Violence in modern Colombia takes place in many forms. The three major categories are crime, guerrilla activities, and attacks committed by drug traffickers. Violence has become so widespread and common in Colombia that many people have now become numb to it. The Colombian economy has also benefited from the illicit drug trade; however violent it may be.

During the 1970s, Colombia became well known, as one of the world’s most important drug processing, production, and distribution centers for marijuana and cocaine. The shrubs and plants from which both drugs are derived from and processed has been well known in Colombia for centuries, but until the 1970s drug refiners and traffickers had not taken full advantage.

The chewing of coca leaves was very well known in the South American Inca Empire in the 11th century. The Incas, the Colombian Chibchas and other local ethnic groups have always attributed mythical and religious power to the bush and to the alkaloids that were extracted by its leaves by chewing on them. The existence of a drug, cocaine, which could be chemically extracted from large volumes of leaves was not discovered until 1884 by an Austrian ophthalmologist.

Marijuana is a drug extracted from hemp, a plant from which coarse fibers are also obtained for the manufacture of cloth, cordage, and sacking. The development of marijuana in Colombia took place in the mid 1940s during the administration of President Mariano Ospina Perez. The government at this time imported various fibers producing species from different parts of the world in an attempt to improve the postwar textile industry. The imported fiber plant included cannabis sativa (hemp) from Asia, and jute and sisal from Mexico. The Ministry of Agriculture was distributing these plants throughout the countryside of Colombia, and peasants and farmers were encouraged to plant them. During this same period, the consumption of marijuana was beginning to become a problem among the Bohemians in Medellin. As a result of this increasing drug problem, especially among the Bohemian members of the middle and upper class, on March 11, 1946, the Ospina administration passed the nation’s first anti-drug law, Decree No. 896. This law prohibited the cultivation, distribution, and sale of coca and marijuana, and ruled that all local and regional governments had to destroy all coca and marijuana plantations (Osterling).

Colombia has not always been a violent country. It should be noted that in the past, Colombia experienced periods of peace and tranquillity. During this time, the levels of violence were lower than many European and American Countries. Colombia has gained international fame as one of the major centers in the world for drug trafficking. Anytime a country has a problem with drug trafficking, crime is always high. In 1973, homicide was the seventh highest cause from death, but since has become the first since 1990. More than 165,000 have had a violent death between 1980 and 1990. During this decade, the homicide rate was 77.5% per 100,000 people. In comparison, the United States has been regarded as a violent country, but yet the homicide rate was only 8.0%. Contributing to this violence in Colombia is the possession of firearms. Colombians possess more than three million firearms, and more than half is possessed illegally. This adds greatly to the crime and violence in Colombia (Posada-Carbo).

It is extremely difficult to measure the magnitude, type, and location of violence in Colombia. Another problem in measuring the amount of violence is that not all violent cases are reported. It must also be noted that any media report of violence must also be read with caution; for it may or may not have occurred. Violence seems to be a nationwide phenomenon. Almost all aspects of the Colombian population experience some degree of violence. Almost everybody is a potential victim; violence does not prefer a particular socioeconomic class, profession, race, or ethnic group. However, some geographical locations have been more prone to violence. The entire Cauca River Valley, including the cities of Cali and Medellin, and the areas between southern Cundinamarca, southeast Tolima, and northeast Haila, seem to have been the most violent (Chepesiak).

According to some Colombian observers, intimidation and revenge has caused many to look the other way when violence occurs. It has also cause many people to change jobs and to concentrate more