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Return of the dictators?

Colombia's Alvaro Uribe is the latest Latin American leader to push for more time in office.

Run off their land

As the Colombian army steps up its offensive against paramilitaries and guerrillas, more and more people are getting pushed off their land. Some have headed for other parts of Colombia while others have fled the country. GlobalPost looks at the issue from the Colombian and Venezuelan sides of the border.

Digging up the dead

MARIMONDA ALTA, Colombia — After a taxing, three-hour hike into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sandra Vargas spotted her family’s abandoned farmhouse — and the makeshift cemetery in the backyard. It was here, on Jan. 6, 1991, that guerrillas executed her brother, Jose de Jesus Vargas, and ordered their parents to inter him.

Cockfighting: cruelty or culture?

A jailed teacher and a prison library

BOGOTA — “Greetings companeras and companeros!” said William Diaz Ramirez, a high school teacher and human rights defender, trying to project his voice through the crackle. Diaz was launching his campaign for the House of Representatives via telephone— from a medium-security prison south of Bogota.

New waves of displacement

As the Colombian army steps up its offensive against paramilitaries and guerrillas, more and more people are getting pushed off their land. Some have headed for other parts of Colombia while others have fled the country. GlobalPost looks at the issue from the Venezuelan and Colombian sides of the border. SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela — Carlos Gonzalez still bears the scars of captivity at the hands of Colombian paramilitaries.

Fleeing violence for slums

CAZUCA, Colombia — Tawny cinder-block homes cling to the hillside in this illegal shantytown south of Bogota. The slum of Cazuca is home to about 60,000 residents but there are few schools and no pavement, running water or other basic services. For years, the vacuum of government presence has often been filled by armed groups — paramilitary, guerilla and criminal gangs — that control the population through intimidation, extortion and violence.

A thriving border business

SAN ANTONIO, Venezuela — "Carlos," a taxi driver in this border town, smuggles gasoline into Colombia several times a week. He is waved through Venezuelan immigration, crosses the Simon Bolivar Bridge and, 50 yards past Colombian customs, turns down a dirt track where he swings into a dusty lot lined with rickety wooden shacks that shelter hundreds of plastic containers.

Meet the economic gangsters

The dismal science of economics is, by most definitions, about finding the most efficient allocation of resources. And that goes for individuals, companies, governments and — yes — criminals. Edward Miguel is an expert on that last category. He's the co-author, with Raymond Fisman, of “Economic Gangsters: Corruption, Violence and the Poverty of Nations.” Published in late 2008, the authors use new data, innovative number-crunching and various pattern recognition models to plumb the worlds of kleptocrats, corruption, black marketeers and violence.

Soaring peaks free of rebels

GACHETA, Colombia — The highway that cut across a cloud-shrouded Andean Mountain peak was nearly empty — except for me and my bikemates. A few years ago, the lack of vehicles on a Colombian roadway could spell trouble. It was a warning sign that around the next bend Marxist guerrillas might be stopping cars and kidnapping drivers for ransom.
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