International Criminology World

World : South America : Colombia

During the pre-Colombian period, the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by indigenous peoples who were primitive hunters or nomadic farmers. The Chibchas, who lived in the Bogota region, dominated the various Indian groups. The Spanish sailed along the north coast of Colombia as early as 1500, but their first permanent settlement, at Santa Marta, was not made until 1525. In 1549, the area was established as a Spanish colony with the capital at Santa Fe de Bogota. In 1717, Bogota became the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what is now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. The city became one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City. (In August 2000 the capital's name was officially changed from "Santa Fe de Bogota" to the more usual "Bogota.") On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogota created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Full independence was proclaimed in 1813, and in 1819 the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed. The new Republic of Greater Colombia included all the territory of the former Viceroyalty. Simon Bolivar was elected its first president and Francisco de Paula Santander, vice president. Two political parties grew out of conflicts between the followers of Bolivar and Santander and their political visions--the Conservatives and the Liberals--and have since dominated Colombian politics. Bolivar's supporters, who later formed the nucleus of the Conservative Party, sought strong centralized government, alliance with the Roman Catholic Church, and a limited franchise. Santander's followers, forerunners of the Liberals, wanted a decentralized government, state rather than church control over education and other civil matters, and a broadened suffrage. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, each party held the presidency for roughly equal periods of time. Colombia maintained a tradition of civilian government and regular, free elections. The military has seized power three times in Colombia's history: in 1830, when Ecuador and Venezuela withdrew from the republic (Panama became independent in 1903); again in 1854, and 1953-57. Civilian rule was restored within one year in the first two instances. Notwithstanding the country's commitment to democratic institutions, Colombia's history also has been characterized by widespread, violent conflict. Two civil wars resulted from bitter rivalry between the Conservative and Liberal parties. The War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902) cost an estimated 100,000 lives, and up to 300,000 people died during La Violencia of the late 1940s and 1950s. A military coup in 1953 brought Gen. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla to power. Initially, Rojas enjoyed considerable popular support, due largely to his success in reducing "La Violencia." When he did not restore democratic rule, however, he was overthrown by the military in 1957 with the backing of both political parties, and a provisional government was installed.

In July 1957, former Conservative President Laureano Gomez (1950-53) and former Liberal President Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945-46) proclaimed the "Declaration of Sitges," in which they proposed a "National Front" whereby the Liberal and Conservative parties would govern jointly. The presidency would be determined by regular elections every 4 years; the two parties would have parity in all other elective and appointive offices. The National Front ended La Violencia, and National Front administrations instituted social and economic reforms in cooperation with the Alliance for Progress. Although the system established by the Sitges agreement was phased out by 1978, the 1886 Colombian constitution--in effect until 1991--required that the losing political party be given adequate and equitable participation in the government. The 1991 constitution does not have that requirement, but subsequent administrations have included members of opposition parties.

Between 1978 and 1982, the government focused on ending the limited, but persistent, Cuban-backed insurgencies that sought to undermine Colombia's traditional democratic system. The success of the government's efforts enabled it to lift the state-of-siege decree that had been in effect for most of the previous 30 years. In 1984, President Belisario Betancur, a Conservative who won 47% of the popular vote, negotiated a cease-fire that included the release of many guerrillas imprisoned during the effort to overpower the insurgents. The cease-fire ended when Democratic Alliance/M-19 AD/M-19) guerrillas resumed fighting in 1985. An attack on the Palace of Justice in Bogota by the AD/M-19 on November 6-7, 1985, and its violent suppression by the army, shocked Colombians. Of the 115 people killed, 11 were Supreme Court justices. Although the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) renewed their truce in March 1986, peace with other revolutionary movements, in particular the AD/M-19--then the largest insurgent group--and the National Liberation Army (ELN) was remote as Betancur left office. The AD/M-19 and several smaller guerilla groups were successfully incorporated into a peace process during the late 1980s, which culminated in a national assembly to write a new constitution, which took effect in 1991. The FARC had declared a unilateral cease-fire under Betancur, which led to the establishment of the Union Patriotica (UP), a legal and nonclandestine political organization. After growing violence against its UP members, when an estimated 1,000-3,000 were killed, the truce with the FARC ended in 1990. Following administrations had to contend with the guerrillas, paramilitaries, and narcotics traffickers. Narcoterrorists assassinated three presidential candidates before Cesar Gaviria Trujillo was elected in 1990. Since the death of Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar in a police shootout during December 1993, indiscriminate acts of violence associated with that organization have abated as the "cartels" have broken up into multiple, smaller and often-competing trafficking organizations. Nevertheless, violence continues as these drug organizations resort to violence as part of their operations but also to protest against government policies, including extradition. President Ernesto Samper assumed office in August 1994. However, a political crisis relating to largescale contributions from drug traffickers to Samper's presidential campaign diverted attention from governance programs, thus slowing, and in many cases, halting progress on the nation's domestic reform agenda.

On August 7, 1998, Andres Pastrana was sworn in as the President of Colombia. A member of the Conservative Party, Pastrana defeated Liberal Party candidate Horacio Serpa in a run-off election marked by high voter turn-out and little political unrest. The new president's program was based on a commitment to bring about a peaceful resolution of Colombia's longstanding civil conflicts and to cooperate fully with the United States to combat the trafficking of illegal drugs. While early initiatives in the Colombian peace process gave reason for some optimism, the Pastrana administration also had to combat high unemployment and other economic problems, such as the fiscal deficit and the impact of global financial instability on Colombia. During his administration, unemployment rose to over 20% and by 2001 had only been reduced to 17%. Additionally, the growing severity of countrywide guerilla attacks by the FARC and ELN, and smaller movements, as well as the growth of drug production and the spread of paramilitary groups has made it difficult to solve the country's problems. Although the FARC accepted participation in the peace process, it did not make explicit commitments to end the conflict. On January 20, 2002, the Colombian Government and the FARC reached the latest in a series of agreements made over the previous 3 years, this one establishing a timetable for peace talks. As happened before, FARC compliance was minimal. During the following month, the FARC increased its terrorist activities. In addition to numerous attacks on military and police installations, the FARC killed at least 20 innocent civilians, including women and children; was responsible for four car bombings, and attacked Colombia's infrastructure, including water supply, energy pylons, an oil pipeline, and bridges. The FARC also hijacked a Colombian airliner carrying 35 passengers and kidnapped Colombian Sen. Jorge Edurdo Gechen. After more than 3 years of talks, President Pastrana suspended the peace process with the FARC on February 21, 2002, and ordered the military and police forces to retake the former safehaven which the government had granted the FARC. The Colombian Government and ELN, after suspending talks in 2001 have resumed discussions aimed at opening a formal peace process. No single explanation fully addresses the deep roots of Colombia's present-day troubles, but they include limited government presence in large areas of the interior, the expansion of illicit drug cultivation, endemic violence, and social inequities. In order to confront these challenges, the Pastrana administration unveiled its "Plan Colombia" in late 1999, a comprehensive strategy to deal with these longstanding, mutually reinforcing problems. The main objectives of Plan Colombia are to promote peace, combat the narcotics industry, revive the Colombian economy, improve respect for human rights, and strengthen the democratic and social institutions of the country.

Today, Colombia is a constitutional, multiparty democracy in which the Liberal and Conservative parties have long dominated politics. As discussed above, in 1998 citizens elected President Andres Pastrana of the Conservative Party and a bicameral legislature controlled by the Liberal Party in generally free, fair, and transparent elections, despite attempts at intimidation and fraud by paramilitary groups, guerrillas, and narcotics traffickers. The Government continues to face serious challenges to its control over the national territory, as longstanding and widespread internal armed conflict and rampant violence--both political and criminal--persisted. The principal participants in the conflict were government security forces, paramilitary groups, guerrillas, and narcotics traffickers. The country's internal conflict caused the deaths of between 3,000 and 3,500 civilians during the year 2001, including combat casualties, political murders, and forced disappearances. The civilian judiciary is largely independent of government influence; however, the suborning or intimidation of judges, witnesses, and prosecutors is common.


The structure of Colombian society in the 1980s --strongly influenced by traditions inherited from sixteenth-century Spain—is highly stratified, having well-defined class membership, pronounced status differences, and limited vertical social mobility. The urban sector was characterized by a more flexible social system, a growing middle class, and greater participation of the population in national politics. Rural society in all but a few regions was organized in rigidly hierarchical structures in which change of status was very difficult. Only in the coffee-growing departments of Caldas and Antioquia were there sizable segments of the population exhibiting the traits of a rural middle class.

In the 1980s, social scientists continued to disagree about the definition of class in Colombia, the composition and relative importance of the middle class, the role of the upper class in the larger society, and the degree to which the society was evolving into a more open system. It was difficult to speak of social class per se because class implied feelings of cohesion and exclusiveness vis-à-vis other classes--characteristics that did not uniformly apply to status groups in Colombia. This class consciousness among persons with similar economic, occupational, and sociological interests was found only at the highest stratum of society in Colombia.

Four classes and their relative proportions could be distinguished in the mid-1980s: upper class, 5 percent; middle class, 20 percent; lower class, 50 percent; and the masses, 25 percent. There were also two important transitional subdivisions: the new rich, who constituted perhaps 3 percent of the total and were tenuously members of the upper class; and the upper lower class, organized blue-collar workers, and poorer white-collar workers, who made up about 15 percent of the total.

Classes were distinguished by occupation, life-style, income, family background, education, and power. Within each of the classes, there were numerous subtle gradations in status. Colombians tended to be extremely status-conscious, and class membership was an important aspect of social life because it regulated the interaction of groups and individuals. Social class boundaries were far more flexible in the city than in the countryside, but consciousness of status and class distinctions continued to permeate social life in both sectors.

The upper class comprised two interrelated groups, the traditional landed elite and the new rich, who owed their status primarily to successful entrepreneurship. The former continued to base its elite status on distinguished lineage and a respected family name, together known as abolengo, and on the ownership of large tracts of land. It frequently provided personnel for the highest offices in the government, the church, and the military. Abolengo remained virtually the sole determinant of upper-class membership in rural communities and in some traditionally oriented cities, such as Popayán. In larger cities and in areas accessible to its influence, however, wealth was probably equally or more important in determining elite status. In urban areas, a person's family history was frequently not as significant as the financial ability to maintain the life-style that had come to be associated with the social elite.

The upper class was very successful in maintaining exclusiveness and controlling change through a system of informal decision-making groups called roscas--the name of a twisted pastry. These informal groups existed at different levels and across different spheres and were linked hierarchically by personal relationships. Their composition varied according to level-- municipal, departmental, or national--but each group tried to include at least one powerful person from every sphere. A rosca was a vitally important system in both the social and the political context because it was at this level of interaction that most political decisions were made and careers determined. Only when a man was a member of such a group could he consider himself a member of the upper-middle or upper class.

Roscas linked influential individuals and institutions in such a way that an important university, a commercial bank, an investment bank, an association of industries, and agricultural interests might all be coordinated and controlled by a few persons. Several competing groups in an area often bargained and traded favors among themselves. A casual observer might not recognize the linkages within such groups until he began to do business in the area or needed something done in an official capacity. Colombians moving up the social ladder became increasingly aware of the importance of such groups.

The lower class and the masses together constituted the largest sector of rural and urban society--about 75 percent. The line between the lower class and the masses was fine; it was based more on an increased awareness of the social, economic, and political systems among members of the lower class than on any other criterion. Those at the upper levels of the lower class--organized labor, small farmers, merchants, and some white-collar workers-- were in a transitional stage and possessed some attributes of middle-class status.

The lower class was more politically aware than the masses, although the levels of participation were uniformly low. Feelings of common identity were generally lacking among groups in the lower class, although class consciousness existed within such groups as organized labor and landowning campesinos. Generally, members of the lower class were regularly employed with some degree of security, although they were frequently unskilled and unorganized. Included in this category were domestic servants, construction workers, taxi drivers, barbers, repairmen, and small shopkeepers. The rural lower class included small independent landholders, called minifundistas, and even some day workers, sharecroppers, and tenant farmers, who provided some security for their families.

In contrast, the masses were composed of the illiterate and the impoverished who lived on the margin of subsistence and possessed little or no security, skill, or stable employment. They included Indians and blacks as well as many other dark-skinned persons. They resided on the sociopolitical periphery of the society and maintained their traditional way of life; most of their energies were consumed in the struggle for survival. Although the masses possessed some political potential and some awareness of the political system, they lacked an effective, evaluative understanding of it as well as sufficient class cohesion to articulate their desires.

Data from a variety of sources suggest that there was a redistribution of income toward the two extremes of the population during the 1970s. Income growth was faster for those groups at both the top and the bottom of the income distribution ladder. By contrast, all the evidence suggests that the middle class, which did well in the 1960s, lost ground in the 1970s. For the poor, increased employment of females and other secondary workers at higher wage rates explained most of the improvements; for the rich, the higher income of the head of the household accounted for the betterment.

Agricultural wages remained stagnant in real terms during the 1935-64 period, and in 1964 they were only 90 percent of the wages of unskilled construction workers and about 33 percent of those of blue-collar industrial workers. Except for a small increase in the early 1960s, real wages in agriculture changed little until the mid-1970s, when they increased substantially until 1980.

In contrast to the dampening effect of a labor surplus in the 1960s, the employment boom of the 1970s began to raise agricultural wages. The introduction of the caturra variety of coffee during the 1970s led to large-scale replanting and land preparation for new plantations, which, combined with the boom in marijuana production and cocaine processing, greatly increased labor demand in rural areas. Rapidly growing urban employment in this period also pulled agricultural workers into the urban economy, thus creating increasing labor scarcity in rural areas. Agricultural labor productivity over the 1974-79 period was estimated to have grown at roughly 3.7 percent per year, providing much of the basis for rising real wages. The booming terms of trade for coffee producers were also captured to some extent by workers in agriculture. In addition, the rise in the real minimum wage beginning in 1973 may also have been a contributing factor. The stagnation in the agricultural real wage after 1978 reflected the substantially slower growth in the sector and the economy during this period.


In the late 1980s, Colombia remained an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country. More than 95 percent of the population had been baptized in the Catholic Church, and the Colombian variant was widely renowned as one of the most conservative and traditional in Latin America. Colombians were among the most devout of Latin American Catholics. The church as an institution was authoritarian and paternalistic and had traditionally been associated with elite structures in the society.

The Concordat of 1973 defined relations between the Colombian government and the Vatican. The concordat replaced the clause in the Constitution of 1886 that had established the Catholic Church as the official religion with one stating that "Roman Catholicism is the religion of the great majority of Colombians." The concordat also altered the church's position on three major issues: the mission territories, education, and marriage. First, the mission territories--lands with Indian populations--ceased to be enclaves where Catholic missionaries had greater jurisdiction than the government over schools, health, and other services; by agreement the vast network of schools and social services was eventually to be transferred to the government. Second, the church surrendered its right to censor public university texts and enforce the use of the Catholic catechism in public schools. Under the new concordat, the church retained the right to run only its own schools and universities, and even these had to follow government guidelines. Finally, Colombians were allowed to contract civil marriages without abjuring the Catholic faith. The civil validity of church weddings was also recognized, although all marriages were also to be recorded on the civil registry. Catholic marriages, however, could only be dissolved through arbitration in a church court.

Despite these changes, the tenacity of custom and the church's traditional position as a moral and social arbiter ensured its continued strong presence in national life. The parish church still was recognized as the center of nearly every community, and the local priest was often the major figure of authority and leadership. Moreover, most priests were native Colombians, in sharp contrast to the dependence on foreign clergy generally prevalent in Latin America. Approximately 95 percent of diocesan priests and 65 percent of priests belonging to religious orders were Colombians. Since independence, all but four bishops have been Colombian.

In comparison with Catholicism, other religions continued to play a small role in the 1980s. The Protestant population numbered roughly 200,000; Jews were far less numerous, having only a few small congregations in larger cities. In the past, restrictive immigration policy kept most non-Catholics from entering the country. Although Protestant missionaries had been officially allowed to proselytize since the 1930s, they often met with opposition from members of the Catholic clergy and laity. NonCatholics are guaranteed freedom of worship under the Constitution, however.

Few of the indigenous religions encountered by the Spaniards survived. In the 1980s, the Indians of the highlands were at least nominally Catholic, and only a few tribes in the most isolated regions continued in their traditional beliefs. The nation's black population also was nominally Catholic, although vestiges of African religion and beliefs survived in some communities. The black population on Isla de

The influence of the church varied in different regions of the country and among different social groups, but it was felt everywhere and was rarely questioned. The population in general continued to attach great importance to observance of the formal acts of Catholicism. The rate of attendance at mass was high, particularly among women, who generally took the practice of religion more seriously than men. Church attendance also served traditionally to attest to a woman's general virtue. In some urban parishes, more than 85 percent of the Catholics attended mass. Some cities or regions were noted throughout the country for their religious observance. The people of Antioquia Department, for example, were reputed to be particularly devout Catholics, and the Indians of the southern highlands and residents of Popayán were recognized for their regular attendance at mass and traditional observance of holy days, especially during Holy Week.

To the average Colombian, such primary rites of the church as baptism, first communion, marriage, and extreme unction marked the main turning points in the life cycle and identified him or her as a social being. The Catholic faith was felt to be a part of a person's cultural heritage passed on like language and became an integral part of a person's being.

Members of the upper class and the upper middle class frequently had close personal relations with members of the religious hierarchy. Most of the clergy and nearly all prelates were of upper-class or middle-class origin and therefore shared the interests and attitudes of these groups and felt the closest affinity with them. The upper social levels supported Catholic charities with time and money and provided most of the membership of lay religious associations.

Religious beliefs and practices in the rural peasant communities reflected centuries of geographic isolation and a lack of formal religious training. People in these areas were said to be more devout than those in the cities, but their Catholicism was often very different from that of the urban upper and middle classes. Fusion of Catholic practices and beliefs with indigenous, African, and sixteenth-century Spanish ones was widespread in the countryside. Traces of the rural folk religions also were found in urban lower-class communities, particularly those with many rural migrants.

Most people in rural villages were careful to fulfill what they considered to be their religious obligations to protect themselves from supernatural punishment or to secure blessings from one of the saints. The Virgin Mary and the saints were deeply revered by most people. The saints, especially one's patron saint, were considered to be more accessible than God and sometimes willing to intervene in the individual's temporal affairs.

Responding to the need to organize and maintain the loyalty of the campesinos as well as to supply the UTC with badly needed leverage in its battle with the CTC, the church organized the National Agrarian Federation (Federación Agraria Nacional--Fanal) in 1946. Although not as successful as other rural organizations, Fanal was fairly important in rural land invasions in the 1960s, and it was not unusual to find invasions led by priests.

The church's involvement in such activities as social welfare and union organization flowed in part from changes in Colombian society beginning in the 1940s. Of equal importance was the process of renewal that characterized the worldwide Roman Catholic Church in the early 1960s. Both Pope John XXIII (1958-63) and Pope Paul VI (1963-78) issued a series of encyclicals that were unequaled in their efforts to modernize the church as an institution and modify its role in society. These encyclicals stressed the government's obligation to reduce socioeconomic inequalities and the church's obligation to take a leading role in reform.

Although the papal encyclicals pointed the Colombian episcopate in the direction of change, it was not until the 1968 Latin American Bishops Conference (Conferencia Episcopal Latinoamericana- -Celam) in Medellín that these proposed reforms were brought home in the form of a declaration specifically involving Latin America. The core concepts developed during the Medellín conference were the conflict between the "haves" and "have-nots," the need for fundamental institutional reforms, and social action as the key means of Christian influence in the world. The conclusions of the Medellín conference gave the Latin American church the necessary mandate to implement social justice and church reform.

In accordance with the thrust of the Medellín conference, the Colombian bishops endorsed the call for social action. Unlike other Latin American colleagues, however, the Colombian bishops shied away from some of the more dramatic aspects of Medellín. They did not, for example, accept Medellín's view that institutionalized violence characterized Latin American societies. Unable to change the shape of the Medellín documents, the Colombians published a dissenting treatise in the secular press.

The bishops' inability to agree on an approach to social reform and to implement it through strong and effective leadership increased the fragmentation within the church in Colombia and the controversy surrounding the latter's role. Some of the problems developed over organizational rather than ideological disagreements between groups fighting for the same resources or powerful positions. The insufficient economic base and the lack of qualified personnel further limited developmental efforts. Consequently, only development programs operating in strongly Catholic areas had substantial success. Competition among upwardly mobile priests for the attention of the local bishop also detracted from reform and tended to promote those priests eager to conform to the status quo.

Frustration over the lack of dynamic leadership caused some priests to strike out on their own. The first to do so was Camilo Torres, an upper-class Colombian who left the priesthood to become a guerrilla. Torres was killed in 1966, less than six months after he joined the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional--ELN), thus becoming the first so-called martyr of the Catholic left in Latin America. He became a symbol for many leftists with his commitment to radical change through violence.

In the late 1960s, many Colombian clergymen, encouraged by Torres's example, were determined to work for social change. Except for Gerardo Valencia Cano, bishop of Buenaventura, none of the episcopate supported their work. Spurned by the hierarchy, the group attempted to develop a power base strong enough to break the religious and secular hold of the elite. Basing their platforms on Marxist concepts, they began to hold protest demonstrations to rally support against the hierarchy and to promote programs of radical social change.

In spite of the rejection of the Medellín conclusions by the majority of Colombian bishops, the activists led by Bishop Valencia became the first group in Latin America to issue a manifesto and a platform for social reform based on the resolutions of the Medellín conference. Meeting in 1968 and taking the name Golconda Group-- "Golconda" after the farmhouse where they first met--the group led the revolutionary wing of the Colombian church until early 1970. The Golconda Group elaborated an anticapitalist, anti-imperialist stance and a platform that included recourse to violence under certain conditions. By advocating violence, however, the group touched a sensitive nerve among Colombians and undercut potential support from many progressive Catholics who were ready to promote change.

The Golconda Group became involved in political as well as social issues and encouraged the Colombian people to boycott the elections of 1970 and thereby refuse to give a democratic stamp to either of the official parties. This antagonistic attitude toward the government led to charges of communist sympathies and to the eventual repression and imprisonment of members of the movement. Because the group was small and radical and because government and ecclesiastical opposition was effectively organized against it, it was short lived. After several members were imprisoned on the eve of its third annual meeting in early 1970, the Golconda Group ceased to exist as a single organization, although individuals continued to use its name. Despite the fact that their efforts to effect sweeping social changes were not successful, members of the Golconda Group came to be considered forerunners of the controversial liberation theology movement among the Catholic clergy elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere.

After the demise of the Golconda Group, radical activity remained largely diffuse and ineffective, appearing to have subsided. Bishop Valencia was killed in an airplane crash in February 1972, and with his death the radical clerics lost their only supporter among the hierarchy. Other groups were formed, and support grew for the radical wing of the church, but no group was as dynamic or controversial as the Golconda Group had been.

The lack of active commitment on the part of the bishops had several effects. On the one hand, the weakness of the hierarchy's approval and/or disapproval of radical clergy led to confusion in the public interpretation of Catholic social ideology among Colombians. On the other hand, the lack of protection against government repression convinced many that the official church was not genuinely interested in change. Finally, the national effort at socioeconomic development was hampered because, without consensus, the impact of the church on reform remained piecemeal.

The explanation for the Colombian church's relatively undynamic nature rested primarily with the distinctive political context within which the church operated. The church had become most prominent in those countries of Latin America where a repressive political context simplified options and displaced ordinary social pressures and where the episcopal leadership--more often than not impelled by lower-level activism within the church--was willing to commit the institution to an active role in public conflict. Neither of these conditions existed in Colombia after the Medellín conference.

The Colombian church functioned within a relatively open, competitive political system. Despite continuing high levels of violence, Colombia's political context allowed some play of social and political forces, keeping open channels that when closed in other societies displaced pressures onto the church. The political system showed at least some responsiveness to changing demands and was accompanied by considerable economic success. The nation's imperfect, oligarchical democracy, muddling as usual through a series of crises, did not offer a target to justify violent corrective action. No convincing case had been made by anyone-- whether militants in the church or the secular left more generally- -that gathered significant popular support behind armed overthrow of the regime.

The absence of a repressive political context limited the political role of the Colombian church. Indeed, after the 1960s the church's ability to shape the outcome of political issues declined substantially. Nor did the church use its teaching authority compellingly enough to affect clearly the broader agenda of social choices. Its negative pleas--for example, against birth control and political violence--were notably ineffective.

The one way in which the church may have been important politically was in upholding the legitimacy of Colombia's oligarchical democracy. It came to this position in the mid-1950s, after having been long divided over identification with the Conservative Party. The horrifying spectacle of la violencia (1948-66) and the affronts of Gustavo Rojas Pinilla led the church hierarchy to endorse his overthrow and the subsequent regime of the National Front. It consistently defended the National Front regime and its less formally consociational successor against critics in the church itself and in society in general.

Has this church legitimation of the existing political system made a difference? Colombia's oligarchical democracy survived, against many predictions and in contrast to the civilian politics of many other countries. The continuing support of the institutional church was one potential explanation. A long line of "rebel priests" and nuns, beginning with Torres in the mid-1960s, believed that the church's legitimation of established politics was both morally wrong and politically important. They frequently suggested that the church's support was crucial to the status quo.

The recent past, however, did not bear out this assertion in any clear way. The church had demonstrated a potential negative power to topple a regime (for example, in helping bring down Rojas Pinilla in 1957). From that, however, the weight of its positive support, as distinguished from its neutrality, could only be indirectly inferred. If progressive activists had been able to move the institutional church into a militant, liberationist position against the regime, they would undoubtedly have threatened the regime's foundations. In addition, if they had even won enough support for the church to have publicly divided internally over the legitimacy of the regime, they would have deeply shaken the regime's stability. However, neither development occurred.



The Penal Code of 1938, as subsequently revised, has regulated the country's penal system. Laws are applicable to citizens and aliens alike who committed crimes as defined under the code. Crimes are classifiable as either felonies or misdemeanors and are divided into six categories: crimes against property, crimes against persons, crimes against individual liberties, sex-related crimes, crimes against public administration, and miscellaneous crimes. In 1983 approximately 54 percent of all offenses were crimes against property; 35 percent were crimes against persons.

The maximum prison term allowable under the code is twenty four years. Recognized punishments are confinement in a penitentiary, which includes a mandatory one month to two years of solitary confinement; imprisonment, which is served at a prison facility less secure than the penitentiary; preventive detention, which mandates confinement at a minimally secure facility where the detainee could choose from a variety of jobs; simple confinement, which is comparable to internal exile; and fines. The death penalty, said to have long been a cause for public opposition during the nineteenth century, was eliminated in 1910.


During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Colombia had the third highest rate of homicides in the world. Nearly three decades later, Colombia still was counted among the world's top countries in terms of the ratio of the number of murders to the size of the population. According to the 1985 national census, murder was the fourth most common cause of death in the country. In 1984 murders, kidnappings, and street crimes reportedly were so common that the elite considered private bodyguards and armored cars a necessity. In 1987 an estimated 16,000 Colombians were murdered. In 1988 the continuing deterioration in the internal security situation suggested that the trend toward an increased incidence of violent crime was unlikely to be reversed in the short term. The rising crime rate reflected an increase in politically motivated violence as well as criminal violence. During the Betancur administration's temporary cease-fire with the guerrillas in 1985, less than 10 percent of the crimes committed were adjudged related to political violence. However, following the abandonment of the cease-fire later that year by all but one of the nation's guerrilla groups, the incidence of political violence again began to increase. This trend continued throughout the latter half of the 1980s. Moreover, the increase in other forms of crime during the same period made this statistic on political violence less meaningful in absolute terms. Throughout the first ten months of 1987, political leaders were being killed by death squads at a rate of about 100 per month.

Data published by the Colombian government in 1987 estimated that nearly 80 percent of the crimes committed in the nation went unreported. In turn, of the 20 percent reported to the authorities, only 1 percent resulted in conviction and sentencing. In addition to the poor conviction rate, the administration of criminal justice was complicated by the mounting backlog of cases. In 1983 about 80 percent of those held in the country's prison system were awaiting trial. At that time, there were nearly 400,000 new penal cases each year, and the average load of 600 cases per judge was rising. In June 1983, the Colombian Institute of Penal Reform determined that the number of criminal cases awaiting adjudication exceeded 1.3 million. Among the crimes plaguing the nation, drug abuse was considered to be a serious, escalating problem in the late 1980s. Illegal domestic narcotics consumption also appeared to be related to the rise in such other crimes as theft and murder. The circulation of other forms of contraband through the nation also challenged law enforcement authorities. By 1984 Medellín, the center of Colombia's narcotics trade, also had established its reputation as the country's contraband capital. In Medellín a wide range of items, from guns and emeralds to methaqualone and United States cigarettes, was sold on the black market.

In terms of UCR Index crimes, the crime rate in Columbia appears to be relatively low compared to the USA, with the exception of the rate of murder, which is extremely high. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Columbia. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Columbia will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2000 was 69.98 for Columbia, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 6.1 for Columbia, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate was 58.1 for Columbia, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate was 93.06 for Columbia, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate was 80.95 for Columbia, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2000 was 77.57 for Columbia, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2475.27 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft was 78.46 for Columbia, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 414.17 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 464.22 for Columbia, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA. (Note that in the above analysis, the rate of burglary and larceny was not reported to INTERPOL by Columbia, so the rates reported to the UN for 2000 were substituted.) It should be noted that these figures showing relatively low rates of crime in Columbia should be tempered by the low rate of crime reporting to police by citizens in Columbia, discussed above. Qualitative accounts of crime below (e.g., rape) suggest a much higher crime rate.


Between 1998 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 56.33 to 69.98, an increase of 24.2%%. The rate for rape increased from 2.6 to 6.1, an increase of 134.6%%. The rate of robbery decreased from 66.89 to 58.1, a decrease of 13.1%%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 61.84 to 93.06 per 100,000, an increase of 50.5%%. The rate for burglary increased from 57.94 to 80.95, an increase of 39.7%. The rate of larceny increased from 26.02 to 77.57, an increase of 198.1%. The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 75.25 to 78.5, an increase of 4.3%. The rate of total index offenses increased from 346.87 to 464.22, an increase of 33.8%. (Note that the burglary and larceny data were missing for 2000 and 1999 data were substituted.)


The civilian-led Ministry of Defense (MOD) is responsible for internal security and oversees both the armed forces (including the army, air force, navy, marines, and coast guard) and the National Police. In the past, civilian management of the armed forces has been limited; however, over the past few years, the professionalism of the armed forces has improved, and respect for civilian authority on the part of the military has increased. In addition to the armed forces and the National Police, the public security forces include armed state law enforcement and investigative authorities, including the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) and the Prosecutor General's Technical Corps of Investigators (CTI). The DAS, which has broad intelligence gathering, law enforcement, and investigative authority, reports directly to the President but is directed by a law enforcement professional. The police are charged formally with maintaining internal order and security but in practice often share law enforcement responsibilities with the army in both rural and urban areas. There are approximately 192 municipalities that lack a state security presence. Many observers maintain that government action to combat paramilitarism has been inadequate, and in the past security forces regularly failed to confront paramilitary groups. However, the security forces confronted and detained significantly more members of paramilitary groups during the year 2001 compared with the previous year. Nevertheless, members of the security forces sometimes illegally collaborated with paramilitary forces. Members of the armed forces and the police have committed serious violations of human rights.

In 1988 the National Police was Colombia's principal law enforcement organization. Colombia's first national police force, consisting of an estimated 450 men, was organized in 1891 with the assistance of a commissaire of France's National Police. Over the ensuing decades, the national police acted as a Liberal counterbalance to the Conservative dominant influence within the Colombian military. During the 1950s, the PC government moved the force from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Government to that of Ministry of National Defense. This was done both to eliminate the remaining Liberal sympathizers within the force and to bring the force under stricter government supervision. In 1962 the National Police assumed administrative and operational control over the separate police forces that had been maintained by each of the country's administrative divisions. During the 1980s, the National Police remained directly subordinate to the minister of national defense. Officers holding military rank filled key posts within the National Police. Their uniforms and insignia of rank, however, were different from those worn by members of the country's military forces. Having passed through the police's own professional training institutions, these men were believed to have dedicated their professional careers to service with the force. Such career officers did not alternate between military and police service, as was customary with some Latin American armed forces.

In 1969 National Police personnel were estimated to total about 42,000. Recruitment plans announced during the mid-1970s projected an increase in the size of the force to some 75,000 personnel by 1980. Yet despite the increased challenges to internal security, the size of the force did not increase significantly and remained relatively constant at some 50,000 between 1974 and 1984. In 1988 the size of the National Police was estimated at approximately 55,000, of whom approximately 10 percent were civilians. The headquarters of the National Police was located in Bogotá. The force's organization appeared to parallel the military's headquarters command; it was divided into separate functional departments, including personnel (F-1), intelligence (F-2), operations (F-3), and logistics (F-4). Personnel not attached to the headquarters staff were deployed in each of the country's administrative departments, in which a police commander served as the ranking police officer. Bogotá was treated as a separate police section. In addition to his own staff, the departmental police commander supervised police personnel assigned to the various districts, stations, substations, and police posts maintained throughout the department. The departmental commander was responsible to the director general for police operations and administration. The departmental commander was, however, subordinate to the departmental governor with respect to the manner in which law enforcement policies were implemented. Mayors and civil magistrates also were reported to have a say in law enforcement matters. During the late 1980s, some observers contended that the control exercised by these political officials was a corrupting influence within the National Police.

In addition to the force's primary charge to handle common crimes, its major responsibilities included narcotics interdiction, some counterinsurgency work, participation in civic action in rural areas, and riot control in the country's urban centers. Other duties included enforcement of traffic regulations, supervision of public recreation areas, provision of security at gold and emerald mines, provision of security in the transport of valuables between government banks and on the national railroads, and administration of and provision of guards for the country's prison system.

A number of special police units have functioned under the overall jurisdiction of the headquarters' operations command. They included the Radio Patrol Group, the Antimugging Group, the Private Surveillance Group, the Highway Police, the Tourist Police, the Juvenile Police, the Railroad Police, and the Operational Group Against Extortion and Kidnappings. The Antinarcotics Police were important not only in the seizure of narcotics and the arrest of those involved but also in helping search out and destroy the concealed air landing strips and processing laboratories used by the narcotics traffickers. The National Police's Carabineros were a special rural police force that carried out counterinsurgency missions, frequently in conjunction with army units. Headquartered at the department and national territory capitals, the Carabineros were maintained in squadrons that were separate from those of the regular police; they wore distinctive uniforms and often traveled as mounted units. The National Police also administered and manned the country's fire departments. In support of these various police units, the National Police maintained a small air section equipped with some thirty light helicopters and one HS-748 airplane. During the 1980s, the National Police reportedly also assumed control of the Directorate of the Judicial Police and Investigation (Dirección de la Policía Judicial y Investigación--Dijin). This law enforcement organization--commonly referred to as the Judicial Police--was formerly under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. The national Criminal Statistics Archives (Archivos de Estadística Criminal) and the Judicial Police represented the principal repositories of information required for the prosecution of criminal cases. The Criminal Statistics Archives also was transferred to the National Police and integrated as a section of the force's investigative division. Although located in Bogotá, the Judicial Police maintained its headquarters in a location separate from that of the National Police. During the mid-1980s, the Judicial Police came to play an important role in Colombia's National Antinarcotics Campaign. Its responsibilities reportedly included carrying out criminal investigations and continuing to assist in the preparation of court cases against narcotics traffickers. Members of the Judicial Police also were believed to be assigned to duty with various governmental bodies that had responsibilities related to law enforcement and the administration of justice, including the Office of the Attorney General and the federal government's Administrative Security Department (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad--DAS).

The National Police maintained its own professional education system, separate from that of the military forces and administered by the police's instructional division. The two principal professional schools for members of the National Police were the General Santander Police Cadet School and the Jiménez de Quesada Noncommissioned Officers School, both located in Bogotá. Completion of the cadet school's rigorous two-year program was required of all recruits who aspired to obtain a commission in the National Police. Completion of additional training was required for promotions. Noncommissioned officers were required to complete a five-month course for each advancement in rank from corporal to sergeant major. The National Police also operated seven smaller police schools in various locations throughout the country. These schools offered a five-month basic training course for recruits as well as in-service training; coursework included subjects as diverse as Colombian history and riot control. Members of the Carabineros were required to undergo a special three-month training program at the National School of Carabineros, also located in the national capital. During the mid-1970s, this specialized instruction included courses in horsemanship, basic veterinary medicine, and civic action.

As discussed above, in addition to the National Police, two other organizations-- the DAS and the Customs Service (Servicio de Aduana)--have had important law enforcement responsibilities. The DAS is the principal organization responsible for enforcement of laws relating to national security. This organization has a national role comparable to that of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States. The formal responsibilities under the DAS's mandate includes investigating crimes against the internal security of the state, fraud against the state and its financial institutions, breaches of the public faith, and crimes affecting individual liberty and human rights. The DAS also is responsible for screening and maintaining records on foreigners who entered the nation and for enforcing immigration laws. To carry out its mission, the DAS has both investigative and intelligence-gathering responsibilities. Like the minister of national defense, the chief of the DAS reportes directly to the president of the republic. In 1988 General Miguel Alfredo Maza Márquez served as chief of the DAS. Among the administrative units reporting to the DAS chief were the heads of the Office of Evaluation, the Office of Analysis and Programming, and the Rural Security Service. During the mid-1970s, the DAS was believed to have some 3,000 plainclothes personnel. In comparison with the military and the National Police, the professional career system under the DAS was considered to be relatively weak, a factor that was thought to have contributed to the high attrition rate of DAS personnel during the late 1970s. The DAS did, however, operate its own training schools--one in Bogotá and the other in Boyacá. The DAS coordinated its domestic operations with the ministries of government, foreign affairs, justice, and national defense.

Political and extrajudicial killings continue to be a serious problem. During the year 2001, NGO's estimated that over 3,700 citizens died in such acts, committed principally by nonstate agents. Members of the security forces continue to commit extrajudicial killings. An analysis of data from the Center for Investigations and Popular Research (CINEP), published by the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ), a nongovernmental organization (NGO), claimed that from June 2000 to June 2001, state forces committed 100 reported extrajudicial killings, including deaths that resulted from police abuse of authority. CINEP reported that, from January through September, state security force members committed 92 "intentional homicides of protected persons," and caused the deaths of 25 civilians during combat. CINEP reported that security forces were responsible for 119 intentional homicides of protected persons during the same period in 2000. Most of the incidents cited by the CCJ and CINEP were under investigation by military and civilian authorities at year's end. Civilian courts have tried an increasing number of cases of military personnel accused of human rights violations. Members of the security forces sometimes illegally collaborated with paramilitary forces, and the authorities continue to investigate past cases of collaboration with or failure to prevent massacres by paramilitaries. There were some reports that police and former security force members have committed social cleansing killings. Investigations of past killings and massacres have proceeded slowly.

The Constitution and criminal law explicitly prohibit torture, as well as cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; however, there were reports of police and military torture and mistreatment of detainees. In May 2000, Congress criminalized torture, and the reformed Military Penal Code directed that trials of members of the military and police accused of torture be held in civilian, rather than military, courts. The Inspector General's office received 29 complaints of torture by state agents during the year 2001, compared with 101 during 2000. CINEP reported that between January and September state security forces tortured six persons; five cases were attributed to the police, and one case was attributed to the army.



The Constitution includes several provisions designed to prevent illegal detention; however, there continue to be instances in which the authorities have arrested or detained citizens arbitrarily. The law prohibits incommunicado detention. Anyone held in preventive detention must be brought before a prosecutor within 36 hours to determine the legality of the detention. The prosecutor must then act upon that petition within 36 hours of its submission. Despite these legal protections, instances of arbitrary detention continue.

In August 2001 the office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, a group of NGO's, and two private individuals filed four Constitutional Court challenges to the 2001 Law on Security and National Defense on the grounds that, among other things, it would infringe on the right to due process of persons detained or investigated by the military. The law does not specify the maximum period detainees may be held before being turned over to civilian authorities. Conditional pretrial release is available under certain circumstances, for example, in connection with minor offenses or after unduly lengthy amounts of time in preventive detention. It is not available in cases of serious crimes, such as homicide or terrorism.

AUC paramilitaries in the northeastern neighborhoods of Barrancabermeja, Magdalena department have illegally exercised "social controls," such as curfews for young persons and punishing domestic violence. In May police had to rescue a man who was kidnaped by the militias and beaten for fighting with his wife in the street. Guerrillas, particularly the FARC, pressed the Government and Congress to adopt a permanent prisoner exchange law. Initiating regular prisoner exchanges have remained a top guerrilla priority and featured prominently in the FARC's negotiating points at the peace talks. Neither the Congress nor the Government have attempted to pass such legislation, and there was minimal popular support for it during much of the year 2001. In June the FARC released 42 captured soldiers and police in exchange for 15 imprisoned FARC members, then unilaterally released an additional 247 soldiers and policemen. During the year 2001, 145 soldiers and police either were captured in combat or kidnaped while off-duty are presumed to be held by the FARC or the ELN. The ICRC was not permitted access to them.



The legal system in Columbia is based on Spanish law; however a new criminal code modeled after U.S. procedures was enacted in 1992-1993.

The judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, under which are the district superior, circuit, municipal, and lower courts, and the Council of State, which supervises a system of administrative courts that scrutinize acts and decrees issued by executive and decentralized agencies. The executive branch exercises some control over the judicial process through the Ministry of Justice and the Council of State. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for administering aspects of the legal and judicial system, such as the actual operation of the courts and penal system.

The Supreme Court is organized into four chambers dealing with civil, criminal, and labor appeals and with constitutional procedure. The first three chambers sit together as a Plenary Committee to resolve particularly important matters and government business. The Plenary Court's constitutional mandate grants it the authority to try high government officials for misconduct or violation of the laws, to deal with legal matters concerning foreign governments, and to address other cases assigned by law to the Supreme Court. It also rules on the constitutionality of legislation under Article 90, which permits the president to challenge the constitutionality of a law, and Article 124, whereby any citizen may claim that a conflict exists between legislation and the Constitution. The Senate and the House of Representatives each appoints one-half of the twenty-four-member Supreme Court from a list of nominees submitted by the president. Appointments are for life. The Supreme Court selects the members of the district superior courts, who, in turn, select magistrates for the lesser judicial positions in their districts. District magistrates serve five-year terms and may be reappointed indefinitely. Congress may remove from office a judge considered to be unfit because of conduct or age.

The Council of State has two functions. First, it acts as an advisory board to the president by drafting bills and codes concerned with administration and even by proposing legislative reforms in this area. Second, it acts as the supreme administrative tribunal, presiding over a hierarchy of courts that hears complaints against the government and public officials. With its power of judicial review over the constitutionality of administrative codes, decrees, and legislation, the Council of State is given equal rank with the Supreme Court in the judicial structure. Half of the Council of State's ten members are elected biannually for four-year terms from a list submitted to Congress by the president.

The country is divided into judicial districts, each of which has a superior court of three or more judges. District superior courts supervise the lower municipal, circuit, juvenile, and specialized courts. The lower courts are distributed on a departmental basis. At the lower levels, the court system still tended to be overburdened and slow in the late 1980s; juries were used infrequently. The Constitution also establishes one administrative court for each department to hear complaints brought by individuals against officials of the executive branch and the public service. These courts are part of an administrative hierarchy headed by the Council of State.

Public Ministry attorneys have the same rank, receive the same compensation, and must have the same qualifications as the magistrates before whom they practice. Although not formally part of the judiciary, Public Ministry officials are empowered to enforce the execution of laws, judicial decisions, and administrative orders. The attorney general selects lower court prosecuting attorneys from lists of nominees prepared by the prosecuting attorneys of the district superior courts. The president selects the latter attorneys from a list submitted by the attorney general.

By the late 1980s, a loose coalition of about twenty Medellín-based cocaine-trafficking families or syndicates, known collectively as the Medellín Cartel, had demoralized Colombia's judicial sector with narcotics-related corruption and had virtually paralyzed it with a campaign of terrorism and intimidation. Operating with considerable impunity, the Colombian drug barons arranged for the murders of more than fifty magistrates, including a dozen Supreme Court judges, between 1981 and 1988. The Extraditables (Los Extraditables), the name adopted by the cartel drug lords, also financed the assassination by hired killers (sicarios) of government judicial officials who favored compliance with the bilateral Extradition Treaty Between Colombia and the United States, signed by both countries in 1979. The drug traffickers feared extradition to the United States, where they were more likely to be convicted. Their victims included Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, assassinated on April 30, 1984; Lara Bonilla's successor as justice minister and ambassador to Hungary Enrique Parejo González, seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in Budapest in December 1986; and Attorney General Carlos Mauro Hoyos Jiménez, assassinated in Medellín on January 25, 1988. On December 12, 1986, the Plenary Committee of the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional Law 27 of 1980, which approved the already ratified 1979 extradition treaty between Colombia and the United States. The ruling broke with a seventy-year majority opinion that a law approving an international treaty could not be subjected to constitutional revision. Other judicial decisions favorable to the cartel--such as the release from jail in 1987 of Jorge Luis Ochoa Vásquez and Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, two leading cocaine traffickers--suggested that the drug dealers had succeeded in either bribing or intimidating many key judges, from the Supreme Court down to the local tribunals. Indeed, a document found in an army search in Medellín in January 1988 revealed that since early 1986 bribes of over US$1 million had been paid to officials of the foreign affairs and justice ministries (including judges), to the military, and to politicians to guarantee Ochoa's freedom. In a further concession to terrorism, the Supreme Court in June 1987 declared that Decree 750 of 1987 was unconstitutional. That decree had created the three-member Special Tribunal of Criminal Proceedings (Tribunal Especial de Instrucción Criminal) for the purpose of investigating politically significant assassinations causing social unrest or trauma. To fill the resulting gap, the Barco government turned to a small cadre of "specialized judges" that was established in 1984 to deal with terrorist crimes, including kidnaping, with the support of forensic experts of the Directorate of the Judicial Police and Investigation, commonly referred to as the Judicial Police.

The civilian judicial system, reorganized under the 1991 Constitution, is independent of the executive and legislative branches both in theory and in practice; however, the suborning or intimidation of judges, witnesses, and prosecutors by those indicted or involved is common. The Human Rights Ombudsman's office reported receipt of 568 complaints of denial of the right to due process during 2000, the most recent year for which statistics were available. The office received 773 such complaints in 1999. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys continue to be subjected to threats and acts of violence. The judiciary includes the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Council of State (the appellate court for civil cases), the Superior Judicial Council, and lower courts. The CSJ, which oversees the administration of the judiciary, also has responsibility for determining whether cases involving members of the security forces are to be tried in civilian or military courts. The Prosecutor General's office is an independent prosecutorial body that brings criminal cases before the courts.

The Constitutional Court adjudicates cases of constitutionality, reviews all decisions regarding writs of protection of fundamental rights ("tutelas"), and reviews all decisions regarding motions for cessation of judicial proceedings. Jurisdictional clashes among the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Council of State, and the CSJ were common, due to the lack of a single supreme judicial authority capable of deciding issues of jurisdiction or constitutional interpretation. In April 2000, the Constitutional Court overturned much of the 1999 law creating a specialized jurisdiction (which had replaced the anonymous ("faceless") regional courts system in July 1999). Arguing that defendants have the right to know the identity of their accusers, the Constitutional Court overturned elements of the law that permitted some prosecutors and witnesses to remain anonymous under exceptionally dangerous circumstances. The Court also ruled that specialized jurisdiction judges and prosecutors no longer could transfer cases to other colleagues when they believed their own security to be at risk. The Constitutional Court's decision preserved first instance specialized jurisdiction courts created by the 1999 law, which try certain crimes, including kidnaping, hijacking, paramilitarism, guerrilla subversion, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and human rights abuses. Specialized jurisdiction prosecutors still are permitted 12 months to investigate and develop cases, rather than the 6 months afforded to regular civilian judiciary prosecutors.

The Constitution specifically provides for the right to due process. Judges determine the outcome of all trials; jury trials are rare. The accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty and has the right to representation by counsel, although representation for indigenous people and the indigent historically has been inadequate. In mid-1999, the CSJ's administrative chamber reported that the civilian judiciary suffered from a backlog of approximately 3,069,000 cases (including approximately 604,000 criminal cases) and that there were approximately 338,000 outstanding arrest warrants. Approximately 223,000 writs for protection of fundamental rights ("tutelas") were before the Constitutional Court for its legally mandated review. At year's end, the CSJ reported that the judicial system was extremely overburdened; it received a total of 8.6 million suits in 1994-2000, of which 226,783 were criminal cases filed during 2000. These backlogs have created large numbers of pretrial detainees.

Defendants in trials conducted by the regular courts have the right to be present and the right to timely consultation with an attorney. Regular court defendants and their attorneys have the right to question, contradict, and confront witnesses against them, to present witnesses on their own behalf, and to have access to government evidence relevant to the case. The country's judiciaries, including regular civilian, specialized jurisdiction, and military, continue to be overwhelmingly Napoleonic in character; everything is processed in writing. Public trials are still rare, and there are juries only in rare instances; however, cross-examination of witnesses does occur. Defendants also have the right to appeal a conviction to a higher court.

The Constitution provides for a special criminal and civil jurisdiction within indigenous territories based upon traditional community laws.

As part of the Ministry of Defense, the military judiciary falls under the executive branch, rather than under the judicial branch. The lack of transparency and accountability in the workings of the military judiciary contribute to a general lack of confidence in the system's ability to bring human rights abusers to justice. The new Military Penal Code, which entered into effect in August 2000, denied unit commanders the power to judge subordinates; called for the creation of an independent military judicial corps; and provided legal protection for service members who refuse to obey illegal orders to commit human rights abuses. The reformed code does not allow torture, genocide, and forced disappearance to be related to acts of service--the constitutional standard for trying crimes in the military judiciary. Therefore, these crimes must be tried in the civilian judiciary. In August 2000, the President issued a directive to the armed forces and the police that excluded from military criminal jurisdiction the crimes of genocide, torture, forced disappearance, and acts against humanity.

The new military justice system is composed of magistrates of the Military Court of Appeals, lower military court judges, investigating judges, prosecutors, and judge advocates (auditor de guerra) at the General Inspector, division, and brigade levels. The Executive Director of the Military Penal Justice, Corps Brigadier General Jairo Pineda, reports directly to the Minister of Defense, a civilian. Military prosecutors report to Brigadier General Pineda, not to unit commanders as under the previous system. The new Military Penal Code provides for the right of representatives of the civilian judiciary to be present at military trials of military personnel.

A 1997 Constitutional Court decision transferred jurisdiction for the investigation and prosecution of serious human rights violations and other alleged crimes not related directly to acts of service from the military judicial system to the civilian judiciary. (Previously the CSJ assigned most cases involving high-level military personnel to the military courts, where convictions in human rights-related cases were rare.) The Constitutional Court ruled that, in the case of doubt, jurisdiction should be assigned to the civilian system. However, in 1998 the CSJ determined that it was not bound by the Constitutional Court's 1997 decision. In that instance the CSJ's decision ended a civilian investigation of the relationship between Brigadier General Fernando Millan and paramilitary groups in Santander department.

The 1991 Constitution provides that general-rank officers be tried by the Supreme Court. The new Military Penal Code provides that the Supreme Court (not the Superior Military Tribunal) has first instance jurisdiction in cases that date from August 12, 1999, involving criminal acts by generals, admirals, major generals, vice-admirals, brigadier generals, rear admirals, and magistrates and prosecutors of the Superior Military Tribunal. Cases that already were in their trial phase before this date must continue under the old military penal code. The new code also makes the Supreme Court the court of second instance review of rulings by the Superior Military Tribunal, thereby giving the Supreme Court--a body composed entirely of civilian magistrates--effective authority over the military judiciary. An August 2000 presidential directive also "raises to the category of law" the 1997 Constitutional Court decision that serious human rights violations and other crimes not directly related to acts of service must be tried by civilian courts. CSJ figures quoted at the end of 2000 by the Ministry of Defense indicated that when conflicts of jurisdiction arose, the total number of cases assigned to military courts dropped from 50 percent in 1992 to approximately 15 percent in 2000, while cases assigned to civilian jurisdiction rose from 40 percent in 1992 to 60 percent over the same period. During the year 2001, the CSJ assigned 11 cases out of 31 conflicts of jurisdiction involving military or police suspects to the military penal system and 20 cases to civilian jurisdiction.

The military judiciary demonstrated an increased willingness during the year 2001 to turn cases of military officers accused of human rights violations or criminal activities over to the civilian judiciary; however, such officers generally were of lower rank. In November the Ministry of Defense released figures that indicated that since the 1997 Constitutional Court decision, the military judiciary has transferred 1,372 cases to the civilian judicial system; there was no information available as to how many of these cases dealt specifically with human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law, nor how many cases remained in the military judicial system. However, a March 2000 report by the Ministry of Defense stated that 41 percent of the cases transferred involved serious crimes such as homicide, torture, illegal detentions, and infliction of bodily injuries; the rest were common crimes. Out of the total of 1,314 police and military cases transferred, 58 cases were transferred during the year 2001, 496 cases were transferred in 2000, 79 in 1999, 266 in 1998, 295 in 1997, and 171 cases were transferred on an unknown date. During 2001 the military judiciary found 122 members guilty of violating "human or fundamental rights." The average prison sentence was 58 months for homicide and 15 months for inflicting bodily injury.

In a key ruling, the military judiciary convicted General Jaime Humberto Uscategui Ramirez of failing to stop the 1997 massacre in Mapiripan, Meta department. Uscategui was sentenced to 40 months in prison and loss of salary. Uscategui served a reduced sentence, however, and many human rights activists claimed that the message sent by his conviction was undercut by his early release. Furthermore, the key witness against Uscategui, Lt. Col. Hernan Orozco, was sentenced to 38 months imprisonment. Orozco served the entire sentence and was released in November. However, the Constitutional Court announced in November its ruling that the CSJ should transfer Uscategui's case to the civilian judiciary, arguing that Uscategui's alleged crimes were not service-related acts. This ruling, which had not yet been issued formally and implemented by year's end, in essence nullified the military judiciary's conviction, and means that Uscategui's case will fall to the Prosecutor General's office for investigation and prosecution. (Orozco is not expected to face investigation, as the Prosecutor General's office had declined in 1998 to press charges against him.)

In September 2000, the President signed 12 decrees to reform and strengthen the military. One decree provides for the separation from service of all uniformed members of the military regardless of their time in service, at the discretion of the top military commanders. Previously, the Minister of Defense could at his discretion separate from service only those who had served at least 15 years in the military. Other decrees establish three levels of misconduct and the crimes classified at each level. A total of 27 crimes are punishable with immediate dismissal; these include: torture, forced disappearance, genocide, facilitating by any means the knowledge of protected information or access to classified documents without authorization, failure to enter into combat or to pursue the enemy having the capacity to do so, and retreating before the enemy or abandoning post without having used elements of defense that might be available. A higher-ranking officer such as a unit commander is granted initial authority to issue disciplinary sanctions. Those under investigation may be suspended for up to 90 days with half pay; those suspended may perform administrative duties. The decrees also state that in the event that another authority should learn of crimes, the military must inform that authority and provide all relevant information to it. Another decree states that, with limited exceptions, any officer sentenced to prison by the military or the civilian justice system is to be separated from service. From October 2000 through the end of 2001, the military dismissed a total of approximately 600 members; however, it was not known how many discharges were for collaborating with paramilitary groups. No information was available from the MOD regarding the specific reasons for any of the dismissals, nor were their names announced. It was not known how many were dismissed due to allegations that they were responsible for human rights abuses or for collaborating with paramilitary groups in such abuses. The MOD has confirmed the claims of many human rights NGO's that a large number of those dismissed have entered the ranks of illegal paramilitary groups.

When military officers were tried, convicted, and sentenced for human rights violations, they generally did not serve prison terms but were confined to their bases or military police detention centers, as permitted by law. The Ministry of Defense reports, and the Prosecutor General's office concurs, that military and police prisoners charged by civilian prosecutors routinely are suspended from their duties and placed on half-pay. Officers and noncommissioned officers are removed from any command duties. Some perform administrative functions while in detention. Armed Forces Commander General Tapias has cited a lack of adequate military prison facilities as a primary cause for escapes from military detention areas. To address these concerns, in September Minister of Defense Bell announced that a new high security prison would be opened at Tolemaida military base in October. Although the military is responsible for operating the facility, the civilian INPEC will provide oversight.

On August 13, the President signed the Law on Security and National Defense (Law 684 of 2001), which among other things, expanded the authority of the armed forces to detain suspects in the absence of civilian authorities. Various human rights groups protested the law's final version. Four different lawsuits (one by the Human Rights Ombudsman's office, one by a group of NGO's, and two by individuals) challenging the law have been filed before the Constitutional Court. They contend that various aspects of the law violate the right to due process as provided for in the Constitution and the Criminal Code. Article 58 of the law does not limit specifically the time the military can detain a suspect before turning that person over to civilian law enforcement, although Article 70 mandates that suspects be turned over to civilian authorities as soon as time and distance permit, and that any delay must be justified appropriately. Article 60 gives civilian authorities up to 60 days from the receipt of a complaint of a human rights violation to decide whether to investigate formally alleged crimes by military or police during operations, significantly less than the year allowed for investigations of civilian authorities. Some legal experts also have complained that the provisions that allow the Government to declare a zone a military theater of operations, in effect, give military commanders authority over regional civilian authorities. While the law does not grant explicitly military commanders authority over regional civilian authorities, it permits the President to delegate to the military the authority to enforce presidential decrees and orders.

Judges have long been subject to threats and intimidation, particularly when handling cases involving members of the public security forces or of paramilitary, narcotics, and guerrilla organizations. Violent attacks against prosecutors and judges continue, and prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys continue to be subjected to threats and acts of violence. Prosecutors reported that potential witnesses in major cases often lacked faith in the Government's ability to protect their anonymity and were thus unwilling to testify, ruining chances for successful prosecutions.

The Inspector General's office investigates misconduct by public officials, including members of the military and police. The Inspector General's office can draw upon a nationwide network of hundreds of government human rights investigators covering the country's 1,097 municipalities. The office received 228 complaints related to massacres and forced disappearances during the year 2001, compared with 201 in 2000. Of complaints received during the year 2001, 146 are under preliminary investigation, 23 resulted in formal disciplinary investigations, and 14 resulted in formal charges being filed. Of the 101 persons under investigation at year's end for complaints related to massacres and forced disappearances, 45 were army, 28 were police, 5 were air force, 22 were marines, and 1 was from the INPEC. The Inspector General's office can only impose administrative sanctions; it has no authority to bring criminal prosecutions or impose criminal sanctions but can refer all cases to the Prosecutor General's office for investigation. The Inspector General's office referred all cases of human rights violations received during the year 2001 to the Prosecutor General for investigation, and reported that that the majority of these cases are investigated by the Prosecutor General's office.

The Supreme Court elects the Prosecutor General for a 4-year term, which does not coincide with that of the President, from a list of three candidates chosen by the President. The Prosecutor General is tasked with investigating criminal offenses and presenting evidence against the accused before the various judges and tribunals. However, this office retains significant judicial functions and, like other elements of the civilian judiciary, it is struggling to make the transition from a Napoleonic to a mixed legal system that incorporates an adversarial aspect.

In an attempt to address impunity, the Prosecutor General in 1995 created a special human rights unit as part of the regional courts system. As of December, the group of 30 prosecutors had 788 open cases involving massacres, extrajudicial killings, kidnapings, and terrorism during the year 2001, with 1,342 suspects under investigation, of which 234 were members of state security forces. The unit's prosecutors have issued arrest warrants against members of the security forces and of paramilitary, guerrilla, and drug trafficking organizations. As of December, the human rights unit had under arrest 275 members of state security forces, had charges filed against 214, and had 56 members of the state security services on trial for a variety of charges including homicide, torture, kidnaping, and sponsorship of paramilitary groups. The security forces demonstrated a greater willingness to follow up with instructions that those ordered arrested be removed from their duties, denied the right to wear a uniform, or turned over to civilian judicial authorities. The Ministry of Defense and the Fiscalia reported that all military and police charged with a human rights crimes are suspended from their duties and placed on half-pay. At year's end, 107 military and 74 police were suspended. However, for various reasons including lack of resources for investigation, lack of protection for witnesses and investigators, lack of coordination between government organs, and in some cases, obstruction of justice by individuals, impunity continues to be very widespread.

In addition to providing public defense attorneys in criminal cases, the Human Rights Ombudsman's 34 departmental and regional offices throughout the country provide a legal channel for thousands of complaints and allegations of human rights violations. However, in practice the Ombudsman's operations are underfunded and understaffed, slowing its development of a credible public defender system. Human Rights Ombudsman Eduardo Cifuentes was active during the year 2001 in criticizing and reporting human rights violations and in visiting the sites of massacres. His office has worked to improve training and support of its personnel and has begun to build a nationwide Early Warning System, now operational, to help prevent massacres.

Within the FARC-controlled despeje zone, local FARC leaders effectively supplanted judicial authorities and declared the establishment of an alternative, FARC-run "justice system." In the face of FARC intimidation, all elements of the civilian judiciary fled the zone. Residents of the zone regularly were denied the right to a fair trial. Continuing concern about arbitrary FARC justice in the zone led the authorities to stress that governmental justice must be present.


In the early 1980s, the capacity of the country's prison system was only 12,000 prisoners, yet the size of the country's prison population was estimated at 30,000. Both the rising crime rate and the backlog of cases had contributed to the serious overcrowding. In July 1985, a number of important legal procedural reforms affected the administration of justice. Some of the reforms were designed to help empty the country's prisons of those convicted of minor offenses whose sentences were less than two years. These measures were believed to affect approximately 3,000 individuals who were awaiting trial or serving out their sentences. Preventive detention was mandated for those convicted of minor offenses but who were sentenced to a minimum of two years' incarceration. In addition, because of the lengthy delay in hearing cases, the issuance of arrest warrants for individuals suspected of minor crimes that had a sentence of less than two years was suspended. The penalties were stiffened for serious crimes, however. Persons convicted of committing such crimes as kidnapping for ransom, extortion, terrorism, drug trafficking, or serious economic crimes remained subject to the full penalties applicable under existing law.

The largest maximum security penitentiary was La Picota Prison in Bogotá. Smaller penitentiaries were located in Medellín, Palmira, Ibagué, Manizales, Pamplona, Pasto, and Barranquilla. Prison facilities for females were maintained at Tunja and Cuenca. In addition, agricultural penal colonies were located at Acacía and in the interior jungle near Araracuara. Two additional small prison facilities were located in Bogotá and on Isla Gorgona. Each judicial district and municipality also operated its own jail. During the 1980s, the majority of prisoners convicted or awaiting trial were held at these small local facilities. The principal reformatories for juvenile offenders, holding youth aged fourteen to eighteen, were located at Bogotá and Fagua.

Today, prison conditions are harsh, especially for those prisoners without significant outside support. Severe overcrowding and dangerous sanitary and health conditions remain serious problems. In early June, the Supreme Court of Valledupar, Cesar department, ruled in favor of Valledupar prison inmates who had filed a writ of appeal complaining of lack of water, sanitation, natural light, and prolonged isolation from contact with relatives. The court ordered the Prison and Penitentiary Institute (INPEC) to resolve these problems. There are approximately 7,000 prison guards from the INPEC who report to the Ministry of Justice. Guards and prison staff frequently are untrained or corrupt.

Only three prisons--Valledupar, Bogota's La Picota prison, and Acacias--appear to meet international standards for treatment of prisoners. In the country's other prisons, inmates pay to eat, drink, sleep on a mattress, wash clothes, or make telephone calls, and also pay protection fees to fellow inmates or to corrupt prison guards. According to the Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners, outside, private sources continues to provide the majority of prisoners' food in most prisons. In 1999 INPEC reported that the daily food allowance for each prisoner was $1.44 (2,700 pesos). In late November, the director of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in the country, Anders Kompass, described the country's overcrowded prisons to a news conference as terrible. According to INPEC, in September the country's prisons and jails held approximately 51,251 inmates, 24 percent over their capacity of 41,191; the occupancy rate was 37 percent over capacity at the end of 2000. According to INPEC figures, overcrowding has improved, but remains severe. Medellin's Bellavista prison, the country's largest, housed 6,219 inmates at year's end although it originally was built to house 1,800 inmates (a 245 percent occupancy rate). Bogota's La Modelo prison had a 160 percent occupancy rate, compared with 169 percent in 2000, and the Palmira prison outside Cali held 14 percent above its planned capacity, compared with a 192 percent occupancy rate in 2000. An estimated 17.8 percent of the country's prisons were between 40 and 80 years old, 3.5 percent between 80 and 201 years old, and 2.4 percent more than 201 years old. The Justice Ministry made significant progress in implementing its plan, announced in February 2000, to renovate prisons and build 11 new prisons and expand prison capacity by 18,000 persons by 2003. During the year 2001, the Government renovated prisons in Valledupar, Acacias, Popayan, Barne, and the high security pavilion in Bogota's La Picota penitentiary. The Government already had completed, had under construction, or had contracted to add 10,600 beds at the end of the year.

An estimated 42 percent of all prison inmates (21,364 persons) are pretrial detainees. The remaining 58 percent (29,887 persons) are split roughly between those appealing their convictions, and those who have exhausted their appeals and are serving out their terms. There are no separate facilities for pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners. According to the MOD, in 2000 a total of 4,145 persons (8 percent of inmates) were in pretrial detention in police stations. Despite a 1999 Constitutional Court ruling that ordered the transfer of detainees from overcrowded police station holding cells to prisons, Bogota's 21 police stations still held 1,657 prisoners awaiting transfer to prisons at the end of 2000, the most recent estimate available.

Local or regional military and jail commanders did not always prepare mandatory detention registers or follow notification procedures; as a result, precise accounting for every detainee was not always possible.

The Government frequently failed to prevent deadly violence among inmates. In the period from January through September, INPEC reported 19 disturbances and 62 violent deaths in the penitentiary system. For example, in January two inmates were killed and one wounded during paramilitary-guerrilla fights at the prison in Bucaramanga, Santander department. In June the ELN kidnaped five paramilitaries from municipal prisons in El Bagre, Antioquia department. Also in June, three inmates died and four more were injured in fighting at the Palmira prison, Valle del Cauca department. On July 2-3, 10 persons were killed and 23 injured in an armed battle between paramilitary and guerrilla convicts in Bogota's La Modelo prison. State security forces were unable to reestablish control for 17 hours. Sixteen inmates reportedly remain unaccounted for following April 2000 fighting between paramilitaries and organized crime groups, which left 27 dead and 43 wounded in Bogota's La Modelo prison.

Escapes from prison continue to be a very serious problem; from January through September, INPEC reported 168 escapes. A total of 781 inmates escaped during 2000, most when granted 72-hour passes to leave the prisons. The Prosecutor General's office and the Inspector General's office continues to investigate abuse of these passes. Some of those who escaped during the year 2001 were highly dangerous criminals. On February 19, 20 prisoners escaped from the prison in Neiva, Huila department, when the FARC blew a hole in the wall with a rocket. In early May, Omar Yesud Lopez Alarcon, the head of the northern branch of the paramilitaries who is accused of masterminding a number of massacres, escaped from the Modelo de Cucuta prison. On May 7, the FARC released 65 prisoners from a prison in Caloto, Cauca department, during a FARC attack. On June 23, 98 inmates (including 19 guerrillas) escaped from La Picota prison by blowing a hole in a wall with a gas cylinder. FARC inmates said that FARC commanders had orchestrated the escape. The La Picota incident prompted the resignation of the director of INPEC. On July 22, 73 prisoners escaped from prison when 300 FARC troops attacked the town of Bolivar, Cauca department.

Key narcotics traffickers and some guerrilla leaders obtain cells with many comforts, some of which--such as access to two-way radios, cellular telephones, and computers--allowed them to continue their illegal activities from inside jail. However, the high security wing of La Picota prison in Bogota has undergone renovations that have altered considerably this comfortable lifestyle.

There are separate prison facilities for women, and in some parts of the country, separate women's prisons exist. Conditions at women's prisons are similar to those at men's prisons but are far less violent. According to the Criminal Procedures Code, no one under the age of 18 may be held in a prison. Juveniles are held in separate facilities operated by the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF).

The ICRC continues to have routine access to most prisons and police and military detention centers. The ICRC continues to have ad hoc access to civilians held by paramilitary groups and guerrilla forces. However, the FARC and ELN continue to deny the ICRC access to police or military hostages.



Rape and other acts of violence against women are pervasive in society, and like other crimes, seldom are prosecuted successfully. According to the Ombudsman's 2000 report, intrafamilial violence, sexual assault, and the murder of women were increasing problems. The governmental Institute for Family Welfare and the Presidential Adviser's Office for Youth, Women, and Family Affairs continue to report high levels of spousal and partner abuse throughout the country. Between January and August, the Institute for Forensic Medicine reported 19,066 cases of spousal abuse. There were 8,757 cases of domestic violence by other family members. The Institute reported 2,834 cases of sex crimes (excluding figures for Bogota) including rape, the rape of minors, and other forms of sexual abuse. The Institute commented that the crimes of domestic violence and rape are grossly underreported, citing its 1995 survey that indicated that as few as 5 percent of these crimes are reported, and that only 2 percent of victims receive a medical evaluation. The ICBF conducted programs and provided refuge and counseling for victims of spousal abuse; however, the level and amount of these services were dwarfed by the magnitude of the problem. For example, each of the ICBF's 530 family ombudsmen handle approximately 1,160 cases per year.

Women also faced an increased threat of torture and sexual assault due to the internal conflict. In November the U.N. Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Radhika Coomaraswamy, investigated violence against women in the country's armed conflict. The UNHCHR, CODHES, and the Human Rights Ombudsman all noted that internally displaced women and girls are especially vulnerable to domestic violence, sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation. In August the Colombian Pro-Family Institute published a Study of Sexual Health and Reproduction in Displaced Women and Adolescents. One of the greatest problems facing displaced women is adolescent pregnancy; 3 out of 10 girls between the ages of 13 and 19 have a child or are pregnant. According to the study, one out of five displaced women have been raped, a significant percentage by their husbands or companions. International organizations and NGO's have noted with deep concern that sexual violence is largely unreported and that no long-term assistance is available to female IDP's. In addition, they criticized the use of female combatants in guerrilla organizations as sex slaves. Former female guerrillas also have reported forced abortions and forced implantation of intrauterine devices.

Prostitution, which is not legal, is a problem, which has been aggravated by a poor economy and internal displacement. Sex tourism exists to a limited extent, especially in coastal cities like Cartagena and Barranquilla. It is likely that some number of marriage and dating services are covers for sex tourism activities. Trafficking in women for sexual exploitation is a problem. The law prohibits sexual harassment; however, it is a problem.


Child abuse is a problem. The National Institute for Forensic Medicine reported 5,471 cases of child abuse between January and August; there were 9,896 reported cases in 2000. According to the March 2000 report of the UNHCHR, sexual abuse is prevalent, particularly of children between the ages of 5 and 14 years of age. In 70 to 80 percent of cases, children know their abusers. According to UNICEF, an estimated 35,000 boys and girls under age 18 work as prostitutes. A 1996 law prohibits sex with minors or the employment of minors for prostitution. In August 2000, the Prosecutor General's Specialized Sex Crimes and Human Dignity Unit reported that from August 1999 to August 2000 it opened 41 cases in which a child under 14 was induced or lured into prostitution. Children are trafficked for sexual exploitation.

In conflict zones, children often were caught in the crossfire between public security forces, paramilitary groups, and guerrilla organizations. For example, on March 9, seven children were injured near Popayan, Cauca department, by a grenade left behind by the ELN. MOD figures indicated that approximately 200 children were killed due to the conflict during 2000. Children suffered disproportionately from the internal conflict, often forfeiting opportunities to study as they were displaced by conflict and suffered psychological traumas. According to UNICEF, over 1 million children have been displaced from their homes over the past decade (. The Human Rights Ombudsman's office estimated that only 15 percent of displaced children attend school. Both female and male children who have been displaced are especially vulnerable to abuse, sexual exploitation, or recruitment by criminals.

Paramilitaries and guerrillas forcibly recruited children, and the use of child soldiers was common. Sexual abuse of girls is a particular problem. In 2000 UNICEF reported that various armed groups had killed 460 children over the previous 4 years and kidnaped another 789 children. Children were among the preferred kidnaping targets of guerrillas (. Pais Libre reported that the number of children kidnaped annually increased from 206 in 1999, to 265 in 2000, and to 205 as of October. According to the MOD, 213 minors were kidnaped between January and August. Among the 213 were 29 babies less than 2 years of age, and 57 of these children still were in captivity as of August. For example, the FARC kidnaped 3-year-old Andres Felipe Navas in April 2000 and did not release him until November 2001. In April 2000, the FARC also kidnaped 9-year-old Dagoberto Ospina Ospina from his school bus in southern Cali and did not release him until early in the year.


In July 2001 a new Criminal Code went into effect which defines trafficking in persons as a crime; however, trafficking in persons, primarily women and girls, remains a problem. Colombia is a source country for trafficking in women and girls to Europe, the United States, Asia, and other Latin American countries. The DAS reported in 2000 that the country is one of the three most common countries of origin of trafficking victims in the Western Hemisphere; in 2000 an estimated 35,000 to 50,000 Colombian trafficking victims were overseas. The majority of women trafficked for prostitution reportedly go to the Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong. A study carried out in Spain in 1999 by the Roman Catholic religious order the "Adoratrices" found that Colombian women constituted nearly half of all trafficking victims in that country. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe issued a report on trafficking in persons in 1999 that stated that women and girls from Colombia also are trafficked to North America. According to press reports, more than 50 percent of women from Colombia who enter Japan are trafficking victims forced to work as prostitutes. Law enforcement authorities report that most trafficked persons come from the departments of Valle de Cauca, Antioquia, Santander, Cundinamarca, and the coffee-growing regions of Risaralda, Caldas, Quindio, and Tolima.

Police report that most traffickers are linked to narcotics or other criminal organizations. Traffickers disguise their intent by running media ads offering jobs, portraying themselves as modeling agents, offering marriage brokerage services, or operating lottery or bingo scams with free trips as prizes. Recruiters reportedly loiter outside high schools, shopping malls, and parks to lure adolescents into accepting phantom jobs abroad. The country's overall situation of economic downturn, high unemployment, internal conflict between three major illegal armed groups, and social exclusion contributes to the availability of victims. While young women are the primary targets of traffickers, children and men also are affected. According to officials at the ICBF, a high rate of unwanted pregnancy in unwed teenage girls contributes to trafficking in children.

Additional efforts have addressed the problem of trafficking within the country's own borders. According to UNICEF, approximately 25,000 children--16,000 of them between 8 and 12 years of age--are victims of sexual exploitation. The ICBF estimates that in Bogota alone there are over 10,000 girls and nearly 1,000 boys exploited as child prostitutes. In 2000 the Prosecutor General's office created the Center for Attention to Victims of Sexual Crimes, which as of December had provided legal assistance in 2,200 cases of sexual aggression against women and children. During the year 2001, the ICBF provided assistance, either directly or through other specialized agencies, to over 14,000 sexually exploited children.


In the 1980s, Colombia achieved international notoriety as a major narcotics trafficking center. Nonetheless, the country's involvement with drugs was rooted farther back in history. As in Bolivia and Peru, although on a smaller scale, Colombia's indigenous populations had grown and chewed coca for thousands of years. Marijuana cultivation, in contrast, was a much more recent phenomenon. It arrived in Colombia along the Caribbean coast via Panama during the first decade of the twentieth century. By the 1930s, limited cultivation had begun among the Costeño black population centered on Barranquilla; urban criminals there routinely smoked marijuana. During World War II, experiments with hemp cultivation designed to increase fiber production for the war effort substantially expanded its cultivation. The real takeoff of Colombian marijuana production began in the mid- and late 1960s as a result of the growing demand generated by the United States market. By the early 1970s, Colombia had emerged as a major United States supplier, although most of the market remained in the hands of Mexican traffickers. When in the early 1970s the United States tightened up drug enforcement along the United States-Mexican border and the Mexican state launched a major drive against its domestic producers, the epicenter of marijuana production in the hemisphere rapidly shifted to Colombia, especially to the Guajira Peninsula and the slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. By the end of the decade, Colombia accounted for about 70 percent of the marijuana reaching the United States from abroad. Between 30,000 and 50,000 small farmers along Colombia's Caribbean coast came to depend directly on marijuana cultivation for their livelihood, while at least another 50,000 Colombians--including seasonal pickers, transporters, guards, and bankers--made a living from it. The trade proved to be an important source of new wealth for the Caribbean coast, providing the population with income, comforts, and a degree of economic stability that they had never before enjoyed. The Caribbean port cities of Barranquilla, Santa Marta, and Riohacha, in particular, experienced unprecedented prosperity. At the same time, however, the Guajira Peninsula experienced a dramatic upsurge in drug-related violence and a concomitant disintegration of local police and judicial institutions as the result of corruption and bribery. Local food production declined as tens of thousands of hectares were converted to marijuana cultivation. Farmers engaged in growing traditional crops such as bananas found labor more expensive and in short supply. Inflation was stimulated, especially in land markets, as drug barons bid up prices. Many legitimate businesses, including banks, hotels, airlines, restaurants, and casinos, were bought up by the mafiosos and used for laundering illicit profits.

The Colombian cocaine trade followed in the footsteps of the marijuana traffickers. In the late 1960s, a relatively small cocaine smuggling network, largely under the control of exile Cuban criminal organizations based in Miami, sprang up. Coca was cultivated in small plots by Paez Indians in the San Jorge Valley in the department of Cauca in southwestern Colombia and in the Cordillera Occidental. Smuggling was carried out largely by individual carriers, or "mules," who transported a few kilograms at a time using commercial airlines. In the early 1970s, as demand for cocaine expanded rapidly in the United States, the limited raw coca supplies produced in Colombia were augmented with coca paste imported from Bolivia and Peru, refined in "kitchen laboratories" in Colombia, and smuggled into the United States. The 1973 Chilean military coup that deposed President Salvador Allende Gossens also proved to be a severe blow to the Chilean criminal gangs involved in the cocaine trade in that country. When the military government of General Agusto Pinochet Ugarte clamped down, many Chilean "chemists" fled Chile and ended up swelling the ranks of the nascent smuggling and refining networks in Colombia and Miami. In addition, two Colombians--Carlos Lehder Rivas and Jorge Luis Ochoa Vásquez--worked with the Medellín criminal networks in the mid-1970s to transform the cocaine transportation system from small-time mule activities into huge airlift operations. By late 1977, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had opened a file under the name "Medellín Trafficking Syndicate." Violence was an integral part of the operations of the Medellín syndicate from the start. As the organization grew in size, power, and wealth, it also grew in ruthlessness and violence. After first establishing their dominance on the South American side of the market, in 1978 and 1979 the Medellín drug bosses turned their attention to control of wholesale distribution in the United States. Thus began a period of violence in South Florida known as "the Cocaine Wars." It peaked in 1981 with a reported 101 drug- related murders in that year. As the violence subsided in late 1981 and afterward, what emerged was a loosely organized criminal organization known as the Medellín Cartel. In effect, by installing their own middlemen in Miami, the Colombians "forward integrated" their operations and thus were able to capture additional profits. By reinvesting their profits in the business, they were able to expand and streamline production in Colombia and farther south in the Andes. They also purchased bigger and better airplanes and boats for transporting drugs, purchased more sophisticated electronic communications devices and radar to escape detection, and paid huge sums in bribes for protection to law enforcement officials in Colombia, the United States, and elsewhere. By the early 1980s, the marijuana traffic was already being eclipsed by the cocaine trade in terms of the wealth and power associated with it. Cocaine also generated criminal organizations that were more profitable, more vertically integrated, more hierarchical in structure, and more ruthless in their systematic use of bribery, intimidation, and assassination than the marijuana traffickers. Although Colombia had long been accustomed to extraordinarily high levels of violence, the rise of the drug mafia provoked a qualitative change. Relying on paid assassins, locally known as sicarios, Colombia's drug lords not only fought among themselves but also launched a systematic campaign of murder and intimidation against Colombia's government authorities intent upon extraditing them to the United States. In the process, they effectively paralyzed the country's system of justice and drove scores of prominent Colombians from all walks of life out of the country and into self-imposed exile. They also contributed significantly to the "devaluation" of life throughout Colombia and converted murder and brutality into a regular source of income for some sectors of society. Unlike marijuana money, which was concentrated along the Caribbean coast, cocaine money made its way into the major metropolitan areas, especially Barranquilla, Medellín, Cali, and, to a lesser extent, Bogotá. Along with their enormous economic power, the drug lords reached out for a larger quota of political power. Several, like Lehder, bought interests in local radio stations and newspapers. Others, like Pablo Escobar Gavíria, sought to create patron-client followings in the cities by handing out cash to the poor, building low-income housing in the slums, or purchasing sports teams and constructing sports stadiums. A number contributed to political campaigns. Lehder went so far as to create his own Latino Nationalist Party and to publicize his hybrid political ideology (a combination of Colombian and Latin American nationalism, leavened with elements of fascism) through his newspaper, Quindio Libre. In 1982 Escobar was actually elected as an alternate congressman on a Liberal Party slate in his home department of Antioquia. In addition to corrupting the political and economic systems, narcotics trafficking generated a growing domestic drug problem. In the early 1980s, there developed among Colombian youths a widespread addiction to basuco. A highly contaminated, addictive, and damaging form of cocaine normally smoked with marijuana or tobacco, basuco was dumped by the cocaine smugglers on the Colombian market because it was not of "export" quality. Sold cheap, it soon became more popular in many cities than marijuana, leaving hundreds of thousands of addicts in its wake, many suffering from permanent nervous disorders.

The activities of Colombian narcotics traffickers represented a serious internal security problem. During the 1980s, government officials that had been murdered for their efforts to carry out their responsibilities under the country's narcotics laws included a minister of justice, an attorney general, a dozen Supreme Court judges, and a former head of the Antinarcotics Police. In addition, scores of police personnel and lower-court justices had been murdered by the narcotics traffickers' hired assassins (sicarios). By early 1988, the narcotics traffickers had organized their own death squad, The Extraditables. The Extraditables issued threats against or murdered persons seen as abetting the government's attempt to comply with outstanding United States extradition warrants. The corruption spawned as a by-product of the lucrative trafficking operations had threatened, if not irreparably damaged, the integrity of the Colombian judicial system. Major traffickers often could obtain release by making substantial cash payments to the magistrates responsible for their cases. Although some limited drug interdiction efforts occurred under the Misael Pastrana Borrero (1970-74) and Alfonso López Michelsen (1974-78) administrations, President Turbay implemented the first major campaign against narcotics trafficking. In November 1978, Turbay declared a state of siege and dispatched the military to quell the surge in drug-related activities then taking place in the Guajira Peninsula. Over the next sixteen months, a 12,000-man army brigade destroyed marijuana fields in the countryside and arrested traffickers while the navy blockaded the coastline and confiscated narcotics shipments heading to the United States. The campaign ended in March 1980 because of growing concerns that it was disrupting the region's economy and exposing the armed forces to the corrupting influence of payments from narcotics traffickers. Turbay removed the military from the Guajira Peninsula and replaced them with 6,000 members of the National Police. During the Turbay administration, Colombia also agreed to a treaty authorizing the extradition to the United States of narcotics traffickers accused of crimes in that country. Finally, Turbay established the Judicial Police to assist in the investigation of narcotics-related crimes. Upon assuming the presidency in 1982, Betancur adopted a somewhat softer drug policy than had his predecessor. Betancur objected to the extradition treaty on nationalist grounds and also refused to allow the aerial spraying of paraquat on marijuana fields. At the same time, however, Betancur's minister of justice, Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, aggressively pursued traffickers and authorized raids on the Medellín Cartel's principal cocaineprocessing complexes. In April 1984, Lara Bonilla was assassinated, apparently in reprisal for the successful raid the previous month on the massive Tranquilandia complex. The murder of the minister of justice shocked Colombians and galvanized Betancur into action. Declaring a "war without quarter" against traffickers, Betancur invoked his state of siege powers, extradited thirteen drug dealers to the United States, and committed substantial resources to massive antinarcotics operations by the police. During its first two years in office, the Barco administration was rocked by a series of narcotics-related incidents. In rulings in December 1986 and June 1987, the Supreme Court essentially gutted the extradition treaty with the United States. Prior to the second ruling, however, the government extradited drug kingpin Carlos Lehder Rivas. In December 1986, a hit squad of the Medellín Cartel traveled to Budapest and seriously wounded Enrique Parejo González, Colombia's ambassador to Hungary and Lara Bonilla's successor as minister of justice during the Betancur administration. The following January, gunmen employed by the cartel assassinated Attorney General Carlos Mauro Hoyos Jiménez and kidnapped Andrés Pastrana, PC candidate for mayor of Bogotá and son of former President Pastrana. In response, in January 1988 Barco decreed a series of measures collectively known as the Statute for the Defense of Democracy. The statute, which was partly modeled on antiterrorist measures adopted in West Germany, Italy, and Britain, expanded the security forces' jurisdiction under a state of siege declaration and lengthened prison sentences for those convicted of terrorist acts. Returning to a policy of the Turbay administration, Barco recommitted military forces to the interdiction effort. Despite concerns in the armed forces' hierarchy about the potential corrupting influence of the drug lords, Barco felt compelled to order the military into action because of widespread public concerns over police effectiveness.

In 1998, Colombia remained the world's leading producer and distributor of cocaine and a major source of heroin and marijuana. Despite an aggressive aerial coca eradication program, coca cultivation increased. Meanwhile, a new program to eradicate opium poppy cultivation was initiated.

The new government of Andres Pastrana, inaugurated in August, has initiated a peace dialogue with the largest insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which has been the centerpiece of its initial months in office. The government has also issued a new national drug control strategy, "An Integrated Drug Policy for Peace," that places major new emphasis on alternative development as a means of weaning campesinos from illicit crops and eliminating income from drug trafficking that has fueled Colombia's long-running insurgency. In the long term, a successful peace process could potentially break the linkage between the guerrilla groups and narcotics traffickers, enabling the Colombian police and military to more effectively carry out their counternarcotics programs and returning areas of the country to the possibility of alternative development. We are impressed by the new government's commitment to counternarcotics cooperation.

Legislative reforms enacted by the previous government are now in place, but implementation seriously lagged under the previous administration. The Pastrana administration has had little opportunity thus far to improve upon this record.

The combined U.S./GOC eradication program had its best year ever in 1998, successfully spraying over 65,000 hectares of coca (approximately 50 percent more than the total for 1997) and 3,000 hectares of opium poppy.

The Antinarcotics Directorate (DANTI) of the Colombian National Police has continued its excellent record of investigations and operations against narcotrafficking organizations. Insurgent groups working in cooperation with narcotraffickers, however, have increasingly targeted police operations. Several DANTI operating bases suffered major attacks by the FARC and U.S. personnel had to be evacuated temporarily, severely restricting counternarcotics operations in southeastern Colombia during the latter part of the year. Resources assigned by the GOC to combat narcotics remain insufficient in view of the dual threat represented by the drug traffickers and the guerrilla elements involved in various aspects of the drug trade.

Colombia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

Colombia is the world's most important cocaine producer. Over three-quarters of the world's cocaine hydrochloride (HCl) is processed in Colombia both from locally grown coca and cocaine base imported from Peru and Bolivia.

Colombia saw a net increase in coca cultivation in 1998, with virtually all of the new growth occurring outside of the areas where spray operations are concentrated. Within the spray zones, cultivation decreased, continuing a trend from 1997. This is the third consecutive year of significant increase in the Colombian coca crop size. This increase is largely due to successful joint counternarcotics programs, which have led to significant decreases in the Bolivian and Peruvian coca crops, and to the inability of the U.S./GOC eradication program to reach all of the growing areas.

Colombia is also a significant supplier of heroin to the United States, producing, according to U.S. estimates, up to six metric tons yearly, virtually all of which is destined for the U.S. market.

In March 1998, President Clinton certified Colombia on the basis of U.S. vital national interests, explicitly recognizing that increased cooperation is necessary to advance our mutual counternarcotics goals. As part of this year's certification process, the U.S. government established seven criteria to be used to evaluate GOC progress in 1998. These criteria and an evaluation of the GOC's performance follow:

Completion of an integrated national counternarcotics strategy including budgetary support, clearly defined institutional roles, institutional cooperation and coordination, alternative development, and respect for human rights.

In October 1998, the National Directorate on Drugs (DNE) published a new national drug strategy that established goals and objectives: alternative development, supply reduction, strengthening judicial institutions, demand reduction, environmental protection, and international cooperation. Alternative development is the centerpiece in the GOC's plan to integrate the drug war with the peace process. The strategy has a clear "civilian" and even internal political orientation that includes, but does not emphasize military and police roles. The director of the DNE was empowered by the president to coordinate the several GOC Ministries involved in counternarcotics programs in the region. The plan, although it is not without its weaknesses, provides a strong platform from which the GOC can attack the drug trade, and is a significant accomplishment, one the Samper administration failed to produce in four years in office.

In improving the strategy, the Pastrana administration will have to address funding issues, and provide more detail in many areas. Extradition and prison reform are two key areas which need to be addressed. Finally, the strategy could use some timetables, measures of effectiveness and other means to hold the various agencies accountable or their performance.

The GOC, with increased support from the United States, sprayed record amounts of coca in 1998, with over 65,000 hectares of coca sprayed, an increase of 50 percent from 1997. The lethality rate, or percent of hectares sprayed that actually result in dead plants, also increased, according to ground studies conducted by Colombian and American experts. The traffickers have responded by expanding coca cultivation to remote areas under guerrilla control beyond the reach of the spray aircraft operating from existing bases. Spray operations were successfully expanded into the Caqueta growing area from the traditional emphasis on the Guaviare region, but planned expansion into the Putumayo region did not occur due to the threat of guerrilla activity. It is no coincidence that coca cultivation in Colombia expanded dramatically in the Putumayo region in 1998.

Opium poppy eradication was also heightened as operations implementing an ambitious GOC/USG heroin elimination strategy commenced late in the year. Using helicopters and T-65 spray planes diverted temporarily from coca operations, the police sprayed over 3,000 hectares of poppy cultivation.

Low-altitude spray operations continue to be menaced by ground fire. CNP and U.S.-owned aircraft on eradication missions were hit 48 times during 1998. Nevertheless, the CNP exceeded their spray goals by assigning more pilots and aircraft to the program.

Although manifesting the best of intentions, the GOC has been unable to increase its counternarcotics resource commitment. The Colombian national budget faces its worst crisis in decades. Annual deficits have ballooned to an unsustainable five- percent of GDP. The GOC has committed to cut the deficit by three percent of GDP in the next two years. The domestic economy is expected to remain on the verge of recession through 1999, and Colombia's traditional easy access to world financial markets is constrained by global credit tightening. The government will be hard-pressed to find new domestic resources for counternarcotics efforts. As a result, resources assigned to counternarcotics and to controlling the areas where illicit crops are grown will continue to be inadequate to meet the task at hand in 1999.

Narco-related corruption in all branches of the government continues to undermine counternarcotics effectiveness in Colombia. The Pastrana government has made eliminating corruption one of its major initiatives. As a matter of policy, the GOC does not encourage or facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.

In November, U.S. Customs and DEA discovered 700 kilograms of cocaine and six kilograms of heroin aboard a Colombian Air Force aircraft in Florida. The investigations continue in Colombia. Several Air Force officers and enlisted men have been arrested in connection with the incident and are awaiting trial by a civilian court." The Air Force commander, who is not implicated, resigned as a point of honor, setting a laudable precedent for acceptance of responsibility.

There were several successes in the prosecution of narcocorruption cases in 1998. In March 1998, former Senator Armando Holguin Sarria and former Congressman Jose Felix Turbay Turbay, both of whom represented the Valle de Cauca region, were sentenced to six years and five and a half years, respectively, on illicit enrichment charges. Also in March 1998, former Cali mayor Mauricio Guzman was sentenced to five and one half years for knowingly receiving narcotics money.

In December 1997, the Colombian Congress passed a bill to repeal the constitutional ban (Article 35) on the extradition of Colombian nationals. This ban was made non-retroactive and thus precludes extradition for offenses committed before December 17, 1997, effectively blocking extradition of the Cali Cartel kingpins, a key U.S. goal.

The Samper government filed suit to remove the non-retroactivity clause from the measure, arguing that it was added at the last minute and violated the procedures set out for reforming the constitution. On October 1, 1998, the constitutional court voted 5-4 to uphold the reform, including the non-retroactivity clause. The United States is disappointed with the decision, which may have been influenced by the Cali Cartel kingpins from their prison cells. It severely limits the usefulness of the regime. Nonetheless, we will work within the restrictions of Colombia's extradition regime to make it a meaningful tool against narcotrafficking again, while simultaneously pressing the Government of Colombia to bring its extradition regime up to international standards. The USG made the first extradition request under the new regime in December 1998. Current analysis is that no new implementing legislation will be required.

The United States had previously expressed concern that the non-retroactivity element of the extradition reform might be applied to non-Colombian nationals, making Colombia an international haven for criminals. We are pleased that the Constitutional Court ruled earlier in the year that this was not the case and that non-Colombian nationals could be extradited for offenses occurring before December 17, 1997. This ruling was put into effect when, in late 1998, Colombia agreed to extradite a Cuban wanted for crimes committed in the United States prior to 1995.

The Constitutional Court also ruled this year that Colombians, who surrender themselves to Colombian authorities and cooperate with the prosecution, are protected from extradition. This was another disappointing decision from the point of view of the United States.

The United States has been encouraged, however, by the willingness of both the Samper and the Pastrana governments to support extradition. Both governments argued for removal of the non- retroactivity clause, and both opposed the creation of an "extradition shield" for non-Colombian nationals. While many of the judicial decisions were disappointing to the United States, they represent decisions made in accordance with Colombia's constitutional process and are not subject to revision by the executive branch of the Colombian government.

The GOC continues, in fits and starts, the slow process of reforming its judicial framework. AID, in cooperation with the Department of Justice (OPDAT and ICITAP), coordinates the State-funded justice sector reform program, a multi-year effort designed to strengthen the administration of justice in Colombia through support for judges, prosecutors, and investigators. Since 1991, several thousand law enforcement officials have received training in basic investigative techniques and planning. Most recently, OPDAT and ICITAP have focused on the development of task force units (teams of prosecutors and police) that are charged with investigating money laundering, corruption, narcotics and human rights violations. AID and OPDAT are also supporting the judicial branch in an effort to establish oral trials in a country that has traditionally relied on written files for the resolution of cases. Despite the extensive training and assistance that has been provided over several years, the Colombian judicial system is still rife with both inefficiency and corruption.

The most recent legislative package submitted to the Colombian congress by the prosecutor general falls short of effective reform, tending merely to restate the current, inadequate, legal framework. For example, it contains provisions that require that investigative targets be notified of investigations against them, permitting them to hide or destroy evidence of their crimes. The Colombian system also results in numerous human rights complaints and prison overcrowding, due to inefficiency, court backlogs and the ability of a prosecutor to order a suspect imprisoned without judicial approval and without meeting a probable cause standard. The USG has offered assistance in this most recent round of legal reform, but the GOC has not yet accepted such assistance.

The DANTI civil aviation control program, requiring that all civil aviation aircraft under 10,000 kilograms be inspected yearly by the CNP, has been successful in registering and inspecting over 150 aircraft in 1998. Some 54 aircraft have been seized under this program that also conducts surprise inspections for drug residue. This program has been a major success.

Narcotics police and other law enforcement operations continue to be the most successful element of the GOC counterdrug program. According to the CNP, GOC counternarcotics operations in 1998 resulted in the seizure of almost 57 metric tons of coca products, 418 kilograms of opium products, and 57 metric tons of marijuana; the destruction of 145 cocaine base and 40 cocaine HCl labs and 10 heroin labs; the capture of over 1,130 metric tons of solid precursor chemicals and over 1.95 million gallons of liquid precursors; the seizure of over 300 vehicles, 300 boats, and 80 aircraft, and the arrest of over 1,400 persons. This successful year was capped by two large (over 1,000-kilogram) seizures in the last two months of the year. One of these seizures was accomplished during a lab raid inside the demilitarized zone, demonstrating GOC determination not to let drug trafficking flourish within the zone. The FARC neither opposed nor protested the successful operation.

The CNP special investigative units (SIU) are developing long term investigations of trafficker organizations, including asset forfeiture investigations. The SIUs are credited with 63 arrests and the seizure of approximately 6.4 metric tons of cocaine, 8 kilograms of heroin, and $383,000.

The combined U.S./Colombian heroin task force provided intelligence to effect drug seizures in Colombia and assist in U.S.-based investigations. Overall, GOC seizures of cocaine and heroin were higher in 1998 than in 1997.

Cooperation between the Colombian military and police continued to improve in the year, with all of the armed forces conducting increased numbers of unilateral and joint counterdrug operations. In most cases, cooperation took the form of multi-day deployments in areas where police faced a significant guerrilla threat. The army, navy, and marines supported the CNP in joint counterdrug operations along the Peruvian and Brazilian borders in a major regional effort. The Colombian air force continues to track and force down trafficker aircraft. In 1998, the Colombian air force conducted a total of 31 successful interdiction operations: specifically, 26 aircraft and five go-fast boats. The military also undertook counternarcotics operations independent of the CNP in 1998 in order to deprive the guerrilla forces of a source of financing.

On money laundering, as a result of strengthened legislation, the Colombian banking system made improvements in applying "know your customer" rules to monitor large and/or suspicious transactions. Banks are now required to report currency transactions exceeding $7,000 as well as any suspicious transactions. At the same time, Colombian bankers, in cooperation with the Colombian bankers association (ASOBANCARIA), have been very cooperative with the USG in closing accounts and refusing to open new accounts for those individuals and companies on the specially designated narcotics traffickers (SDNT) list. The SDNT list is drawn up in compliance with Executive Order 12978 of October 1995 which blocks U.S.-based assets and prohibits financial transactions with significant drug traffickers.

According to the GOC, however, no person or institution has yet been sanctioned for money laundering violations. The GOC says that bank inspectors are still in the process of evaluating compliance, that there are not enough supervisors and inspectors to do the job, and that the GOC requires assistance from the USG to implement the law. Lack of political will by the prior administration is strongly suspected.

National police, the Department of Administrative Security (DAS), and DNE officials did a highly commendable job in 1998 seizing narcotrafficker assets. Multi-million dollar seizure operations were effected against major traffickers and their relatives, but these seizures await judicial review. Programs of the U.S. Departments of Justice and Treasury provided initial and specialized training and assistance to the GOC asset forfeiture unit. Currently some 200 forfeiture cases are pending in the DNE and the prosecutor general's office, many involving top former narcotraffickers and their associates.

To date, however, the final forfeiture of seized assets, through court sentence in accordance with the 1996 law, has only been accomplished in one case. This poor performance can be best attributed to lack of political will on the part of the Samper administration and the corrupting influence of the cocaine kingpins trying to protect their assets. The GOC continues to define and refine the administrative, bureaucratic, and legal procedures for the final forfeiture and disposition of assets. At least five major and several other lesser government entities are involved in the process and coordination among them is still being developed. On the positive side, the several legal challenges filed against the law were rejected by the Constitutional Court. The Colombian congress has yet to pass an international asset forfeiture cooperation provision to bring Colombia's asset forfeiture regime entirely in line with 1988 UN Drug Convention standards. The Pastrana administration has acknowledged the need to legislatively reform the asset forfeiture process, and seems to be on track to do so.

No major narcotrafficking cases came up for sentencing during 1998, although a few well-known criminal figures were sentenced, but for non-narcotics crimes such as kidnapping. There were, however, several high-profile sentencings of former government officials for illicit enrichment.

CNP cooperation with international law enforcement entities, including intelligence sharing, was excellent. The CNP also provided information that led directly to significant seizures of cocaine HCl outside of Colombian territory in 1998.

Colombia ratified the 1988 UN Convention in September 1994, with important reservations and understandings on extradition, maritime cooperation and money laundering. The GOC's national anti-narcotics plan of 1998 meets the strategic plan requirements of the convention. In addition, the reforms made in order to regain U.S. certification have generally brought the government into line with the requirements of the convention.

In February 1997, the GOC signed a maritime shipboarding agreement with the United States. The agreement, which allows for a faster approval process for shipboardings in international waters and sets guidelines for improved counterdrug cooperation with the Colombian navy, has been credited with the seizure of 13 metric tons of cocaine since its signing. The Colombian justice system, however, has failed to convict any of the individuals prosecuted in Colombia for seizures related to the maritime agreement. Reduced budgets and demands on resources for riverine programs south of the Andes also limit the navy's counterdrug operations.

Two articles of the maritime agreement have not been fully implemented. The intelligence and communications exchange process (Article 5) is delayed by the lack of an effective, common communications plan between ships at sea and shore headquarters, and by the ineffective use of tactical intelligence provided by the United States. In addition, implementation procedures have not been developed for Article 16, which permits the arrest and prosecution of persons seized on the high-seas by U.S. authorities without referral to Colombia's extradition process.

In October 1998, the GOC signed a supplemental asset-sharing agreement with the U.S. that requires a Bilateral Committee of U.S. and Colombian law enforcement officials to approve proposals for the use of forfeited assets shared with Colombia by the United States.

During the October 1998 state visit of President Pastrana, he and President Clinton signed a counter narcotics alliance pledging Colombia to increase and expand counternarcotics cooperation. Also during the State visit, U.S. and Colombian Customs and other GOC officials agreed to begin negotiations for a customs mutual assistance agreement.

Additionally, the private sector Business Anti- Smuggling Coalition (BASC) has received support from both governments. On November 20, the first BASC chapter was inaugurated in Cartagena. In addition to BASC, Colombia is one of seven countries participating in the U.S. Customs Americas Counter Smuggling Initiative (ACSI), an initiative designed to increase effectiveness of law enforcement officers at ports.

Coca and opium poppy remain the principal illicit crops grown in Colombia. In 1998, these crops were estimated to cover 101,800 hectares and 6,100 hectares respectively. Reporting from spray pilots and other sources indicate that this estimate may be too conservative.

Coca, the predominant illicit crop, is grown chiefly on the eastern plains in Guaviare and neighboring departments and also along the Ecuadorian and Peruvian borders in the departments of Putumayo and Caqueta, although there are smaller amounts of coca in many areas. This year, significant quantities of coca were discovered under cultivation in Bolivar and Norte de Santander departments. Most opium is grown on the eastern slopes of the Central Cordillera Mountains in Tolima, Huila and Cauca departments, plus in the Perija Mountains adjacent to Venezuela and, to a limited extent, in Antioquia department. Photoreconnaissance missions are revealing considerably more coca in the primary growing regions than official estimates have indicated in the past.

HCl laboratories can be found in all regions of the country, but are primarily located in the plains and jungle regions near the coca-growing zones in areas under guerrilla control. Numerous laboratories have been identified in extremely remote areas that are almost impossible to reach even via helicopter.

Most opiate laboratories produce small quantities of drugs and use simple equipment and limited quantities of precursor chemicals. Colombia accounts for an estimated 2 percent of the world's opium production. A major effort against poppy plantations was started in December 1998, designed to conduct frequent re-spraying of the poppy fields, eventually convincing the growers to abandon their illicit crops. Spray pilots in this program report far more opium poppy growing in the Huila-Tolima region than has ever been estimated before.

Marijuana cultivation remained active in 1998, but is not believed to have increased significantly. (Colombian marijuana seizures in the United States are minimal, although significant seizures were made in Europe during 1998.)

In previous years, the information available to the USG indicated that one hectare of coca in Colombia produced an average of 800 kilograms. of dry coca leaf. This yield estimate was based on the fact that the variety of coca most commonly grown in Colombia has a lower alkaloid content than that of the coca found in Bolivia or Peru. Recent reporting indicates, however, that higher yielding varieties of coca have been introduced in southwestern Colombia. Accordingly, we suspect that U.S. yield estimates for coca are probably low. In 1999, the ONDCP-sponsored, DEA-led Operation Breakthrough project will support field research in Colombia to reevaluate the country's actual coca yields.

One hectare planted with opium poppy, harvested three times per year, will produce about ten kilograms. of opium which yields about one kilogram of heroin.

Colombia is the center of the international cocaine trade, with drugs flowing out of the country at a stable and constant rate. Colombian traffickers import cocaine base, primarily by air, from Peru and, to a lesser extent, from Bolivia. A lesser flow travels by river or overland. The base is converted (along with locally produced base) into cocaine HCl at clandestine laboratories in the Colombian source zone (generally the eastern plains in Guaviare and neighboring departments, and along the Ecuadorian and Peruvian borders in the departments of Putumayo and Caqueta). Cocaine HCl shipments move out of Colombia by sea (multi-ton loads) or by general aviation aircraft (400-800 kilogram shipments) to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Cocaine is also concealed in legitimate air and sea cargo destined for U.S. and European ports.

Recent statistics indicate that about 75 percent of the heroin seized in the northeastern United States is of Colombian origin. DEA believes that almost all the heroin produced in Colombia goes to the United States. Most is smuggled by human couriers on commercial airline flights.

The GOC has worked closely with the embassy's consular section to deny U.S. visas to persons involved in or suspected of trafficking in drugs or related activities such as money laundering. The embassy is one of the most active in the world in narcotics-related visa denial and has received excellent support from the GOC.

The DNE administers cost sharing drug abuse prevention and education projects with UNDCP. The European Union (EU) provides most of its demand reduction assistance to Colombia through UNDCP. In 1996, the EU contributed about 20 percent ($3.7 million) of the UNDCP Colombia program budget.

The DNE coordinates GOC demand reduction programs through governmental and non-governmental organizations. Priority target groups for prevention programs on the use of psychoactive substances include males ages 12-17 that are completing their high school education. New users are geographically located in the areas with the highest population density where there is greater economic development, such as the coffee producing region and regions which include cities such as Bogota, Medellin and Cali. The antinarcotics police also have a successful DARE program, reaching some 18,000 school children in over 85 schools throughout the country. Additional DARE instructors completed training in November in order to expand the program in 1999.

The USG stresses institution building, primarily within law enforcement institutions and the judicial system. The counterdrug legislation passed in 1997 is an indirect result of advice and studies funded by the USG.

USG entities, including DEA, FBI, USAID and training elements of the Department of Justice (OPDAT and ICITAP), funded primarily by the State Department, work with GOC law enforcement and judicial entities to increase the effectiveness of the Colombian judicial system. They develop and refine law enforcement capabilities, train host nation counterparts, and improve access, fairness and public perceptions of the justice system. For example, approximately 200 judges and prosecutors received specialized training in 1998 in conjunction with the creation of task forces to combat money laundering and asset forfeiture and to fight corruption.

In 1998, amendments to the 1997 Letters of Agreement (LOA) between the USG and the GOC provided $31 million in direct assistance, plus the transfer of six Bell 212 helicopters and the upgrade of ten UH-1H helicopters to the Huey II configuration, at a cost of $14 million. The CNP project enhanced the institutional and tactical capabilities of the DANTI to conduct aerial eradication of illicit crops and interdiction of the finished product. In 1998, the USG provided training through Department of Defense schools and commercial aviation sources for anti-narcotics aviation personnel, ground troops, logisticians, and office personnel; provided parts and fuel to the anti-narcotics air wing comprised of 58 helicopters and 17 fixed wing aircraft, including one CNP-owned T-65 Turbo Thrush spray aircraft; and provided seven T-65 Turbo Thrush spray aircraft, five OV-10 Bronco spray aircraft and 12 U.S. helicopters, plus instructor pilots, and technical advisers in support of aerial eradication. In 1998, the total number of CNP students trained was 125; 71 for ground training, 22 pilots, and 32 technicians.

To reduce the amount of cocaine HCl reaching the U.S., many embassy programs focus on the Colombian source zone to stop air transportation and drug production in this targeted area. This focus aims at improving not only bilateral and joint CNP-military operations, but cross border cooperation, as well.

In conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs conducted the INL-funded Laserstrike Port Assessment in Colombia during January 1998, and performed various other training activities aimed at improving the effectiveness and professionalism of their Colombian counterparts.

We anticipate that effective cooperation to control the flow of narcotics will continue at all levels as the Pastrana administration takes charge and integrates counterdrug programs with its peace initiative and overall social and economic development programs. The greatest immediate risk comes from the guerrillas who violently oppose police eradication operations and CNP/military interdiction efforts, which threaten a primary source of financing for the guerrillas. There is also a threat from violence generated by paramilitary groups, many of which are believed to have connections to drug traffickers.

USG resources will provide significant additional funding in 1999 that will be used, among other things, to add six UH-60 Blackhawks to the CNP air service. These helicopters, flown and maintained by Colombians, will add much greater range and lift capability for DANTI eradication and interdiction operations. Other funding support will upgrade other helicopters in the CNP fleet and enhance security at counterdrug bases throughout the country. USG programs will also focus on institutionalization and management reforms in the DANTI and continue to support Colombia's efforts to sustain and improve the capability and efficiency of the judicial system--the weak link in the counterdrug chain--and to attack narcotics trafficking organizations. We anticipate progress in the implementation of asset forfeiture and money laundering legislation, and look forward to successful extradition of Colombian nationals for crimes committed after December 17, 1997. We also hope to see a greater counternarcotics role for the Colombian military, including Colombian army plans for 1999 to create a vetted, counter-drug battalion dedicated exclusively to supporting counternarcotics operations.

The USG will stress further development of investigative abilities, improved judicial performance, money laundering controls, air and coastal interdiction (to include internal aircraft controls), and infrastructure development. The aerial eradication program should continue to gain momentum as the USG provides more and better technical assistance and aircraft.


During the late 1980s, four major leftist guerrilla organizations were operating in Colombia: the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia--FARC), the 19th of April Movement (Movimiento 19 de Abril--M-19), the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional--ELN), and the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación--EPL). A number of smaller, less structured guerrilla groups also carried out operations against the government. These included the Workers' Self-Defense Movement (Movimiento Autodefensa Obrera--MAO), the Workers' Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores--PRT), Free Homeland (Patria Libre), and the Quintín Lamé Command. The Quintín Lamé Command received substantial support from Colombia's small Indian population (. During the late 1980s, analysts estimated that there were between 8,000 and 10,000 guerrillas. In late 1987, guerrilla-controlled territory reportedly included a vast area in the eastern plains, Arauca Intendancy, the area at the southern end of the Golfo de Urabá in Antioquia Department, southern Huila Department, and most of Caquetá Department. In 1984 the FARC, the M-19, and the EPL signed the cease-fire agreement that established the vaguely defined National Dialogue, designed to help set the terms for the guerrillas' peaceful reincorporation into national political life. In 1988 the Patriotic Union (Unión Patriótica--UP), which represented the political arm of the FARC, was the only group that continues to adhere to the terms of the agreement and had reintegrated itself into the political process. Nevertheless, both government and guerrilla representatives participated in efforts to achieve a political settlement in 1988.

During the 1980s, six organizations--the FARC, the M-19, the ELN, the EPL, the PRT, and the Quintín Lamé Command--attempted to develop comprehensive political and military strategies through the National Guerrilla Coordinating Board (Coordinadora Nacional Guerrillera--CNG). The drive for unity intensified in the late 1980s, following a rash of assassinations of guerrillas and sympathizers by right-wing groups. As a result, the CNG was restructured in late 1987 as the Simón Bolívar Guerrilla Coordinating Board (Coordinadora Guerrillera Simón Bolívar). Right-wing terrorist groups became increasingly active during the Barco administration and repeatedly targeted for assassination UP members (including many public officials) and members of militarily active guerrilla organizations. The guerrillas justified their reluctance to comply with government demands that they surrender their weapons by referring to the threat posed by the terrorists. In 1988 the DAS identified 128 active right-wing "paramilitary" groups. Most of these groups were small, obscure, and capable of carrying out operations in a given region within the country's departments. Several groups, however, had distinguished themselves for their national-level operations. The most prominent of these were Death to Kidnappers (Muerte a Secuestradores--MAS) and The Extraditables (Los Extraditables), both of which had ties to the narcotics traffickers. In 1988 the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia--FARC) remained the largest of Colombia's guerrilla groups. The FARC traced its informal origins to the late 1940s and early 1950s, when some of its founding members participated in the establishment of the independent republics. By the end of the first half of the 1960s, all of the small republics reportedly had been destroyed by the army.

The FARC was founded in 1966 by Manuel Marulanda Vélez--known by the nickname Sure Shot (Tirofijo)--and other members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Colombia (Partido Comunista de Colombia--PCC). At that time, the FARC embraced the PCC's Soviet-style Marxist-Leninist ideological orientation. The PCC reportedly also supplied the arms and financial assistance that proved critical during the early years of the FARC's organization. The early membership of the FARC consisted of communist ideologues as well as noncommunist peasants, many of whom had been active during la violencia. The height of the FARC's early phase of operations came shortly after its founding, between 1966 and 1968. During this period, as many as 500 armed militants and several thousand peasants were recruited. FARC operations included raids on military posts and facilities, which enabled the organization to accumulate weapons, ammunition, military uniforms, and even telecommunications equipment. Nonetheless, an effective military counterinsurgency campaign and the opening of diplomatic relations between Colombia and the Soviet Union in 1968 reportedly combined to weaken the organization. By the early 1970s, the FARC appeared incapable of mounting sustained operations. Nevertheless, like the country's other guerrilla organizations, the FARC enjoyed a resurgence during the late 1970s and 1980s. The organization turned to kidnappings in order to finance its operations as well as gain publicity for its objectives. By 1978 the FARC maintained operations on five fronts. In September 1980, the organization was regarded as the strongest of the guerrilla groups. Although the FARC attempted to carry out joint military operations with at least one other guerrilla group, the effort failed, reportedly because of difficulties caused by ideological differences. In 1987 the organization's membership was estimated at 6,000 militants, who were active on at least twenty-seven fronts. In early 1988, one report maintained that as many as forty FARC guerrilla fronts were active throughout the country. Areas of the country considered to be FARC strongholds included portions of the departments of Huila, Caquetá, Tolima, Cauca, Boyacá, Santander, Antioquia, Valle del Cauca, Meta, and Cundinamarca and the intendancy of Arauca. The FARC's role in the peace process was spelled out in the accord signed between members of the group and the government's National Peace Commission at FARC headquarters in La Uribe in March 1984. Following the truce agreement, which became effective in May 1984, the main body of the FARC reportedly abandoned armed struggle; in 1985 the FARC organized the UP as the political party through which the group would peacefully seek political power. Yet despite the FARC's continued adherence to the peace process in the late 1980s, various FARC fronts violated the terms of the truce by engaging in such activities as kidnappings and blackmail. Some analysts contended that the Ricardo Franco Front (Frente Ricardo Franco)--a hard-line splinter group that refused to participate in the 1984 truce--was responsible for many of these activities. Nevertheless, given the prevailing atmosphere of violence and uncertainty, some of the FARC's activities were likely to have been defensive operations. By mid-1988 the UP asserted that 550 of its members and supporters--including Jaime Pardo Leal, the party's leader and its candidate in the 1986 presidential elections--had been murdered by right-wing terrorist groups and death squads. In mid-1987, following the FARC's ambushes of military convoys and attacks on small towns, the Barco administration announced that the truce had been broken in the departments of Caquetá and Huila. The Permanent Advisory Council on Political Rehabilitation, Reconciliation, and Normalization (established in October 1987 as a permanent government organization and assuming what were previously the responsibilities of the government's Special Adviser) continued efforts to achieve a lasting peace with the FARC as well as to build a dialogue between the government and the other guerrilla groups. At that time the FARC continued to refuse the government's call to disarm, an obligation that had not been incorporated in the terms of the truce reached with the Betancur administration. The FARC, in turn, called for a lifting of the state of siege, the elimination of the death squads, an end to alleged human rights violations by the armed forces, and the implementation of a number of political and economic reforms.

The 19th of April Movement (Movimiento 19 de Abril--M-19) traces its origins to the allegedly fraudulent presidential elections of April 19, 1970, in which the populist party of former military dictator Rojas Pinilla, the National Popular Alliance (Alianza Nacional Popular--Anapo), was denied an electoral victory. Although Anapo--which was subsequently led by Rojas Pinilla's daughter, María Eugenia Rojas de Moreno Díaz, following the dictator's death in 1975--denied all links with the M-19, the organization proclaimed itself to be the armed branch of the party. During the early 1970s, Carlos Toledo Plata and Jaime Bateman Cayón distinguished themselves as the M-19's principal leaders and ideologues. Toledo, a physician, was an Anapo representative in Congress. Bateman served as the M-19's principal commander for military operations. Both these men died during the 1980s--Toledo in a shooting by two men believed linked to the MAS and Bateman in an airplane crash. By mid-1988 Carlos Pizarro León-Gómez had emerged as one of the group's principal decision makers. The M-19's ideological orientation was a mixture of populism and nationalistic revolutionary socialism. This orientation often led the group to seek political support from Nicaragua and Cuba, but the M-19's leadership also claimed that it resisted forming permanent foreign ties. By mid-1985, when the number of active members was estimated at between 1,500 and 2,000, the M-19 had become the second largest guerrilla group in Colombia. According to the IISS, the size of the M-19 in 1987 was estimated at 1,500 militants. A member of the Barco administration who was in charge of the government's peace efforts, however, calculated that the organization had only 500 armed militants nationwide. By the mid-1980s, the M-19 had eclipsed all other guerrilla organizations in urban operations. The M-19 reportedly established columns (units) in each of Colombia's major cities. These columns were in turn organized into independent cells. Although the M-19's early operations, begun in 1972, were limited to bank robberies, it quickly gained national attention through the 1974 theft of Simón Bolívar's sword and spurs from the exhibit in the liberator's villa. Two years later, the group kidnapped and subsequently murdered a Colombian trade union official the M-19 accused of having ties to the United States Central Intelligence Agency. In 1977 the M-19 began a campaign of economic sabotage. The following year, government offices and police stations became the targets of numerous attacks. In addition, the offices and representatives of United States-based multinational corporations were repeatedly targeted in an effort to drive the foreign interests from the country. Kidnappings of prominent individuals continues, some of which resulted in the deaths of the abductees. In 1980 the seizure and occupation, for sixty-one days, of the Dominican Republic's Bogotá embassy gained the group international attention. The M-19's increasingly bold activities, coupled with evidence of Cuban training and logistical support, prompted a hardening in the policies of the Turbay administration during its final year in office. In 1982, however, the newly installed Betancur administration offered political amnesty in exchange for the M-19's agreement to a cease-fire. In July 1984, government officials and guerrilla leaders signed a cease-fire agreement at Corinto in Cauca Department.

By late 1985, however, the accord unraveled. Charging the government with, among other things, a systematic violation of the truce provisions and failure to implement key political reforms that were part of the cease-fire agreement, the M-19 returned to armed struggle. In October 1985, guerrillas wounded then-Commanding General of the Army Samudio. By far the most spectacular operation of the M-19 came the following month, when commandos seized the Palace of Justice in Bogotá. The ensuing battle between the M-19 and the military left over 100 dead, including 11 Supreme Court judges. After the Palace of Justice operation, the M-19 reduced its activities, leading some analysts to surmise that its membership base had declined. In early 1986, the M-19 reportedly attempted to establish a common guerrilla front with members of Peru's Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru) and with Ecuador's Alfaro Lives, Damn It! (ˇAlfaro Vive, Carajo!) group. The March 1987 killing of Alvaro Fayad, the M-19's top political and military strategist, was believed to have dealt the organization a severe setback, however. In May 1988, the M-19 again burst into public prominence by kidnapping Alvaro Gómez Hurtado, a two-time presidential candidate and Conservative Party leader. Gómez Hurtado's release was obtained two months later in exchange for the government's agreement to meet with M-19 leaders at the papal nunciature in Bogotá. The meeting was to have paved the way for a national summit to include representatives of the country's principal guerrilla groups. Barco subsequently announced, however, that he would not send an official representative to the preliminary peace talks.

Founded in 1964 by Fabio Vásquez Castaño, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional--ELN) adopted a doctrine for insurrection inspired by the Cuban Revolution. During the mid-1960s, ELN activities centered on the department of Santander and included seizing temporary control of small towns, opening jails to free prisoners, robbing banks, and making antigovernment speeches in small villages throughout the country in an effort to gain recruits. The guerrilla organization gained international notoriety in 1966 when it recruited Father Camilo Torres, a well-educated Roman Catholic priest from a socially prominent family. Torres joined the ELN following his unsuccessful efforts at organizing a political opposition to the National Front government. Only four months after taking up arms, Torres was killed in a confrontation with an army patrol. Although the ELN was considered the most effective of the country's guerrilla organizations, in the early 1970s it was decimated by the military's counterinsurgency campaign. By 1973 the armed forces claimed that they had "virtually destroyed" the ELN. Although the military severed the ELN's ties to its urban support network, the guerrillas had recouped their strength by mid-decade. In 1975 and 1976, the ELN engaged in several kidnappings, bank robberies, and assassinations, including the killing of Inspector-General of the Army General José Ramón Rincón Quioñes. The ELN was the only major guerrilla organization that did not sign the 1984 cease-fire agreement. This refusal, along with the ELN's kidnapping of President Betancur's brother in an attempt to sabotage the peace talks, reportedly earned the organization a rebuke from Cuban leader Fidel Castro Ruz. Possibly as a result of Castro's stance of support for the peace talks, three ELN fronts reached a temporary cease-fire agreement with the government. In the late 1980s, the ELN's size was estimated at 500. Its theater of operations included vast stretches of Colombia's eastern plains and portions of the departments of Norte de Santander, Santander, Bolívar, Cauca, and Antioquia, and the intendancy of Arauca. The ELN's activities included kidnappings and attacks on petroleum installations, pipelines, and exploratory drilling sites. Such attacks were carried out not only to disrupt the national economy but also to draw attention to the exploitation of Colombia's natural resources by foreign companies.

The Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación-- EPL) was the only major group in Colombia espousing a Maoist political ideology; as such, it endorsed the concept of a prolonged popular war. Organized in early 1968, the EPL was headed by proChinese communists who formed the Communist Party of Colombia-- Marxist-Leninist (Partido Comunista de Colombia-Marxista-- Leninista--PCC-ML) upon breaking with the Soviet-line PCC in July 1965. The EPL served as the armed branch of the PCC-ML. Unlike the PCC, the PCC-ML did not enjoy legal status in 1988. The EPL's first military operations were in the department of Córdoba, on the Caribbean coast, during the late 1960s. Internal dissension and the deaths of some of its key leaders during the 1970s weakened the EPL's operational capabilities. In 1979 continuing dissent within the EPL led to formation of the Pedro León Arboleda Movement, a splinter group named for an EPL leader slain in 1975. This group remained active as an independent organization in the 1980s. Despite its Maoist orientation, the EPL chose to participate in the 1984 cease-fire, but it refused to sign a peace agreement. Following the reported killing in 1985 of its leader, Ernesto Rojas, the organization broke the cease-fire. In 1987 the EPL's size was estimated at approximately 350 guerrillas organized into four fronts. Its principal area of operations was in rural regions of the departments of Antioquia, Córdoba, and Risaralda. The organization also maintained urban support networks in major cities.

NGO's have attributed a large majority of political killings, social cleansing killings, and forced disappearances to paramilitary groups. According to military estimates, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary umbrella organization has a membership of between 8,000 and 11,000 combatants. The AUC exercised increasing influence during the year 2001 and fought to extend its presence through violence and intimidation into areas previously under guerrilla control while conducting selective killings of civilians whom it alleged collaborated with guerrillas. Throughout the country, paramilitary groups killed, tortured, and threatened civilians suspected of sympathizing with guerrillas in an orchestrated campaign to terrorize them into fleeing their homes, to deprive guerrillas of civilian support and allow paramilitary forces to challenge the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) for control of narcotics cultivations and strategically important territories. They also fought guerrillas for control of some lucrative coca-growing regions and engaged directly in narcotics production and trafficking. The AUC increasingly tried to depict itself as an autonomous organization with a political agenda, although in practice it remained a mercenary vigilante force, financed by criminal activities and sectors of society that are targeted by guerrillas. Although some paramilitary groups reflect rural residents' desire to organize solely for self-defense, most are vigilante organizations, and still others are actually the paid private armies of narcotics traffickers or large landowners. Popular support for these organizations grew as guerrilla violence increased in the face of a slowly evolving peace process.

The Government continues to insist that paramilitary groups, like guerrillas, were an illegal force and significantly increased efforts to apprehend paramilitary members. State security forces captured three times as many paramilitaries during the year 2001 as during the same period in 2000; however, the public security forces' record in dealing with paramilitary groups remained mixed, and in some locations elements of state security forces tolerated or even collaborated with paramilitary groups.

In April the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, presented a report that strongly criticized the rising number of massacres and disappearances, and the growth of paramilitary forces in the country. In her annual report to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Ms. Robinson criticized the Government for failing to fight the paramilitaries. In addition, she expressed alarm at apparent links between paramilitary groups and members of the armed forces.

The FARC and the ELN regularly attacked civilian populations, committed massacres and summary executions, and killed medical and religious personnel. The FARC continues its practice of using gas canisters as mortars to destroy small towns, indiscriminately wounding government officials and civilians in the process. Guerrillas were responsible for the majority of cases of forcible recruitment of indigenous people and of hundreds of children. Guerrillas also were responsible for the majority of kidnapings. Guerrillas were responsible for forced disappearances of soldiers and police and continues a policy of killing, attacking, and threatening off-duty police and military personnel, their relatives, and citizens who cooperated with them. In many places, guerrillas collected "war taxes," forced members of the citizenry into their ranks, forced small farmers to grow illicit crops, and regulated travel, commerce, and other activities. Business owners have been kidnaped or threatened for refusing to comply with the FARC's "Law 002," announced in March 2000, which demanded that anyone with assets of $1 million pay taxes to the FARC or risk kidnaping. The FARC routinely committed abuses against citizens who resided in the demilitarized ("despeje") zone consisting of 5 southern municipalities, with a total population of approximately 120,000 persons. Numerous credible sources reported cases of murder, rape, kidnaping, extortion, robbery, threats, detention, and the forced recruitment of adults and children, as well as impediments to free speech and fair trial, and interference with religious practices.

Paramilitary groups commit numerous extrajudicial killings, primarily in areas where they competed with guerrilla forces for control, and often in the absence of a strong government security force presence. Several major paramilitary campaigns during the year 2001 included massacres in Sucre, Norte de Santander, Magdalena, and Valle del Cauca departments. The office of the Human Rights Ombudsman received complaints regarding 125 massacres during the year 2001. The MOD reported that paramilitary forces were responsible for the deaths of 1,015 civilians in the period from January to November. According to the MOD, during the year 2001, the paramilitaries killed 281 persons during massacres. The CCJ reported 161 massacres during January-September, of which 102 massacres (representing 671 victims) are attributed to paramilitaries. The CCJ attributes a total of 1,929 political killings and 319 social cleansing killings to paramilitary groups in the period from June 2000 to June 2001. Paramilitary activities also included kidnaping, intimidation, and the forced displacement of persons not directly involved in hostilities. Paramilitary groups targeted journalists and teachers, human rights activists, labor leaders, community activists, national and local politicians (including the President), peasants, and other persons whom they accused of supporting or failing to confront guerrillas. Paramilitary forces killed indigenous people. AUC paramilitary groups were suspected of hundreds of selective killings throughout the country, especially in Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, Norte de Santander, Bolivar, and Sucre departments. The FARC, the ELN, or both had a strong presence in these areas as paramilitary forces vied with them for control of territory or resources, including coca cultivation. Paramilitary groups continue to kill political leaders and peace activists, including Ismael Valencia, the former mayor of Calima Darien, Valle del Cauca department; and nun and human rights activist Yolanda Ceron in Tumaco, Narino department. Six members of the CTI were killed during the year 2001 in various parts of the country; paramilitary forces were suspected of responsibility in two of these killings; in the others the responsible group had not been identified at year's end. The guerrillas of the FARC, the ELN, and the People's Liberation Army (EPL) continue to commit killings, often targeting noncombatants in a manner similar to that of paramilitary groups. The MOD attributed a total of 1,075 civilian deaths to guerrillas between January and November. According to the MOD, during the year 2001, guerillas killed 158 persons during massacres. The CCJ reported that guerrillas were responsible for 458 political killings in the period from June 2000 to June 2001, the most recent period for which figures are available, compared with 236 political killings in the period from October 1999 through March 2000. The Ministry of Defense attributed 880 civilian deaths in massacres to guerrillas during 2000. The Human Rights Ombudsman attributed 22 massacres to the FARC during the first 6 months of 2000 and 9 massacres to the ELN. The Ombudsman also attributed 89 killings to the FARC and 31 killings to the ELN during the first 6 months of 2000. Common guerrilla targets included local elected officials and candidates for public office, teachers, civic leaders, business owners, and peasants opposed to the guerrillas' political or military activities. Guerrilla groups also killed religious leaders, members of indigenous groups, and labor leaders. Some communities controlled by guerrillas also experienced social cleansing killings of criminal or other "undesirable" elements. The CCJ reported 10 such killings for the period of June 2000 to June 2001. Guerrilla campaigns around the demilitarized area, in the Norte de Santander, Antioquia, and southern departments often involved significant civilian casualties and prompted significant displacements. In response to the killings of thousands of members of the Patriotic Union (UP) leftist coalition, a May 2000 law classified "political genocide" as a crime; however, it provided that political genocide could be committed only against members of legally constituted (i.e., nonguerrilla) groups. The IACHR continues the process of trying to reach an amicable settlement of the UP's 1996 complaint charging the Government with "action or omission" in what the UP termed "political genocide" of the UP and the Communist Party. As part of the process, since June 2000, the Government has provided protection through the Interior Ministry to surviving UP and Communist Party members. Despite these efforts, NGO's reported to the IACHR that at least 20 persons associated with the UP were killed during the year 2001.

There continue to be incidents of social cleansing--including attacks and killings--directed against individuals deemed socially undesirable, such as drug addicts, prostitutes, transvestites, homosexuals, beggars, and street children. The CCJ attributed one social cleansing killing to security forces during the period from June 2000 to June 2001; it attributed 319 killings to paramilitary groups, and 10 to the guerrillas. AUC social cleansing killings of homosexuals, prostitutes, drug users, and mentally ill persons were reported in Barrancabermeja, Cucuta, and numerous other municipalities. Barrancabermeja residents also have reported AUC attempts to impose "social controls" (such as curfews or dress codes) and the exercise of vigilante justice.

Human rights activists noted that the final law did not require that military defendants be tried in civilian, rather than military, courts; however, the reformed Military Penal Code, which entered into effect in August 2000, did include such a requirement. More than 3,700 cases of forced disappearance have been reported formally to the authorities since 1977. Very few have been resolved. Many of the victims disappeared in the course of confrontations between illegal armed groups and the State, or between paramilitaries and guerrillas. The great majority of victims of forced disappearance have never been seen or heard from again. The human rights NGO CREDHOS reported at year's end that 71 persons disappeared between January and November in Barrancabermeja and surrounding areas.

The law prohibits kidnaping; however, it remained an extremely serious problem. According to the Free Country Foundation (Fundacion Pais Libre), 3,041 persons, or 8 persons per day, were kidnaped during the year 2001, compared with 3,706 in 2000. Paramilitary groups kidnaped 9 percent of these persons. Guerrilla groups were responsible for 63 percent of the kidnapings. Criminals kidnaped 10 percent. An estimated 205 minors were in captivity as of October. Members of the Government's elite antikidnaping squads known as GAULA (a combined police and military unit) and other units of the security forces freed 697 persons during the year 2001. The Free Country Foundation reported that 98 persons died in captivity during the year 2001. Arrests or prosecutions in kidnaping cases were rare. Kidnaping continues to be an unambiguous, standing policy and major source of revenue for both the FARC and ELN. According to the Free Country Foundation, politicians, cattlemen, children, and businessmen were the guerrillas' preferred victims. The Foundation reported that guerrillas committed 63 percent of the 3,041 kidnapings reported during the year 2001; ransom payments continue to serve as an important source of revenue for the FARC and the ELN. The FARC often purchased victims kidnaped by common criminals and then negotiated ransom payments with the family. In March 2000, the FARC announced "Law 002," which required persons with more than $1 million in assets to volunteer payment to the FARC or risk detention. There were many reports that guerrillas tortured kidnap victims. Several released kidnap victims claim that the FARC are holding more than 200 persons in the despeje zone.

Guerrillas continue to kidnap political leaders. During the year 2001, the FARC kidnaped Liberal Congressman Orlando Bernal Cuellar in August, Liberal Congressman Luis Eladio Perez in June, and Huila department Congressman Consuelo Gonzalez in September. At year's end, all three remained in captivity, along with Conservative Party Congressman Oscar Lizcano, who was kidnaped in June 2000. In May the FARC kidnaped Jairo Antonio Correa, the mayor of Dabeiba. The Federation of Colombian Municipalities reported the kidnaping of at least 10 mayors, (3 by guerrilla groups, the rest by unidentified groups) during the year 2001. The FARC, the ELN, and other guerrilla groups regularly kidnaped foreign citizens throughout the year; some were released after weeks or months of captivity. On July 18, the FARC kidnaped three German nationals (a German government development official, his brother, and a friend). On September 23, the official's brother escaped and reported that the development official was in poor health due to long forced marches and lack of medical attention for a heart condition. The two remaining German hostages were released on October 12. A Slovak priest was kidnaped in September but quickly released. In July 2000, a representative of the NGO Doctors without Borders was kidnaped by a fringe guerrilla group. The victim was released in January and reportedly left the country. Paramilitary groups increasingly used threats both to intimidate opponents and to raise money. Letters demanding payment of a war tax and a threat to mark victims as a military target if they failed to pay were typical. In 1999 CINEP reported that nearly half of those threatened were public school teachers and that approximately half of all threat recipients were residents of Antioquia department. Guerrilla groups also tortured and abused persons. The bodies of many persons kidnaped and subsequently killed by guerrillas showed signs of torture and disfigurement. CINEP reported 40 cases of torture by guerrillas during the period from January through September. Numerous former kidnap victims and hostages taken by the guerrillas during combat reported severe deprivation, denial of medical attention, and physical and psychological torture during captivity. The MOD also reported numerous cases of soldiers and policemen tortured or mutilated and killed after surrendering.

The 2 main guerrilla armies, the FARC and the ELN, as well as the much smaller EPL and other groups, commanded an estimated total of 21,645 full-time guerrillas operating in more than 100 semiautonomous groups throughout the country. These groups undertook armed actions in nearly 1,000 of the country's 1,097 municipalities. Both the FARC and the ELN systematically attacked noncombatants and violated citizens' rights through the use of tactics such as killings, forced disappearances, the mutilation of bodies, attacks on churches, attacks on hospitals, attacks on ambulances, and executions of patients in hospitals. Guerrilla groups also were responsible for multiple abuses of religious and medical personnel. For example, on January 10, the FARC stopped an ambulance carrying a woman in labor to a hospital in Antioquia. Despite the pleas of the attendants, the guerrillas burned the vehicle, and the woman endured a difficult breech delivery in a nearby house (although she and the baby reportedly survived). Indiscriminate attacks on police stations resulted in high numbers of civilian casualties. Guerrillas also killed religious leaders and indigenous people. Guerrilla organizations continue to pursue strategies that routinely led them to commit abuses against citizens. Their tactics consistently included killings, kidnaping, torture, targeting of civilian populations and installations (including medical facilities), and the forced recruitment of children as young as 10 years old. In July Human Rights Watch directed an open letter to FARC commander-in-chief Manuel Marulanda that cited various abuses and called on the FARC to respect human rights and international humanitarian law. The FARC failed to respond substantively to any of the letter's points; instead, it accused Human Rights Watch of being a tool of a foreign government. Guerrillas also massacred civilians, and continue to be responsible for a significant percentage of massacre victims and other civilian deaths related to the conflict. According to CCJ, the guerrillas were responsible for 101 massacre victims (10 percent of the total number) during the year 2001. CCJ estimates that the guerrillas are responsible 22 percent of total civilian deaths related to the conflict since 1995. The Ministry of Defense reported that 1,060 civilian deaths were attributed to guerrilla groups during the year 2001 (out of a total of 2,088 civilian deaths related to the conflict). Guerrillas used landmines both to defend static positions (such as base camps, cocaine laboratories, and sites at which kidnap victims were held) and as indiscriminate weapons of terror. The Vice President's office reported in 2000 that the FARC and ELN have laid indiscriminately 50,000 mines in rural areas. Landmines planted by guerrillas or disguised as everyday items such as soccer balls or paint cans often resulted in the killing or maiming of civilian noncombatants; thousands of IDP's were unable to return to their homes due to the presence of antipersonnel mines. According to press reports, landmines surround guerrilla bases in the despeje zone. The FARC used sulfuric acid in the gas canisters that it employed as artillery and continues its practice of using these canisters to attack small towns. Scores of soldiers, police, and civilians were burned indiscriminately as a result.


Internet research assisted by Jose M. Gutierrez and Eduardo Olmos

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