Despite remarkable progress made in urban centers such as Medellin, the nation of Colombia as a whole remains plagued by an overwhelming confluence of devastating social crises. Twenty years after the death of Pablo Escobar, (more on this infamously iconic figure in the post to come) Colombia is still the world’s number one producer and exporter of cocaine. The flourishing of Colombia’s international Narco-Trafficking industry is responsible for a myriad of catastrophic human consequences. And while the ripple effects of the illicit drug trade are felt worldwide, the magnitude of the social damage this industry produces is felt perhaps most intensely at its source. For starters, the narcotics trade is a major factor in producing an extraordinary level of violence that would otherwise not be occurring. At around 28 homicides per 100,000 residents, Colombia consistently ranks in the top five countries in the world for likelihood of death by gun.
Furthermore, weighing in at an estimated 5.5 million people, Colombia has the highest level of internally displaced people in the world. For the sake of context, this means Colombia has more internal refugees than Afghanistan, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan. These 5.5 million Colombians have been forced to flee their homes, mostly in rural areas, due to a multi-layered quagmire of armed groups whose violence and intimidation has resulted in this astounding refugee crisis. Rebel Guerilla groups, unaccountable Para-Military organizations, and ludicrously well-funded Drug Cartels have created a trifecta of terror for rural Colombians.
The pictures below provide just a slight glimpse into a beautiful nation that has been and continues to be racked by ongoing terrorism and psychological trauma. Such are the consequences that emerge from the lethal sickness that is unbridled greed, and the stunning disregard for human life that it has the unique capacity to engender.
78. Medellin, Colombia. A crude, smiling face happily engages in a pass time that an estimated 22 million American citizens thoughtlessly share: the consumption of illegal narcotics.
79. Medellin, Colombia. This was a drive by shot taken from of moving vehicle and as a result, the full text is frustratingly cut off. The full message says, “Tus acciones tienen consequencias, piensa.” – “Your actions have consequences, think.” I cannot think of a more simple and profound way to encapsulate what is wrong with the message promoted in the previous picture.
80. Medellin, Colombia. So what are some of those consequences, one might fairly ask? Let’s start in the Robledo neighborhood of Medellin. The city as a whole has experienced over 300 murders in the first four months of 2013. The neighborhood of Robledo, where this photo was taken, has undergone an 80% increase in homicides in the same time frame as compared to last year. Daily battles among street gangs over territory in which to sell narcotics have ravaged this otherwise peaceful, working class community.
81. Medellin, Colombia. Residents of the Robledo neighborhood have been forced to become mindful of “las fronteras invisibles” – “the invisible borders” between rival street gangs. Accidentally walking into a street “where you are not supposed to be” can, and does, literally result in murder.
82. Medellin, Colombia. Since 1964, the leftist guerilla group FARC has terrorized the country of Colombia. As recently as 2008, FARC is estimated to have possessed active control of up to 35% of Colombia’s entire landmass. The group has succeeded in maintaining its numbers and presence in part through the abduction of child soldiers. FARC is perhaps best known, however, for its self-financing practices which principally rely on two strategies: the production and sale of cocaine, and the kidnapping and ransoming of thousands of civilian, non-combatants. This picture captures a message scrawled on a wall in Medellin to FARC Commander Jorge Briceno: “We will get you.”
83. Medellin, Colombia. “With hunger, there is no peace.” At best, this might be a social observation. However, Communist organizations such as FARC actively use the pretense of legitimate social problems (such as hunger) to justify the continuation of the human rights abuses they commit in order to perpetuate their political aspirations.
84. Medellin, Colombia. Everyday, dozens to hundreds of “Los Desplazados” – “The Displaced People” arrive in urban centers like Medellin. Forced out of their homes by guerillas, para-militaries, or cartels, most of these people arrive, traumatized and exhausted, with next to nothing.
85. Medellin, Colombia. This is where Los Desplazados live. Thousands upon thousands of refugees end up populating the exponentially expanding slums on the mountain slopes of Medellin.
86. Cartagena, Colombia. Even lesser populated, more turist-oriented areas of Colombia such as the city of Cartagena have become meccas for Los Desplazados.
87. Medellin, Colombia. A “Paisa” is a resident of the Colombian state of Antioquia, home to the world’s most notorious and successful drug lord in history: Pablo Escobar. As long as his image, and the perverted perception that fast money and power achieved through sadistic violence is glamorized, (coupled, obviously with the insatiable demand for illegal narcotics in the US and Europe) it is hard to see how this madness comes to an end. Please remember: “Your actions have consequences”…if you use or sell illegal drugs in the United States or Europe, then you are directly responsible for contributing to the perpetual cycle of violence and misery that is ruining the lives of millions of human beings alive on earth right now…whether you choose to see them, or not.