Photographs by Eros Hoagland
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rolling hills and lush jungles, far from the eyes and ears
of the media, a horror unfolds in relative silence. While news
headlines elaborate on U.S. financed anti-narcotics operations,
a smoldering battle is being fought between the leftist guerillas
of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the
right-wing paramilitaries of the United Self Defense Forces
of Colombia (AUC).
victims of this war are thousands of farmers and small town
inhabitants, accused by one side or the other of collaborating
with the enemy. They are murdered, in many cases brutally,
to spread fear throughout the region. Those remaining in a
town after a killing are often expelled under threat of death.
Refugees flee from small pueblos in the increasingly volatile
countryside, creating ghost towns overnight. This tactic of
war is aimed at denying the enemy logistical support and is
used frequently by both sides.
and forced migrations have displaced hundreds of thousands
of people within Colombia's borders over the last five years,
creating an internal refugee crisis worse than the catastrophes
of Kosovo or East Timor. In Colombia, however, the victims
are not easily differentiated by religion or ethnicity. This
deters the use of stigmatic terms like "genocide" and "ethnic
cleansing," which effectively diminishes the "news value" of
the suffering. Furthermore, because the victims do not cross
national borders, international law does not recognize them
as refugees. They are overlooked as recipients of large-scale
international relief efforts.
surrounding Colombia's displaced people makes it all the more
important for the world to pay attention. In my ongoing photo-documentary,
I look at the desperation and violence of Colombia's political
strife through the eyes of the civilian victims, people who
care little for the ideologies of the warring factions.
Field workers haul
the body of a man killed by FARC guerrillas in southern
Colombia's Putumayo department. The guerrillas accused
him of collaborating with right-wing militias in the
fighters of the far right United Self Defense Forces of
Colombia (AUC) patrol the jungles of southern Colombia.
The AUC is responsible for the majority of Colombia's political
killings and has recently made a strong push into the southern
regions in an effort to force guerrillas from the area.
A victim of political
violence in rural Colombia. This man was beaten to death
with a stone hammer. Many of the war's victims are killed
in an unusually brutal manner to spread fear among the
boys are the last to flee the village of Los Angeles where
the massacre took place. Behind them are fields of coca,
the raw material for making cocaine.
A soldier of the
counter-guerrilla battalion rests in a town abandoned
overnight after leftist guerrillas killed several villagers
there as a warning not to co-operate with right-wing
militias (AUC.) The graffiti is an earlier warning to
the guerrillas claiming that the paramilitaries have
come to take the area.
in El Placer gather around the bodies of civilians killed
in the turf war between FARC guerrillas and AUC paramilitaries.
The two opposing factions are fighting to dominate the
cocaine business in Southern Colombia where the majority
of the world's coca plants are grown.
soldiers of the Colombian army leave a combat zone by
helicopter in Putumayo where they were fighting with
FARC guerrillas. Putumayo is the epicenter of Plan Colombia,
the American sponsored anti-narcotic/anti-guerrilla campaign.