“Tradition, Family and Property”, September-October 1995
by Victor Rodriguez and the Colombian TFP Commission of Studies
The media overflows with it: drugs, crime, terror, guerrillas, and the inability of politicians to do anything about it. Such is the picture of Colombia.
But could this not also be the picture of many American cities? Another thought: Isn't Colombia one of the main suppliers for drug consumption in America?
In the past, a label with "Product of Colombia" evoked the crisp aroma of high-grade coffee. Today, it's more likely to be high-grade cocaine. How did this change come about?
More than a decade of warnings
For many years the Colombian TFP has been warning successive governments and Church leaders of the inherent dangers to their country if indolence was not replaced with firm action. Unheeded, the inevitable happened: Colombia has seen a crescendo of murder, violence, and corruption to shake even the most skeptical.
The crescendo was slow at first; life didn't seem to change much. As it quickened however, it took on the air of inevitability. But all along, had there been the moral fiber and the will power, it could have been stemmed. It could still he stemmed.
Yet, those who had it in their power and authority to stand up to the crisis as duty and public opinion demand, instead sought to dialogue and compromise with the drug barons and Cuban-sponsored guerrilla warlords who are destroying the country. With such policies, how much longer before the country would drown under the waves of chaos?
This having been the case for so many years, the Colombian TFP, at great risk (TFP centers there have suffered four bombings so far), again appealed to the Colombian public.
The effect has been greater than ever imagined. The repercussion is being felt not only in Colombia, but in Mexico and on the streets of New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles (see New York Times, Sept. 15, 1995).
The Words of Jonas
The TFP's message, "The Colombian Government Will Be Overpowered Unless It Fights Drug-Traffickers and Guerrilla Violence," describes the abyss faced by this large Catholic nation, as well as the measures needed to halt the plunge toward that abyss. Adapting the words of the Prophet Jonas to the people of Nineve (Jonas 3:1-10), this "Call to the Nation" was published in three major dailies of Colombia.* This in itself was no small achievement. Soon after, it was published in Washington .**
A Colombian TFP delegation visited Rome, Washington, and Miami. Their documented presentations moved Vatican prelates, Washington diplomats and political advisers, and Miami community leaders. The Colombians sought not only to save their own country from sinking into anarchy, but to advocate a solution to what is now an international problem.
Drug cartels and Marxist guerrillas
For more than a decade, the alliance of drug traffickers and Marxist guerrillas has throttled Colombia. Some analysts call it a "marriage-of-convenience," identical to what is seen in the ex-Soviet empire between local mafias and communist party bosses.
The hard truth is that this drug-Marxist alliance has boosted violent crime to 35,000 deaths a year, the highest toll on the continent.
And for more than a decade the government has indulged the guerrilla and drug-trafficking groups. These grew, became rich, gained accomplices, and enjoyed great impunity even as they moved to unite to overcome the authorities and control society.
Guerrillas need allies or impunity for survival
Communist guerrillas have afflicted Latin America for over 40 years, but have been continually rejected by the people. They triumphed in Cuba and Nicaragua only because many who opposed communism, lent them a helping hand by joining forces against dictatorships oppressing those countries. But the misery and other evils Marxism brought about there prevented the same strategy from being successful elsewhere.
Colombia has never had a dictatorship, but a long tradition of democratic government. Yet Marxist guerrillas sought to gain power as in Cuba and Nicaragua by allying themselves with the Catholic left and Establishment liberals. But they utterly failed in mustering campesino support, so they adopted an approach more like that of the Khmer Rouge.
In other Latin American nations, communism organized massacres, but these massacres never carried it to power. Colombia is becoming an exception. The systematic murders or the kidnapping (1,400 a year) of anyone who stands out in Colombian society — farmers, university professors, even middle-class businessmen — is virtually decapitating the nation. The strategy is simple: The leadership vacuum is easily filled by Marxists.
With the collapse of Soviet bankrolling of the Cuban expansionist adventure, the Colombian guerrillas could not expect Castro to provide the same help as before. Having no popular support either, the communist guerrillas needed new partners.
Guerrillas protect drug plantations
By the end of 1994, what had grown increasingly obvious for ten years had become indisputable: The Marxist guerrillas and the drug cartels had joined forces. According to Army sources, some 4,000 guerrillas — half the estimated number in Colombia — are in the narco-guerrilla alliance.
From November 1994 to January of this year, the guerrillas forced tens of thousands of campesinos to demonstrate in cities of the states of Guaviare, Putumayo, Meta, and Caqueta against government spraying of drug fields.
More than fifty planes or helicopters spraying herbicides on drug crops were shot down in the past two years by guerrillas guarding the coca plantations. The same guerrillas ambush and prevent the army and police from approaching these plantations.
The guerrilla control of these states is now so complete and ruthless that the police and military do not dare appear outside the state capitals.
Yet, none of this seemed to concern the government. Rather than confronting the guerrillas with superior force, the government curtailed police and military action and continued its indolent policy of appeasement toward the guerrillas and drug traffickers. Moreover, it even reached out to the guerrillas with the offer of co-government in these four states. Early this year, Bogota's El Tiempo reported that the government plans to hand these regions over to guerrilla rule. People living in these areas are in great fear.
The obsession with making concessions to the drug-guerrilla alliance led to government proposals, which were to have been discussed in negotiations last June, to appoint the guerrillas as de jure "jungle police." The presidentially appointed governor of Guaviare has declared that he had already taken steps in that direction. He received no presidential reprimand.
For years American specialists in the drug battle have been urging the Colombian government to take stronger measures. Other alarms have been sounded about the drug-guerrilla alliance, but the American media has apparently decided not to highlight this. The hand-wringing explanations of Colombian authorities have been accepted at face value.
The Colombian TFP saw that this had to change if Colombia was to survive. After addressing itself directly to Colombian public opinion and visiting key decision-makers abroad, there has been a encouraging turn for the better.
One week after the ColombianTFP's "Call to the Nation," things began to change: Colombian politicians who had been competing to negotiate concessions with guerrillas suddenly changed their minds. Drug-cartel leaders, despite terrorist bombings by their guerrilla allies, are being captured. New vigor has gone into investigations of scandals of drug-money financing presidential campaigns. And the judiciary is pursuing the trails of cartel cash payments to politicians and others whose indolence in defending their country was being amply repaid.
A salutary reaction has awakened Colombia's energies. Even if late, those whose life is guided by faith and strong moral principles can still triumph. The saying that "evil triumphs because good men do nothing" is as true now as when the English statesman Edmund Burke first said it during the French Revolution.
And what can happen in Colombia, can also happen in American cities.
(*) These include: El Tiempo, Bogotá, 31 May 1995; El Informador, Santa Marta, 31 May 1995; El Universal, Cartagena, 6 June 1995; La prensa Libre, San José de Costarrica, 15 June 1995.
(**) Washington Times, Whashington D.C., 22 June 1995, pg. A13; El Nuevo Heraldo, Miami, 21 July 1995; Diario Las Americas, Miami, 2 July 1995.