The New York Times | 3/4/2011 12:00:00 AM
In Colombia, New Gold Rush Fuels Old Conflict
March 4--Officers pored over intelligence reports describing the movements of two warlords with private armies. Then the helicopters lifted off at dawn, carrying an elite squad armed with assault rifles to the newest front in this country’s long war: gold mines.
Their move into gold underscores the many difficulties of ending Colombia’s devilishly complex four-decade war. Even as the Colombian authorities claim victories in bombing top rebel commanders and eradicating vast tracts of coca — the plant used to make cocaine, long the financial lifeblood of the insurgents — resilient factions are exploring new sources of money.
“These groups are metamorphosing to take advantage of the opportunities they see,” said Jeremy McDermott, a director based in Medellín of InSight, a research organization that focuses on criminal enterprises in Latin America. “They know there’s a huge new revenue stream within their grasp, and they’re grabbing it.”
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