A mining magnate believes other prominent families in the emerald business are behind the grenade attack launched against him in central Colombia this past weekend, according to a statement he made Tuesday.
Pedro Rincon became one of the leading figures in the Colombian emerald trade in April this year when controversial “emerald czar” Victor Carranza died at age 78. Now, Rincon claims that fellow industry giants in the Monlina and Sanchez families are responsible for an attempted attack on his life.
The accusation frays the already tenuous peace forged in 1990, bringing an end to the family-based “Green War” that previously raged in the central Colombian state of Boyaca and throughout the emerald-producing region.
The “Green War” broke out in the 1960s, as emerald magnates used paramilitaries to defend their territories from guerrillas and drug traffickers interested in taking advantage of the industry’s big profits and potential for money laundering.
Colombia currently produces about 55 percent of the world’s emeralds, and legal sales have been worth around $130 million a year for the past five years.
In an interview with Colombian radio on Monday, Rincon ruled out the still-powerful Carranza family of the so-called “Emerald Czar.”
“I think the Carranza family has nothing to do in this situation,” said Rincon, who also called for a new meeting coordinated between Catholic and armed forces to avoid reinitiating the “chaos of 25 years ago.”
Meanwhile, the governor of Boyaca has spoken out against the attacks and pledged to take steps to control the growing violence.
“We will make decisions about controlling the use of firearms and liquor consumption to avoid further violence and we will make safety tips in all municipalities where conflicts have been occurring” Governor Juan Carlos Granados said on Tuesday.
A Short History of the “Green War”
According to analysis site Insight Crime, the first emerald mines in Colombia were legalized by the government in 1953. But the miners were left to resolve their disputes on their own, which they usually did with guns.
In 1961, the first major clashes took place and the violence escalated into the “Green War,” as mining magnates formed paramilitary groups to defend their properties from drug traffickers and guerrillas.
In 1985, major Colombia drug cartels became embroiled in the conflict, attempting to take control of the emerald mines.
According to government sources, about 3,500 people were killed in fighting across Colombia between 1984 and 1990. The fighting ended in the early 1990s when the late Carranza forged an uneasy peace, with the help of now-Bishop Pabon, between conflicting interests.
- Esmeraldero ‘Pedro Orejas’ afirma que familias de la zona rompieron pacto de paz (El Spectador)
- La familia Molina acabó con el pacto, dice esmeraldero “Pedro Orejas” (W Radio)
- How Colombia’s Emerald Czar Outsmarted the Law (Insight Crime)