At the beginning of July 2008 it was world news: the Colombian Army rescue operation - based on trickery - that set free 15 hostages from their captivity by the guerrilla organization FARC. One of them was Ingrid Betancourt, imprisoned since 2002. In her public appearances after her miraculous liberation Betancourt always points at all those captives left behind. The numbers mentioned in the news and the campaigns around Betancourt were confusing (some campaign posters had the number of 3000 hostages, but that seems to refer to the total number of hostage at the peak of the kidnapping around the year 2000, while the actual number of hostages now according to other sources is to be counted in the hundreds). This made me wonder: "How many kidnapped captives were there, during how many years; how many do remain in captivity; who is imprisoning them for what reasons; what will be their fate in the light of Urbide government policies?" There are plenty of statistics about violence in Colombia that can be found on the Internet, each one of them differing in scope, perspective, and quantities. Colombia has the sad honour to be one of the world champions in the amount of available violence-statistics and that fact has a historical reason. Since the country became an independent state in the early 19th century, at least half a million deathly victims of man-made violence can be counted. The continuous strife and fratricide between 'Liberals' and 'Conservatives' of the upper and middle classes - being often equal in power - produced most of the victims, especially under the rest of the populations caught in their crossfire. A history with decades of civil wars, guerrilla, military and para-military actions plus lots of common crime (Colombia has one of the highest homicide rates in the world). My prelimirary search on the Internet expanded into an extensive research on the representation in statistics and maps of violence in Colombia (set in the context and compared with violence in other countries of the Americas). Beginning with the actual kidnappings and sequestrations a panorama of violence-statistics enfolds - horror cloaked in numbers - that may help to get to an understanding of scale and causes. Such an understanding may point at the whereabouts of the escape exit from the endless spiral of violence in Colombia. Still, violent behaviour seems to be so deeply embedded in Colombian society that the way out might not be found, then... only the embezzled revolutionary slogan of the Latin American continent is fitting - but let me change the last exclamation mark into a question mark, because hope for a better future must remain: ! HASTA LA VIOLENCIA SIEMPRE
Colombia: hasta la violencia siempre