While fear continues to grow in Colombia’s central Boyaca state over emerald trade-related violence, locals are complaining that they see little revenue from an industry which benefits just a few wealthy families.
Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper reported Monday that Boyaca, the center of the country’s emerald trade, has received just under $760,000 in royalties from mining companies since January. That amounts to only 0.5% of the state’s royalties this year.
This, despite the fact that last year international markets received well over $100 million worth of Colombian emeralds. Many believe one of the reasons for such inconsistencies is the lack of state control over the industry.
Commenting on the topic, Boyaca’s governor, Juan Carlos Granados, recently stated that what his region receives from the emerald trade is “derisory.”
Granados also attempted to soothe fears regarding the possibility of another “Green War” in which the various emerald barons would return to the violence which marred the trade in the 1970s and 1980s.
“There may be conflicts between some people, between some families, but today there not the slightest indication that a war like that seen in the previous periods could break out,” Granados said in an interview with El Tiempo.
His comments come less than two weeks after the assassination of emerald magnate Luis Murcia, the sixth such killing since the death of “Emerald Czar” Victor Carranza in April, 2013. Sources have claimed that assassinations in the region occur weekly, according to Insight Crime.
Colombia currently produces more than half of the world’s emeralds and legal sales have been worth around $130 million a year for the past five years.
The Green War
The first emerald mines in Colombia were legalized by the government in 1953. But the miners were left to resolve disputes on their own, which they usually did with guns.
The “Green War” broke out in the 1960s, as emerald magnates used paramilitaries to defend their turf from guerrillas and drug traffickers chasing the industry’s big profits and potential for laundering money using the green gemstones.
In 1985, major Colombia drug cartels became embroiled in the conflict, attempting to take control of the emerald mines.
It was during this time that the late Victor Carranza solidified his reign over the industry.
With his private paramilitary forces, Carranza succeeded in repelling the attempted incursion by the Colombian drug cartels, and subsequently survived various attempts on his life.
In the early 1990s Carranza brokered a peace deal with the help of the Catholic chruch to end Colombia’s “Green War” which had left thousands dead since its inception in the 1960s.