In March 2006, 62 fighters from the Cacica Gaitana Front of Colombia’s FARC guerrillas handed in their weapons in the largest rebel demobilization in 50 years of war, and a major publicity coup for the government of then-President Alvaro Uribe. There was just one problem: the Cacica Gaitana Front never existed. Read full story
The Lives of Cocaine Growers, Ozy, January 19, 2015
The Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas believe they stymie the coca trade if they reach a successful peace accord, but many obstacles remain. Read full story.
Would Colombia Peace Deal Curb the Coca Trade? Ask a Coca Farmer, Christian Science Monitor, January 15, 2015
Negotiators at the peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas say they have drafted a plan to put a halt to the coca trade. But the country’s farmers remain sceptical. Read full story
Contraband: Colombia’s Top Money Laundering, InSight Crime, November 19, 2014
Everything from clothes to cattle, whiskey to washing machines is smuggled into Colombia in a contraband trade worth nearly $6 billion a year, according to government estimates. But it’s the growing use of the contraband trade to launder dirty cash that most concerns Colombian authorities. Read full story
Video Shows Colombian Police Take on Contraband with Tear Gas, InSight Crime, November 17, 2014
Police footage shows how Colombian police confront contraband runners along the Caribbean coast, from chasing down speeding trucks loaded with gasoline to shooting tears gas at the drivers. Read full story
How Contraband Politics Took Over Northeast Colombia, InSight Crime, November 17, 2014
A police raid on a luxury mansion in Brazil in late October brought the era of Marquitos and Kiko crashing down: the gangster and the politician who together built a gasoline smuggling empire that co-opted the Colombian state of La Guajira. But while both are now facing the prospect of lengthy prison sentences, the political-criminal nexus they leave behind is far from finished. Read full story
Cucuta: Colombia’s Contraband City, InSight Crime, November 16, 2014
The Colombian border town of Cucuta has smuggling coursing through its veins, underpinning its economy and strengthening organized crime, which is raking in millions from everything from beef to gasoline. Read full story
The Downfall of Colombia’s Billion-Dollar Gasoline Smuggler, Ozy, November 18, 2014
Marcos Figueroa had friends in the highest office and the lowest corner of the Colombian state of La Guajira. From a poor indigenous family, Figueroa rose to wealth and power … to become the most wanted man in northeast Colombia. Until his arrest on Oct. 22. Read full story
Colombians Object to Deals that Take Criminals Out of the Country, Ozy, September 15, 2014
“Better a tomb in Colombia than a cell in the United States.” That was the battle cry of the first generation of Colombian drug lords when they declared war against extradition in the 1980s. How the world has changed. Thirty years on, a trip to the United States is often the first request of captured narcos, angling for extradition, a light sentence and early retirement. Read full story
Is the Sinaloa Cartel Now a Criminal Player in Medellin? InSight Crime, August 1, 2014
A mafia boss is found slumped in a car park in an exclusive neighborhood with four bullets in his head. Grenade attacks and hitmen on motorbikes leave a trail of dead downtown.Colombia‘s most fearsome criminal organization plays peacemaker to warring street gangs, while Mexico‘s leading drug cartel floods the city with money and guns. Read full story
Who Controls Medellin? Fragile Peace in Colombia’s ‘Model’ City, Christian Science Monitor, July 18, 2014
The labyrinth of streets making up Medellín’s hillside slums are filled with what locals call an “apparent calm.” Food vendors are out in force, music blares from bars and shops, and old men sit outside sipping tiny plastic cups of coffee, watching the world go by. But behind these everyday scenes is the knowledge the peace in Colombia’s second-largest city could shatter at any moment. Read full story
Eco-Trafficking in Latin America: the Workings of a Billion Dollar Business, InSight Crime, 7th July 2013
Eco-trafficking is no longer the preserve of a handful of poachers, loggers and specialized smugglers, but has become a billion-dollar trade run by transnational organized crime networks that spread corruption, violence and environmental destruction in their wake throughout Latin America. Read part one, and part two.
The Messi Scandal: From Charity Soccer Games to Money Laundering Accusations, InSight Crime, 3rd June 2014
Come the start of the World Cup, soccer fans in Argentina will be investing their hopes and dreams in the astonishing talents of their iconic striker Lionel Messi,. But hanging over Messi’s head is an ongoing scandal that has seen his name mentioned alongside infamous drug lords and multi-million dollar money laundering schemes. Read full story.
Sadism, Death and Abuse: Women and War in Buenaventura, InSight Crime, 16th May 2014
The criminal butchers who have earned the port of Buenaventura a macabre reputation as the torture house of Colombia‘s drug war seem to reserve a special cruelty and sadism for the city’s women. Their work speaks volumes about the complex dynamic between conflict, crime, and violence against women in Colombia. Read full story.
A Rebirth of Hope in Colombia: The Return of the Patriotic Union Party, Toward Freedom, 30th March 2013,
In Colombia’s congressional elections in early March, the name the Patriotic Union appeared on ballot sheets for the first time in over a decade. It is a name that carries a heavy historical burden, evoking memories of a political party whose tragic history casts a long shadow over Colombia’s civil conflict – and whose remarkable rebirth now hangs in the balance. Read full story.
Labor Crisis Begets Violence on Colombia’s Pacific Coast, In These Times, March 26 2013
The Pacific port city of Buenaventura is the gateway to the Colombian economy. The city handles around two-thirds of the country’s maritime foreign trade and connects Colombia to 300 ports around the world. But despite its status as a thriving hub of international trade, Buenaventura is better known as an epicenter of narco-paramilitary activity, making it one of Colombia’s many sites of rampant poverty and violence, death and hopelessness. Read full story.
The Future of Latin America’s Drug Trade, Ozy, 22nd March 2013
With his snarling eyes and bushy mustache, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman looked the epitome of a Latin American drug lord as he was hauled in front of the cameras by the Mexican marines in late February. But despite his power, his wealth and the mythology that surrounds him, El Chapo was not the all-powerful cocaine emperor of popular imagination. Read full story.
Toxic Mix of Drug Lords, Corruption and Trade Fuels Disorder in Colombian Port City, AlterNet, 5th March 2013
The Colombian port of Buenaventura is being ravaged by a paramilitary drug war and a push to capitalize on free trade, which together feed off the bloodshed and poverty that has become the daily lot for the city’s inhabitants. Read full story
War for Cocaine Corridors Consumes Colombia’s Biggest Port, InSight Crime, 14th February 2014
Residents of Buenaventura have become prisoners of war in the battle for Colombia‘s primary cocaine port. They are confined within invisible borders, silenced by macabre atrocities and live at the mercy of alienated youths armed and empowered by drug trafficking warlords. Read full story.
Children, Sex and Gangs in Medellin, InSight Crime, 16th December 2013
In the slums of Medellin, Colombia, adolescent girls have become the spoils of war and merchandise for criminal gangs; they are raped, abused, trafficked and even have their virginities auctioned off to the highest bidder. Read full story
Colombia is Back from the Brink, Ozy, 9th December 2013
en years ago, the world had written Colombia off as a tangled wreckage of drug cartels, Marxist guerrillas and paramilitary death squads, where violence was the norm and hope was for the naïve. But now many Colombians are dreaming of what only a few years ago seemed unthinkable — a bright future. Read full story
Taking On the Neo-Liberal Development Model: A Social Movement in Colombia Rises Up in Defense of Water, Toward Freedom, 22nd November 2013
Colombia is booming, we are told. The security improvements of the last decade have opened up the country to investment, allowing it capitalize on its resource wealth to fund much needed development and investment in infrastructure. However, while this narrative has now traveled around the world, for many of those living at the heart of this brave new Colombia, it does not ring true. Read full story.
Three years ago, Buritica was a sleepy farming village tucked away in the mountains of Antioquia in northwest Colombia. Now, it is a gold rush frontier town replete with deathtrap mines, ramshackle huts, prostitutes, drugs, and narco-paramilitaries. Read full story
Pushing Around the Problem: Colombia’s War on Micro-trafficking, InSight Crime, 4th November 2013
Eight months after the opening salvos in Colombia‘s war against micro-trafficking, residents in affected areas say the results have been an explosion in open drug use outside their homes, schools and businesses, while drug sales remain unaffected. The story is, in many ways, illustrative of the challenges ahead for much of the region as it faces down increasing local drug consumption. Read full story
The Virgin Auctions in Pablo Escobar’s Home Town, The Independent, 8th October 2013
It is a phrase now commonly heard in the hillside slums of Medellin, Colombia: “Take care of your daughter, or she will be sold.” The warning – or threat, depending on who is talking – is literal. The street gangs that rule the slums known as comunas are recruiting 10 to 15-year-old girls and auctioning off their virginities to drug lords and foreign tourists. Read full story
The Nomad Victims: Intra-Urban Displacement in Medellin, InSight Crime, 10th July, 2013
For some, it is their association with an enemy gang. For others, it is their community work. Some flee sexual abuse, forced recruitment, or extortion. But ultimately, every one of the thousands of people displaced within Medellin faces the same grim choice: Lose your house, job, and community — or lose your life. Read full story.
Change from Below: Constituent Assemblies Offer Democratic Route to Peace in Colombia, Toward Freedom, 12 June 2013
While the FARC and the Colombian government talk peace for many of those who have been at the heart of Colombia’s conflict and the country’s search for peace, if their lofty dreams are to become the reality both the peace process and the implementation of any final agreement need to move beyond the closed doors of Havana and into the cities, towns and villages of Colombia. Read full story.
Multinational giant Nestle has been accused of complicity in the murder of a Colombian unionist in a criminal complaint filed in Switzerland. Read full story
The Afro-Colombian communities of Curvarado, Colombia were forced from their lands by an alliance of paramilitaries and businesses. The alliance remains in the region, but the people have returned to claim reclaim their territories. Read full story
Despite living being continually targetted by all sides in Colombia’s conflict, the San Jose de Apartado Peace Community has developed its own autonomous education system to “rebuild the fabric of society.” Read full story
Ten years after it was discovered Chiquita Bananas financed paramilitary groups, the company continues to be linked to the paramilitary economy thorugh its main supplier – Banacol. Read full story.
With the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas entering in to a new peace process, what will become of the 10,000 insurgent combatants, and what can Colombia learn from previous demobilizations and guerrillas who have left war behind? Read full story
When Venenzuelan President Hugo Chavez defeated challenger Henrique Capriles in presidential elections, it sparked wild celebrations in his home town of Sabaneta, where to most – though by no means all – he remains a local hero. Read full story
The arrest of the mafia kingpin known as Sebastian in Medellin, Colombia has thrown into doubt the future of the criminal dynasty founded by Pablo Escobar. Read full story.
Hounded by paramilitary threats and state smears, can the new voice of Colombia’s left forge peace?, AlterNet, 13th June 2012
Drawing together over 1,500 groups representing Colombia’s grassroots activists and the disenfranchised, new political movement the Marcha Patriotica is calling for economic justice, environmental protection, deeper democracy and above all, a negotiated peace to end Colombia’s internal conflict. Already its political opponents have labeled it a tool of Colombia’s leftist guerrillas while the Marcha’s leadership have received death threats and local organisers have disappeared. Read full story
New battles in an old war: Ecuadorian anti-mining activists build resistance, develop alternatives, Toward Freedom, 13th June 2012
Environmentalists in northern Ecuador are mobilising for a third campaign to keep the cloud forests and mountains of Intag free of large-scale mining. Read full story
Ahead of Mexico’s presidential elections, only one candidate is discussing the country’s dire need for broad educational reforms. However, behind his candidacy stands the dimunitive but imposing figure of Elber Gordillo and her teachers union – the SNTE, one of the most powerful and allegedly corrupt unions in Latin America.
A Medellin infrastructure megaproject will tunnel beneath the mountains of Santa Elena in the department of Antioquia, linking Medellin with the airport and free trade zones of the nearby city of Rio Negro. As it does so, claim campaigners against the project, it could drain the area’s streams and aquifers, devastating the local ecosystem and causing a social and economic disaster. Read full story
At the Summit of the Americas, the U.S. government delared itself satisfied with labor rights reforms enacted by Colombia, opening the way for the full implementations of the free trade agreement between the countries. However, on the ground in Colombia, unions maintain they face the same problems of violence, worker abuse and anti-union practices. Read full story
Years of brutal paramilitary violence in Montes de Maria was followed by a wave of land speculation that saw a handful of companies and businessmen gain control of the region. Among them was Argos, who, with the prospect of land restitution looming, have recieved UN approval to use the land for a carbon trading project. Read story
The communities of the Sogamoso river basin claim they were told the construction of a hyrdo-electric mega dam would bring jobs and development. Instead, they say it has brought environmental and social devastation. Read full story
Principe Gabriel Gonzalez, an activist with the Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee (CSPP) in Colombia is just one of many human rights activists caught between the violence of right-wing paramilitaries and the malicious prosecutions of a state willing to smear him as a guerrilla collaborator. Read full story
In 2010 Mark Kennedy was outed as a police infiltrator after seven years on the UK activist scene. Kennedy worked for one of the police “domestic extremist” units who have used infiltration, media campaigns and legal attacks in a campaign of political policing of protest. Read full story
The rise of the islamaphobic English Defence League has been rapid and violent, creating a new opening for the far-right in the UK that resonates with growing anti-Islam sentiment in Europe and the US. Read full story
No Borders activists have spent a year in the French port city of Calais providing support to the hundreds of migrants living in squats and ‘jungle’ camps, facing desperate conditions and constant police harrassment as they try to make it to the ‘promised land’ of the UK. Read full story
In January 2009 six activists broke into the site of arms component manufacturers EDO, subject of a long running anti-militarist campaign, and “decommissioned” the factory. When they stood trial over a year later, they argued their actions had been to prevent the greater crimes of the Israeli military in their assault on Gaza in operation Cast Lead. Read full story and post-trial update