This week, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Beth Dickinson, Crisis Group’s Colombia expert, about the violence in Colombia’s countryside over coca production and why the government’s forced eradication of coca is making things worse.
In his introduction to this month’s CrisisWatch, Interim President Richard Atwood reflects on the pandemic’s impact one year after Crisis Group published its first report on COVID-19 and conflict.
Coca gives Colombian small farmers a stable livelihood but also endangers their lives, as criminals battle over the drug trade and authorities try to shut it down. Bogotá and Washington should abandon their heavy-handed elimination efforts and help growers find alternatives to the hardy plant.
A study of social media content shows that Venezuelan opposition figures often take harder anti-government lines if they flee abroad. Exiles’ voices are important, but those trying to end Venezuela’s crisis should listen to others as well, recalling that compromise offers the only peaceful exit.
Following legislative elections, President Nicolás Maduro controls all of Venezuela’s major political institutions. Meanwhile, the country’s crisis deepens apace. An exit remains possible if the government and opposition adjust their zero-sum thinking to admit the need for compromise. The new U.S. administration can help.
The Colombian-Venezuelan frontier, long plagued by guerrilla warfare and organised crime, is now also the site of an inter-state standoff. The two countries should urgently reopen communication channels to lower tensions and lessen the suffering of migrants who cross the border, whether legally or otherwise.
As the coronavirus rages in Mexico and the northerly Central American countries, criminal outfits have adapted, often enlarging their turf. To fight organised crime more effectively, governments should combine policing with programs to aid the vulnerable and create attractive alternatives to illegal economic activity.
Murders of Colombian grassroots activists are increasing at an alarming rate. The killers seek to sabotage the country’s 2016 peace agreement and the rural economic reform it promised. Bogotá should step up prosecution of these crimes while pushing to improve social conditions in the countryside.
Cartels’ brand names fade away eventually. [But] all of those [other] networks stay in place.
Unless he [Guaidó] is able to reinvent himself in some way, I think the Guaidó plan has clearly failed.
The history in Colombia is when you start a wave of violence it accelerates and it’s very hard to stop.
The reduction of homicides [in El Salvador] seemed not to be due to government security strategy, but rather a gang decision.
The impotence of Mexican government security forces has been made particularly evident in the events of the last few months.
[Venezuela's] health service had collapsed long before sanctions were imposed.
Latin America is a dangerous place to defend the cause of peace, particularly in the case of women activists, who face sexist hostility and threats. Despite the dangers, many women tenaciously lead the struggle for justice and human rights in the region.
Coca crops have set record yields in Colombia since the 2016 peace accord with FARC guerrillas, persuading the government to expand its forced eradication campaign with the backing of U.S. authorities. Bogotá claims that eliminating the plant will reduce rural violence.
Online event joining together experts on drug policy from the Washington Office on Latin America's (WOLA), field-level expertise from Corporación Viso Mutop and Crisis Group senior analysts to discuss our new report: "Deeply Rooted: Coca Eradication and Violence in Colombia."
Opposition politicians in Venezuela face a difficult set of choices. But the sooner they face up to them, the sooner Venezuela can begin to tackle the enormous challenges of a much-needed political transition and economic reconstruction.
Originally published in World Politics Review