Brief history – Drug running – New markets- Neo-prohibition – A modest proposal
No discussion of Colombia can be complete without touching on the topic of the FARC or Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia. Founded during the turbulent period in Colombian history known as “La Violencia“, FARC reached its zenith in the late 1990’s with an estimated 15,000 members and free reign over 40-50% of Colombian territory. Despite its now reduced strength, estimated at 7,500 combatants, it still remains one the most powerful illegitimate army organizations.
During the 1980’s the organization made a critical decision in the method it used to fund its war against the Colombian Government – it decided to traffic illegal drugs in exchange for arms. In one of the worse examples of sliding down the slippery slope, the FARC added kidnapping, extortion, and robbery to its methods of raising money for its revolution. At this point it lost popular support and had to turn to forced conscription of young boys and girls to keep its ranks full. Campesinos from around the country fled to Bogotá to escape these policies, swelling its population to the current eight million.
Now that the FARC are on the run the areas where their presence was the strongest are getting used to a post-FARC environment. The town of Neiva, the former financial center for FARC, now struggles to reinvent itself as an adventure tourism destination. The proprietor of our hotel spent an evening with us showing all the tourist infrastructure and discussing Neiva’s plans for development. A local priest talked to us about how farmers with fourteen year old boys fled his parish to avoid forced conscription into the guerrilla army. Few have returned, still fearful of reprisals. At the end of the evening he treated us to dinner and thanked us for listening.
The FARC are weakened but definitely still alive and able to conduct operations. It is time to deal them a death blow from where they least expect it: legalization of drugs. This change in US policy will remove their most significant source of funding and cripple their source of arms. Throughout Central America I was struck time and time again at how much pain this ludicrous drug policy has caused but the Colombians have paid the heaviest price by far. If the prohibition of alcohol has taught us anything it is that humans love mind altering substances and will do anything to obtain them, filling the coffers of Al Capone or Pablo Escobar notwithstanding.
And now a modest proposal for all you cocaine and crack users out there… Have you considered a switch to crystal meth? Crank is an artisan all-organic substance, locally produced, right here in the US of A! Why see your dollars fly overseas into the coffers of corporate drug cartels when you can support you local mom and pop meth-lab? Make that yucky back of the mouth taste a thing of the past – methamphetamine is best enjoyed mainlined in a clean no-fuss no-muss way! If you want to ruin your life go right ahead, but leave Colombia the f— alone.