Colombian defense minister, a Catholic Bishop and members of the Emerald mining clans are meeting on Wednesday to prevent a repeat of the “Green War,” a conflict that plagued the mining region for decades.
Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon is heading Wednesday’s security council in Chiquinquira in the central Colombian state of Boyaca and is sitting down with all the key players to assess the current security situation.
Catholic Bishop Luis Fernando Sanchez told Colombia’s W Radio that there needed to be active participation from the local families and a heightened involvement of both security and mining authorities in the region.
Trouble in the Emerald regions
Earlier this month, four people died and nine people were injured in a grenade attack aimed at emerald magnate Pedro Rincon, in the gemstone-mining town of Pauna.
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. The attack sparked fears of a return to violence after a 1990 peace that brought an end to the decades-long “Green War,” a bloody factional conflict for control of Colombia’s sizable emerald trade.
The President steps in
This week’s summit came about after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Monday the government would take immediate action to prevent the escalation of violence among rival emerald-mining families in central Colombia.
“We can’t allow, for any reason, for the violence in this state to be inflamed once again, because it has become a haven of peace,” said Santos.
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 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.