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  HOME | Colombia (Click here for more)

Colombia Moves to Head Off Renewal of “Emerald Wars”

BOGOTA – Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday ordered his government to prevent violence among emerald businessmen in the north-central province of Boyaca, site of most of the Andean nation’s emerald production.

“We cannot allow, for any reason, violence (to resume) in this province, which should be a haven of peace,” said the president at an event in the Boyaca town of Sogamoso, nine days after an attack on emerald trader Pedro Nel Rincon Castillo.

Santos said that Colombia, one of the world’s largest producers of emeralds, cannot again go through the “green war” of the 1970s and ‘80s, when conflict between rival groups in the gem business left some 6,000 dead.

Peace was established by a 1990 accord that left fewer than a dozen powerful clans in control of 80 percent of Colombian emerald exports.

The fear of a new war among gem producers began after the death in April of “emerald czar” Victor Carranza, widely seen as the prime force behind the 1990 pact.

Though Carraza died of natural causes, over the past year several murders and attacks linked with the gem business have occurred both in the mining region and in Bogota.

The most recent was the Nov. 9 bombing in Boyaca that targeted Rincon Castillo.

The gem trader escaped with only minor injuries, but four people died in the blast.

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