If Colombia Is Winning Its War, Why Are People Fleeing?

Sept 01--As he contemplates running for a third term next year, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe must first get over the swine flu, which he was diagnosed with over the weekend. But he has another thing to worry about besides his health: his impressive record on national security appears to be fraying.

The achievements had been stunning. Uribe's U.S.-backed military pounded Marxist guerrillas while his peace envoys convinced 30,000 right-wing paramilitaries to disarm — the two feats leading to a steep reduction in kidnappings and homicides and making Uribe the most popular Colombian leader in decades. But if the war is being won, why then are so many terrified Colombians abandoning their farms in the hinterlands and crowding into the cities?

Last year, 380,000 Colombians were forced off their land amid fighting between rebels, paramilitaries and the army, a 24% increase from 2007's figure, according to the Bogotá-based human-rights group Codhes (the Spanish acronym for the Human Rights and Displacement Office). Colombian officials, in turn, put the number of displaced at 294,000 for just the first six months of last year. "It's the million-dollar question," Marie-Helene Verney, spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Colombia, says of the perplexing trend. "Something is going on."
Read more here.
Semana International delivers news about Colombia in English. Find more in our home.