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An anti-narcotics police officer runs toward a helicopter after the destruction of a cocaine lab in Calamar, Guaviare state, Colombia, Aug. 2, 2016 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

Venezuela’s Implosion Is Making Colombia’s Democracy More Fragile

Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018

In 1821, Gen. Francisco de Paula Santander told a congress full of statesmen, “Guns will give you your independence, but laws will help you keep it.” Santander was addressing representatives of Gran Colombia, the political state that once covered most of northern South America, including what is today Colombia and Venezuela. Ten years later, Gran Colombia split up, and Colombia and Venezuela set off on separate paths. But both countries disregarded Santander’s statement, as their histories have been marked by a string of armed conflicts that eroded laws and justice.

Still, after decades spent fighting militias and rebel movements while enduring rampant human rights violations and half-baked attempts at demobilization, Colombia has somehow managed to hold its wobbly democratic institutions together. Now, right as Colombia gains its footing with a fragile peace deal with the FARC rebel group that could solve some of its longstanding problems and strengthen its democracy, the failed state next door in Venezuela poses a new threat—one South America has almost no experience in dealing with. ...

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