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Date: Mon, 11 Jul 1994 18:21:38 CDT From: TAYLORDELCID@sask.usask.ca Subject: "Colombia's Sicarios", life and death, past and present in Medellin.
"Death became a routine, first for the state and society at large, and then for the groups of adolescents who grew up in the corssfire and amidst the indifference to corpses on the streets. The young sicarios were born of the absence of any binding principles which might have given then some respect for one another and for life itself. They were the result of the absence of moral and cultural prototypes, and of the multiple influences of new social actors who made brute force and the love of luxury the pillars of social relations. The juvenile gangs were the result not only of a socioeconomic crisis, but of a crisis of legitimacy of social institutions."
For those who have been following the 1994 World Cup, the news the Colombian player who scored against his own team during the game against the Americans had been shot and killed came as a complete shock. People wondered how such a senseless act of violence could take place, but that was it. Almost no one bothered to look further back into the recent history of Colombia in order to find an answer of how defenseman Escobar (no relation to well-known Pablo) culd lose his life for the "horrible sin" of scoring against his own team. After the news of Escobar's assassination hit the airwaves, people around the world were quick to point the finger to the drug-lords and to Colombia's culture of violence as the main culprits in Andres Escobar's death. However, almost no one paid any attention to those who actually pulled the trigger: Medellin's young sicarios. It is expected that with time, people (including those historians interested in Colombian history) will begin to attempt wider explanations of the self-goal that cost Andres Escobar, a promising young star of Colombia's national soccer team, his life. It is in this context that the article "Colombia's Sicarios", published in the May/June issue of NACLA Report on the Americas represents a valuable source of information. In addition to its testimonial account of the reasons that one of Medellin's many poverty-stricken youths had to become a "sicario" (as a paid assassin for the drug-cartels is commonly known), "Colombia's Sicarios" offers a good and extensive analysis (from a socio-historical perspective) of the culture of drugs and violence that engulfed Colombia in the early 1970s and 1980s. Very carefully, and step by step, the author/s of this article offer a glimpse of life and death in the shatytowns and belts of poverty that appeared in various Colombian urban centers as a result of a number of social, political, and economic developments during the last three decades. Most important, it offers a historical analysis of how the drug-lords (with the indirect-or direct-help of the state's, police, and/or military institutions' misguided policies) were able to lure hopeless young kids into their ranks. As the drug trade and the violence began to overcome the state's ability to control them, the establishment's repressive apparatus increased its arsenal with the goal of crushing these social threats. The result: increased violence, camouflaged counter-insurgency, death squads, and social cleansing. It is its discussion of these topics, and of Chucho's life and reasons to become a "sicario", that the article "Colombia's Sicarios" becomes an excellent source for historians and other academics interested not just in Colombia, but also in social and modern Latin American history. Had "Colombia's Sicarios" been written two months later, it would have (without any doubt) have contained an analysis of Andres Escobar's death at the hands of Medellin's infamous sicarios.
Alex Taylor University of Saskatchewan. firstname.lastname@example.org.