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Latin America Team Dispatch

Guerrilla Warfare: A Daily Reality in Colombia

Click image for larger view
Kavitha, Shawn and Monica are headed down the 
Pacific Coast by boat
Every day reports of revolutionaries, bombings and kidnappings are heard on Colombian news. People listen daily for the reports on guerilla activity and the continuing battle over the future of the Colombian government.

It's probably why the US Government has issued an extreme travel advisory suggesting US citizens not visit Colombia. They say that, "Violence by narcotraffickers, guerrillas, paramilitary groups and other criminal elements continues to affect all parts of the country." It's also why we are not going to spend much time here, just staying on the main road to get to Ecuador and then Peru!

Guerillas (military groups opposed to the government in power) are an important force in Colombian politics. Historically, as in many Latin American countries, these revolutionaries fought for a larger voice in law-making and a more equal economic system. In the 1960's, many guerilla groups were connected to revolutionary groups in Cuba and the Soviet Union and fought to create a new government.

As the people of Colombia became frustrated with governmental services and lost faith in the existing political parties in the 60's and 70's, guerilla groups gained popularity, especially in impoverished rural areas. These groups often provided relief from poverty with jobs and services that the government wasn't providing. Despite attempts to stop battles between conflicting guerilla groups, bloody fighting continued through the 1980's. Recently some groups became part of the political process and end armed warfare. Other groups, like one known as FARC who was involved in the recent killing of three Americans, continue to fight for their beliefs through military tactics.

This is an image of a resuce made by Colombian soldiers on TV
Present groups have lost much of their support with the country's people as well as their financial support from Cuba and the Soviet Union. Lacking money,these groups often use kidnapping, drug trading and robbery to finance their cause. Some people believe the power of guerilla groups will continue to decline as the public continues to disagree with these tactics. Unless they begin cooperating with the present government, their future is uncertain. But until the government addresses the needs of the people supporting these guerillas, the government will likely be plagued by continued conflict.

Our time here will be short, but for the people who live here and enjoy this country's great beauty and cultural richness, we hope they can soon enjoy greater peace as well.

The Team

Odysseys of Another Era
Making a Difference - The Fate of Colombian Killers
The Trekker's Survival Guide to Colombia
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