While by size and population Colombia is small in comparison to the U.S., it is one of the most violent countries in the world. Recently, Colombia has been successful in reducing the crime rate. How has this occurred now? Significant change can occur when divergent forces come together.
Colombia is one of the most violent countries in the Occidental world. While small by size and population in comparison to the United States (U.S.), the Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations (1998-2000) lists 4.55 homicides per 100,000 persons in the U.S.; while in Colombia, the same metric is 58.69, more than ten times the U.S. numbers. The cause of most of these deaths is the on-going violence stemming from drug trafficking and five decades of civil war. Narcoterrorism, involving a host of combatants: the leftist rebels, government troops, right-wing paramilitary fighters, common criminals, and drug-traffickers, has been going on for nearly fifty years and flares up acutely at various times.
The conflict has an alarming number of human rights violations. Where large swaths of the country are under the control of leftist guerrillas, military personal, police, mayors, candidates, and judges are threatened, kidnapped, and killed. The deplorable phenomenon of “social cleansing” involves the murder of street children, beggars, and other targeted groups by armed gangs. Frequent armed robberies and kidnappings make wealthy residents extremely security conscious citizens who can have fled the country.
Most of the deaths are civilians. Homicide is the leading cause of death among young men in Colombian cities. Thousands of these bodies, killed throughout this half century of violence, have not yet been recovered, identified, and returned to their families.
Recently Colombia has been successful in reducing this murder rate. Why and how has this occurred? Significant change can take place when divergent forces come together. This is particularly true in Colombia, which has made great strides since 2000, lowering the homicide rate by 40%, kidnappings by 83%, and terrorist attacks by 76% by 2008, according to the U.S. Department of State. Three specific initiatives have synergistically impacted this improvement:
- the implementation of a new judicial system
- internal political change with community support
- U.S. forensic science training and assistance to Colombia’s national lab system