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Latin American Hotspots – Colombia

Following up with our series of articles that take a glance at the countries in the region that are strong economies and attractive markets but also present serious challenges in security, Colombia is our next piece.

Colombia is a country that has been under an irregular war for over 60 years. Additionally, starting in the late 70’s and early 80’s, illegal drug trafficking became a lucrative business for local groups, later baptized “cartels”, that targeted the US and Europe as their main markets.

Colombia is in a strategic geographical position in the subcontinent and is the gateway to South America with coastlines on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and borders with Peru, Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador.

The great Amazon basin with its jungles and rivers poses a great challenge to security forces trying to safeguard the borders and combat the production of cocaine. Thick vegetation and the abundant waterways are used by the cartels to install clandestine laboratories for the production of the drug and moving the drug towards the coast, especially in the Pacific.

Drug trafficking has traditionally fueled violence in Colombia. Territorial disputes between cartels, the irruption of the terrorist groups as players in the drug trafficking scene and the strong policy of the Colombian government with the extradition to the US of captured criminals brought many years of blood shed to not only remote areas of the country but also the main cities which suffered bombings in shopping centers and office buildings.

The peace deal signed by President Santos with the FARC, the principal terrorist group in Colombia, brought a false sensation of peace to the country. With ELN still active and a large group of dissidents that refused to sign the agreement, Colombia has seen how violence is still a huge threat to everyday activities and the stability of the regions.

Insecurity in the main cities is another huge challenge to local governments. The pandemic brought a rise in the unemployment rates and the influx of migrants from Venezuela have made the streets of cities like Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla unsafe. With the lack of action from local mayors coupled, a police force insufficient in numbers and a judicial system that releases criminals quicker than they are captured, the task of maintaining the streets safe is not an easy one.

Although the challenges described are huge, Colombia’s economy is still one of the strongest in the region and the country continues to be an attractive market.

There is great expectation with the current electoral process that might bring the leftist candidate to office in the coming months. Colombians will be casting their votes in the next couple of weeks with a first and second round that will define the new president for the next four years.