In the early 1960s an unimaginable evil overtook the Latin American country of Colombia. After two decades of political violence and the exclusion of the majority from government, from rights to their land, and an equitable share in the wealth of their nation, organisations began to form; some informed by the Marxist ideas of the Soviet Union, others spurred on by the successes of the revolution in Cuba, and others still by notions of social justice found in the Gospel. The intolerable evil of powerless people fighting for justice and liberation was born in the creation of the guerrilla movements. Faced with the indomitable strength of a fascist military government and little support from abroad, the Marxists and Liberationists sought out their own sources of revenue by breaking the law; a law which they perceived to be the heart of the problem. As their struggle became wrapped in time, and as one generation passed into another, their ideologies became entwined with the poisonous corruption of cocaine, kidnapping, extortion rackets, and power. In the opinion of many their high ideals had withered and died, only to be replaced by power lust and criminality for its own sake. This was before the Conservative reaction of the well-to-do.
Drug cartels, making millions by the day by exporting cocaine, and wealthy landowners who, in many cases had themselves been successful drug lords – together with the rich urban middle class – funded the creation of Autodefensas; right-wing paramilitary death squads to redress the evil of the guerrillas. Aligned as they were with the narcotics cartels and the Conservative political class these paramilitaries financed themselves almost entirely with the proceeds of drug trafficking – supplemented by donations from the wealthy – and used their weapons to terrorise the civilian population. Since the 1980s they have pillaged towns and villages and massacred their inhabitants, often with the support of the army, to eradicate the evils of Marxism and Liberationism. Colombia, the longest running civil war in the world, has become the crucible of ideals; where the best of intentions have been corrupted over time by wealth, power, and violence. Under the corrupting influence of cocaine, foreign intervention, the export of oil, and endemic suffering the war in Colombia has become one of the most convoluted conflicts in history, and even though we may ask if the ends justifies the means it must be conceded that ideals were the first casualties in a conflagration in which there are no good guys, and from which there may be no victors.