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Colombia's Current Political Situation

As with most Latin American countries, Colombia’s political history has been one of civil wars, social injustice, corruption and violence. A fraudulent election in 1970 prompted the organization of the guerrilla movement M-19 four years later, and in the latter half of the 20th century high-profile kidnappings, right-wing, leftwing and criminal terrorism—along with repressive countermeasures—have pretty much defined this nation.

The gravest threat to Colombian stability came about through the rise of drug cartels in the 1970s and 1980s. Exploiting the increasingly high demand for cocaine in North America and Europe, their lucrative operations enabled them to bribe and/or coerce police and politicians, as well as ordinary (and usually) poor citizens. They combined their buying-off with barbarity; apart from their own pattern of abductions and violence, they also financed both right-wing paramilitaries and left-wing guerrillas, all to undermine law enforcement.

In 1999, President AndrĂ©s Pastrana began “Plan Colombia,” an aggressive effort to fight the drug trade, along with minor attempts to address the underlying social issues that sustain it. The military facet of the plan was backed by the United States, with money, arms and advisors. Plan Colombia, however, failed to affect much change. The next president, Álvaro Uribe, enacted an aggressive hard line against guerrilla groups, which reduced crime and violence, and in turn produced notable economic growth, but major social problems—poverty, illiteracy, class and political polarization—remained. Under the present president, Juan Manuel Santos, Plan Colombia continues, with increased U.S. presence; an agreement was signed to allow eight U.S. military bases in Colombia, on which construction has begun.

The civil society also is playing a more active role in the nation’s politics. Communities like San JosĂ© de ApartadĂł have taken a non-partisan, non-violence stance against the Civil War—and as a result have faced attacks by guerrilla, paramilitary and (according to some reports) Colombian military forces. Former Senator Piedad CĂłrdova continues to mediate with the FARC for release of the kidnap victims they hold.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Colombia: Colombia's Political System, Colombia's Social Issues, Environmental Issues in Colombia, Colombia's Economy: Past and Present and Colombia's Economy.

26 Sep 2011

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