Violence Breeds Violence

In the film, Our Lady of the Assassins, violence is a part of everyday life. Multiple scenes end with a random death of a pedestrian or fellow thug, usually in a crowded, public area. Although there are some side plots, the main emphasis of the movie is on how violence becomes a part of everyday life, and how even love (or lust) is not enough to distract people from violence once it becomes engrained in the fibers of a society.

Before the film takes place, Colombia was a place of pre-modern power structures. Mafioso type governments ruled supreme in areas that did not have any government control  (Vargas 109). This patron and client relationships were typically enforced through violence (Vargas 107). Eventually, when these patronage systems were introduced to the drug trade, “the lack of legtimate institutions to resolve conflicts and the fact that many of those involved in the drug trade came from lower class sectors previously denied access to the region’s wealth led to an unprecedented wave of violence” (Vargas 113). Once this pattern of violence as the means to an end was solidified,  “values such as vegence and the violent settling of scores are an increasing part of every day life” (Vargas 123). These values are definitely present in the film, which takes place after the destruction of the Escobar mafia institution. Although there are no real mafia structures any more, the way of violence lingers on, with groups of thugs killing each other with no foreseeable gain or purpose. Gangs are organized around neighborhoods, not drug cartells, and despite all of the assisnations, no one is getting any richer. Worst of all, even citizens that are unattached to the violence, eventually become numb to it, accepting the killings as part of every day life. Although initially horrified at his lover’s violent streak, Fransico eventually becomes cold towards Alexis’s “profession,” even going so far to mock a pregnant woman who is still affected by death. Not even the love and financial security of his relationship with Fransico is enough to turn Alexis away from violence, showing that violence is no longer done out of desperation but out of habit.

Given the persistence of violence in Colombia’s culture, the U.S.’s policy towards the guerlla wars seems backwards. Due to the drug wars of the 1980’s and 9/11, the U.S. has been increasingly involved in Colombia’s domestic policy, though their funding is often misplaced. Rather than counteracting the culture of violence that is thriving in the country, the U.S. tends to fight fire with fire, violence with violence.  “In recent years, the increasingly perilous nature of anti-drug operations in Colombia has led to a shift in U.S. counterdrug strategy to rely more heavily on Colombian military forces, reversing a previous trend in which most assistance had been earmarked for the Colombian National Police (CNP)” (NSA).  By funding the military rather than other organizations, the focus is taken away from fighting the drug war and is leaning dangerously close to fighting the guerillas (NSA), blurring the U.S.’s real purpose and helpfulness in the conflict. In a culture of violence, violence will only breed more violence, and by supporting organizations that engage in military tactics and human rights abuses, the U.S. is not stopping Colombia’s problem at the source. In order for Colombia to thrive, the idea of violence as a social norm must first be destroyed, and no amount of tanks and ammunition can do that.