La Virgen de los Sicaros (2000)

The film La Virgen de los Sicaros demonstrated the rise in lawlessness in Medellin, Columbia after the fall of Pablo Escobar. Escobar had monopolized the drug trade in this area through the use of hired hitmen(or clientelle). After his death, these hitmen no longer had the income or the protection they had become accustomed to.Lacking the backing of Escobar these hitmen formed into gangs for protection. These gangs replaced Escobar’s mafia and Medellin entered a new level of violence that functioned outside of the laws of society and demonstrates and abandonment of state control.

The formation of the private enterprise of drug trafficking was born out of social and political unrest. Columbia had long been a country ruled by wealthy elites where according to Forrest Hylton’s article Evil Hour in Colombia, “The 5 per cent fo the population that owned more than half the land received half of the national income” while the remaining popluation Hylton states “received little investments and had virtually no state presence, electricity, public services, or even minimal infrastructure”.(61) These wealthy families used thier priviledged financial positions to persuade policy makers to protect their rights to continue their monopoly and therefore cornered the market for whatever farming was most economically viable, namely coffee, cattle ranching, and bananas but  eventually marijuana, poppy, and coca. This private monopoly of the region as Ricardo Vargas explains in his article State, Esprit Mafioso, and Armed Conflict in Colombia “deepens the traditional exclusion of the poor from the political arena and makes it even more improbable that public policies can be adopted to improve the social and economic conditions of the poor in the region”(117). These oppressive conditions set the stage for guerrilla group formations and a desperation within the peasantry that will lead to internal war against the central state of Colombia.

 The formation of these guerrilla groups during the 1940-1950s  launched counterattacks from the Colombian governement that bordered on mass genocides and continues to rage on at varying degrees even to present day. The initial lines drawn were between those who favored the Conservative traditional hierarchy of the elites struggle to maintain their monopoly and those who favored social change and equal distribution of wealth. These political clashes resulted in the beginning of Colombia’s most brutal and violent climates. The Conservative radicals used barbarous assasination techniques to demonstrate their strength and diminish further rebellion from insurgencies and peasants during what has now been titled La Violencia. This volatile period according to Hylton warranted ”Some 300,000 people, 80 per cent men, most of them illiterate peasants, had been killed, and 2 million forcibly displaced, when it officially ended in 1964″.(38) 

While Colombia is in the middle of what can be called an on-going civil war, their dependency on drug trafficking continued to grow. Drug trafficking had become so embedded in the local economy that with failed attempts at peacemaking between the government and insurgents, mafias like the one Escobar ran were able to thrive. Though the Colombian government received millions of dollars from the US in support of stopping drug production and trafficking, according to the now public national archives, the financial aid was often used to support the counterinsurgency war instead of the counternarcotics war.   

As the film showed with the frequent firework displays celebrating the delivery of drug shipments to the US, the Colombian drug trade is still on-going. The films modern day portrayl of a very violent Medellin stems from a long history of a weakening central state and strong oppopisitional forces. Vargas’s sentiments explain that it is the very dependency on the drug trade that has “created perceptions of immediate profits in the present, undermining the idea of an uncertain future that requires organization, social protests, and pressures on the state to provide economic and social benefits”.(123)