WARNING! You may find the following narrative and photographs disturbing.
After a period of relative peace, a struggle between Liberals and Conservatives broke out in 1948 with ‘La Violencia’, the most destructive of Colombia’s many civil wars, which left a death toll of some 300,000 people.
By 1953 some groups of Liberal supporters had begun to demonstrate a dangerous degree of independence. As it became evident that the partisan conflict was taking on revolutionary overtones, the leaders of both the Liberal and Conservative parties decided to support a military coup as the best means of retaining power and pacifying the countryside.
The dictatorship of General Rojas Pinilla was not to last. In 1957 the leaders of the two parties signed a pact to share power. The party leaders, however, repressed all political activity that remained outside the scope of their parties, thus sowing the seeds for the appearance of guerrilla groups.
Birth of FARC & the Paramilitaries:
During the late 1950s and early 1960s Colombia witnessed the founding of many guerrilla groups, each with its own ideology and its own political and military strategies. The most significant – and deadly – movements included FARC, Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN; National Liberation Army) and Movimiento 19 de Abril (M-19; April 19 Movement).
Until 1982 the guerrillas were treated as a problem of public order and persecuted by the army. President Belisario Betancur (1982–86) was the first to open direct negotiations with the guerrillas in a bid to reincorporate them into the nation’s political life. Yet the talks ended in failure, and the M-19 guerrillas stormed the capital’s Palacio de Justicia in November 1985, leaving more than 100 dead.
All sides have committed and continue to commit atrocities, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says Colombia has more than 4 million internally displaced people (almost 10% of the population), with the rural poor caught in the crossfire between the guerrillas, the still-active paramilitaries and the army.
Excerpt From: Planet, Lonely. “Lonely Planet South America.” Lonely Planet. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright.
Over the years ‘La Violencia’ has touched most Colombians in some way or another. For example, numerous members of the Echeverri family (the owners of Hacienda Venecia) have been kidnapped, with two members of the family actually being murdered by their kidnappers. As a result of this, all the passenger carrying vehicles on the farm are bullet proof.
The war between the various drug cartels was particularly brutal. “Terror became art, a form of psychological warfare. In Colombia it wasn’t enough to hurt or even kill your enemy; there was a ritual to be performed. Rape had to be performed in public, before fathers, mothers, husbands, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. And before you killed a man, you first made him beg, scream, and gag… Or first you killed those he most loved before his eyes. To amplify revulsion and fear, victims were horribly mutilated and left on display.”
Excerpt from Killing Pablo by Mark Bowen.