U. Arkansas Lecturer Says Terrorism Still Present in Colombia

By By U Wire

By U Wire

Will MyersArkansas Traveler University of Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.?War broke out in Colombia 50 years ago, and more than 40,000 people have died since the war started, a professor told University of Arkansas students Wednesday.

Professor Marc Chernick of Georgetown University spoke to UA students and faculty on the factors that are killing the Colombians. In spite of what Americans might think, “the drug trade did not cause Colombian violence,” Chernick said, but “it fuels it.”

Colombia exports the most cocaine in the world and plays a significant role in the opium and heroin trade, he said. Colombian presidents have struggled to achieve peace, but the United States does not help, Chernick said.

President Pastrana of Colombia reached out to the United States, but “Pastrana’s peace proposal did not find Washington,” Chernick said. The United States is concerned with “drugs, not peace,” he said. Pastrana proposed a $7.5 billion plan called Plan Colombia that addressed multiple aspects of the problem and would have been funded by the United States, the European community and Colombia. Chernick said the United States took this “very interesting plan” and turned it into an “anti-narcotics policy.”

The United States created three narcotics brigades and plunged millions of dollars in weapons into the Colombian scene, Chernick said. The increased military involvement did not help the peace process. The political scene is clouded now, but the fighting began for the age-old reason of power, he said.

At the outset of the Cold War, liberal and conservative Colombian parties fought over governmental control. The parties agreed to share power, but the violence did not end because “not everyone handed in their arms,” Chernick said. The communist peasants and liberal guerrillas took to the mountains with their weapons.

These separate factions killed each other, but Chernick said the violence was limited mostly to rural areas. This low-intensity fighting continued into the 1970s until a U.S. backed policy turned peasants into mobile guerrilla groups, he said.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia [FARC] was one group that formed in opposition to the Colombian government. In search for funding, the guerrillas “danced this unethical dance,” Chernick said. A group that began as angry peasants became an army of criminals. They ran drugs and ransomed foreigners and Colombians to satisfy their financial needs, he said.

Chernick cited the facts that the Colombian government does not control its territories and the lack of justice as the issues that perpetuate the violence.

As the United States scours the world searching for conflicts in its war on terrorism, Chernick said Colombia is a “real candidate.”