Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | March 14, 2013

Phase II: Unregulated mining and logging create new conflicts and displace more people.

President Santos said peace talks with the FARC could quite possibly come to an agreement in the next few months.

“I appreciate that the FARC have said today that it is possible to end the conflict this year,” said Santos.

Wishful thinking. A peace accord with the FARC is not the end of the conflict; nor is the legalization of drugs the end of the conflict. It is hard to see the end of the conflict when there is no rule of law, extreme poverty, and lack of opportunity.

FARC and criminal gangs are turning to logging and mining, which are highly unregulated but whose end products, wood and gold, are legal.

This is happening along the Pacific coast, one of the most environmentally rich areas of the hemisphere but also where about 77 percent of the population lives in poverty. Authorities can shut down an operation today, but there will be another one opening tomorrow.

In other areas of the country (Antioquia, Chocó, Córdoba, Bolívar, Valle Cauca, and Cesar), the Urabeños, the Rastrojos, the guerrilla and common delinquents are fighting for control of gold mining.

Moreover, coltan is a highly prized mineral used in the electronics industry, and there are reports the Sinaloa Cartel is working with the FARC in the illegal exploitation of coltan. Proof of this alliance was found in the computers lifted from the camp of the deceased FARC leader Mono Jojoy. Colombia has an estimated 5 percent of the world’s coltan reserves, and the government has made the mining and export of coltan illegal until it can be properly regulated.

Fighting for control of the territory and the mining and logging trade has caused civilians to be caught in the crossfire, and there has been much displacement of people.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “Ultimately, it’s about providing greater opportunity, greater education, greater economic jobs and growth to a population so that they can have a real stake in their society and be partners with their government.” I agree.

About legalizing drugs, Clinton added: “I think when you’ve got ruthless vicious people who have made money one way and it’s somehow blocked, they’ll figure out another way. They’ll do kidnapping they’ll do extortion.”

Clinton said ultimately that institution building and improving the quality of life in developing nations would help stem the drug trade — and that would truly help end the conflict in Colombia.

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