According to a 2010 United Nations report, Colombia has the world’s highest population of internally displaced people.
It is estimated that between three and five million Colombians have been displaced, or roughly 11% of the population.
What is Displacement?
dis·place·ment (noun): the enforced departure of people from their homes, typically because of war, persecution, or natural disaster.
Why are people being displaced in Colombia?
Colombia is in the midst of a sixty-year civil war. The battle has been fought for ideas and for land, politics and money. Here's a brief glance at Colombia's history of violence.
In 1948, popular presidential candidate Jorge Gaitan was assassinated. This sparked a ten-year long conflict known as La Violencia that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
After this conflict, Marxist guerillas organized into the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The FARC claimed to fight on the side of the poor and oppressed and declared war on the wealthy elite.
To combat the FARC, wealthy landowners began outfitting their own militias to protect their property. These armed groups, or paramilitary organizations, became a wide network of well-equipped mercenaries.
The cocaine boom of the 70s and 80s led to the rise of drug cartels. These groups waged their own war against the political system in Colombia, further destabilizing the country
When the drug cartels fell in the 1990s, the FARC and the paramilitaries filled the power vacuum left in the drug trade. Both sides used the production and traffick of cocaine to fuel their war. As both sides grew in size and influence, the United States became more concerned with the instability in Colombia
To Combat the increasing influence of the narco-traffickers, the United States introduced a policy known as Plan Colombia, a military aid package that would seek to eliminate the cocaine supply at its source.
What has been the result of Plan Colombia?
Since 2000, the U.S. has spent approximately $8,000,000,000 on these efforts in Colombia. The main focus of Plan Colombia has been the eradication of coca crops. The primary method of eradication is aerial fumigation, in which a strong herbicide is dropped from spray planes over regions of suspected coca growth.
As the graph on the left shows, coca cultivation has not been impacted by this policy.
What this graph does not show, is that many innocent farmers have had their food and cash crops destroyed by fumigations. Once their livelihoods are lost, these farmers are left with little choice but to pack up their belongings and move to the city in search of work.
So, not only has this $8 billion policy not been effective in reducing the amount of cocaine that enter the U.S. every year, it has directly led the forced displacement of many Colombians, contributing to one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world.