Looking back at 2008 in Colombia

The global financial meltdown dominated the news headlines across the world this year. But in Colombia it was, as always, the country’s armed conflict.

What Colombians will remember 2008 for:

  • The death of FARC’s iconic founder and leader, Manuel Marulanda, who led the guerrilla group for over 40 years.
  • The death of Raul Reyes, Farc’s no.2, who was killed by Colombian armed forces in Ecuador.
  • The freeing of Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages held in Farc hands, following a daring rescue operation carried out by Colombia’s special forces disguised as foreign aid workers.
  • A human rights scandal involving members of the Colombian armed forces, who murdered young innocent civilians and then passed them off as guerrillas killed in combat.
  • The collapse of dozens of pyramid investment schemes that caused widespread looting and protests and forced local mayors to impose curfews. Around 4 million Colombians invested in these scams, and many have lost their life savings.
    The issue that will dominate in 2009 in Colombia.
  • Will President Uribe, one of Latin America’s most popular leaders, decide to run for a third consecutive re-election in 2010? To do that, Congress will have to approve changes to the constitution that would allow immediate re-election.
    What to watch out for in Latin America in 2009.
  • The emergence of Brazil as the leading voice for Latin America and its growing status as a diplomatic heavyweight in the region.
  • The effect of low oil prices on Hugo Chavez’s grip on power in Venezuela.
  • Drug violence in Mexico getting worse. Colombians – and they’ve got experience of this – say this is just the beginning of Mexico’s violent drug wars.
  • A shift in US policy towards Cuba.
  • First time President Obama steps foot in Latin America will be at the Summit of the Americas meeting, which gathers 34 regional heads of state, in Trinidad and Tobago in April.