Since the 1960’s, Columbia has been engaged in conflict with itself, but not the type of skirmish that was fought on American soil between the North and the South, but a battle between the right wing, left wing, drug trafficking, and land owning elites all vying for authority in the region. Currently, Columbia is a divided nation; separated into 3 distinct segments each representing a different ideology for Columbia’s future. “The Northwest [is] dominated by counterinsurgent paramilitary groups; the Andean and central area, controlled by the constitutional armed forces; and the southeast, where the leftist guerrillas prevail.” (Romero) This hotbed of confrontation has been raging for decades and the bloodshed appears to have no end in sight.
The [FARC] Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia and the [ELN] National Liberation Army comprise the majority of the guerrillas in the nation. Both groups, although not united, believe in instituting a Marxist polity, with the ELN deemed as having greater political aspirations of the two groups. The [AUC] United Self-Defense Forces of Columbia represent the paramilitary groups that originally were set up by landowners and drug-traffickers to combat the intense kidnappings, extortion, and political killings by the guerrillas. However, as it stands today “the guerrillas are held responsible for 20% of political killings, and the paramilitaries for the remaining 80%. Thus, the guerrilla violations of human rights have remained constant since 1990, but the paramilitaries have taken over the ‘dirty work’ of the army.” (Sanford) Lost amongst all of the violence are the civilians who are taking the full brunt of the brutality. “The country has the world’s highest murder rate and is the scene of half of the worlds kidnappings. Since 1986, when 182 people were kidnapped, the rate has climbed to well over 2,000 a year. Massacres, carried out primarily by virulent right-wing paramilitary groups, have increased 44 percent this year (1999) over last.” (Robinson)
In an attempt to quell the ongoing violence, the state, in 1988, decided to decentralize its power over the governors and local mayors and granted citizens the right to elect the individuals into these specific positions of authority. Its intended result never materialized and instead “decentralizing unleashed fierce competition for local office and increased people’s interest in politics. It also offered the guerrillas (and later, the paramilitaries) a more tangible and accessible target than the distant power of the central state in the capital…the intent was to improve democracy, [instead] it further polarized the conflict and exposed civilians active in local politics to reprisals from guerrillas, paramilitaries, and security forces.” (Romero)
The paramilitary groups were originally formed in the belief they would be an effective way to provide stability to the region and play a key role in counterinsurgency. As a result of this belief on December 24,...