Guns, Drugs, and Disaster: Cauca/Huila, Colombia, 1994

August 1995 (VOL. 13, NO. 2)

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A Richter magnitude 6.4 earthquake occurred near the Nevado del Huila volcano in southwestern Colombia on June 6, 1994, affecting an area both deforested and coincidentally saturated by heavy rains over preceding weeks. The earthquake and resultant landslides and mud flows killed an estimated 656 people and left thousands homeless, most of them non-Spanish speaking Paez and Guambiano. Context is all important, and the disaster response and especially reconstruction planning became rapidly political because the event affected primarily indigenous populations and occurred in a heroin poppy growing area long congested between Colombian national security forces and several guerrilla organizations.