Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mariana's Story

As a sort of unintential counterpoint to Carlos Castaño's human rights exhibition criticizing the government, right across the street I met Mariana, who was begging with a sign telling her story of being displaced from her farm in Forencia, Caqueta.

Castaño condemns Colombia's government and right-wing paramilitaries for its human rights violations and lets the leftist guerrillas off scott-free. That's not surprising, since Castaño's was a guerrilla himself.

But Mariana's story, which is all too common, gives a different and more complex perspective. Mariana said that a few weeks ago her family were campesino farmers living happily enough in Florencia, in Caqueta Department.

But the region was used for growing coca leaf, the base ingredient for cocaine, and various illegal groups fought over it, Mariana said. And they wanted the peasants driven out, she said.

One day without warning, she said, a guerrilla group burned the family's house. Soon after, she said, her oldest son, 24, was murdered by paramilitaries. And after that, the family recieved anonymous threatening notes pushed  under their front door. She and her four children fled to Bogotá, where they are seeking government help.

It was impossible for me to be certain that Mariana's story is true, altho she sounded honest enough and gave a detailed, realistic account. But, true or not, her story is typical of the tragedies which continue happening in Colombia's countryside, with little notice from the majority of the people. Her story also shows the complexity of Colombia's conflict, in which there's blame enough for leftists and rightists.

And, sadly, as long as drugs are prohibited, violent groups like these will keep profiting from them, and victimizing people like Mariana.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Andrew Scott said...

End prohibition of drugs now. It is a total and absolute failure at the cost of countless lives and resources. A new approach is long overdue.

mauricio forero l said...

The American evangelicals, and their backwardness in my opinion, are the ones that are in the way to legalized drugs, without USA approval, there is no deal. If drugs were to be legalized by the consumers ( EUROPE and USA ) and the producers, the levels of violence and suffering would not be so high.

Mauricio F.

Stuart Oswald said...

Legalization is most definitely not the solution. Only users or people not caring for the consequences would even try to suggest something so illogical. Interesting post apart from the agenda.

Miguel said...

Hi Stuart,

Thanks for your comments, but I don't understand how you can just discard drug legalization (or decriminalization).
I'm not certain myself that it would improve things overall, since most likely more people would try drugs. However, since it would deprive violent groups of wealth, increase tax revenue and save countless lives and dollars now being wasted in the criminal system, it seems unreasonable not to consider legalization as one option, at least.


Andrew Scott said...

Hello Stuart,
I do not use drugs, including alcohol, and I care very much about the consequences of legislation. I have no vested interests. But it is clear to me that the 50 year "War on Drugs" has failed. Prohibition artificially inflates the prices. Current policy benefits drug traffickers and penalizes the majority of communities worldwide.

Stuart Oswald said...

So with even your own doubts you're happy to risk the lives of so many people to just give it a go. And this pretty much sums up the argument. Getting rid of a bad aspect to have it replaced with another that's equally if not more bad. Illogical.

Stuart Oswald said...

There seems to be some very bigoted comments being posted here that really do nothing for the standing of the points raised. I really hope the good people of Colombia are not thinking, these views are those held by the majorities in Europe and North America.

Miguel said...

Regarding drug decriminalization. As someone who believes it's worth trying, I agree it would 'risk lives.' Every change has winners and losers. But the existing system destroys many, many lives, and costs money which could be used to save and improve many more lives. Mike

Stuart Oswald said...

But this is the point. The state permitting such acts is itself as good as the state killing good people themselves (becoming the dealer). Just because the state gives permission to something does not then make it correct. The state could permit executions legally it still does not make it right (by any human value). The state then only becomes a collective murderer. Another analogy would be, because the state cannot stop murderers, murdering should become legal and controlled. The addition to the argument of a government to then even profit out of such activities, makes the idea even more sinister.