Colombia has always been a head-scratcher for Americans not steeped in Latin American politics. The country of some 47 million people boasts one of the most vibrant cultures on the continent, with an enviably dynamic civil society, a booming entrepreneurial sector, and an innovative media that sets the benchmark for quality journalism in the region. But the country is also haunted by a horrific legacy of violence, an intractable internal conflict that at the outset looked much like Marxist insurgencies in Central America but ultimately outlived its relevance, and any popular backing it ever had, but managed to endure thanks to its involvement in the profitable drug trade. As recently as 2006, the FARC supplied more than 50 percent of the world’s cocaine and reaped $500 million annually from the drug trade.


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