BOGOTÁ – During the Cold War, tensions between the West and the Soviet Union affected virtually all countries worldwide. As a result, throughout Latin America, guerrilla groups emerged, seeking to destabilize military dictatorships and attain democracy, freedom, and policy reform – goals that they believed could not be achieved peacefully.
Above all, it was the Cuban Revolution of 1959 – in which armed revolutionaries successfully overthrew the military dictator Fulgencio Batista – that inspired this movement. Indeed, Che Guevara, an icon of the revolution, died in Bolivia while attempting to export the guerrilla project.
At the end of 2012, conditions in Latin America are very different. Democracy is not the exception, but the rule; military regimes have succumbed to the power of the ballot box; and guerrilla groups have largely become a relic of the past.
But Colombia – the region’s oldest and most stable democracy – is still plagued by illegal, armed guerilla organizations. Unlike in other countries, where guerrillas pursued exclusively political demands, Colombia’s guerilla groups became involved in drug trafficking, which transformed them into lethal institutional monsters, one part subversive organization and one part criminal mafia.