the EU needs to take more of an active stance. But as far as the parapolitic scandal is concerened, this has come out because of the improvements Uribe has made. It is because him and his policies that this scandal has come out. And in reality it is the opposition that are taking this to an other level and trying to use this as a political statement.
    Also you claim that the AUC has not laid down its arms. The statistics show that the paramilitaries are in flight and surrendering everyday (Over 30,000). And the government has been working more on reintergrating these soldiers back into daily society.
    Colombia HAS taken a turn for the better and it cannot be denied. The displacement of people is a byproduct of a growing country. The number is though, inflated by the fact that it is still fighting( but winning) a 4 decade year old civil war.
    These improvements are completely due to Uribe and they can not and should not be dwarfted. And obviously the country agrees with me due to the fact that over 70% of the people still support of. That is unheard of today in the modern world. And hopefully he will be able to resovle the current scandal and push through the FTA with the U.S.A.

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