BBC News

Colombia seeks eco-tourism boost

Sept 28--Residents of the town of La Macarena frequently toss a phrase into conversation: "Cuando estaba la guerrilla..." - "When the guerrillas were here..."

28 de septiembre de 2009

t is an understated way of describing the region's past troubles.

Between 1998 and 2001, La Macarena, together with four other municipalities, formed part of the demilitarised zone created by the Colombian government during peace talks with the country's biggest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).
The guerrillas were not just a presence; they, and the drugs economy they brought with them, dominated the lives of the local population.

Farmers and merchants experienced an unprecedented boom from coca production.

Food crops virtually disappeared and plantains and cassavas had to be imported.

Meanwhile, instead of state law enforcement, there was a guerrilla-run complaints office.

Men caught stealing chickens and other items were ordered to walk around the town with sandwich-boards announcing their crimes; other offenders were taken off to work clearing runways for drug trafficking.

The broader conflict's victims were visible: a group of hostages was kept in a barbed-wire enclosure before being handed over to relatives.

At that time eco-tourism was impossible. But after peace talks between the government and the Farc broke down and the army retook the town within a week, the idea took root.
Read more here.
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