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Infiltrating Colombia’s Shady Emerald Mines


Money and Madness (1998) – Penetrating the shady world of Colombia’s emerald dealers, we meet private armies and pistol-packing miners.

Colombia boasts some gruesome statistics. The leading cause of death for individuals over the age of ten is violence. And it’s the struggles for power over smuggling narcotics and emeralds that control its jungle politics. Penetrating the emerald business, we meet Jose. With his bullet proof clothes and shiny gun he’s just an ordinary emerald dealer. Accompanying him on a buying trip we enter Victor Carranza’s notorious emerald zone. Outside his mine is a menacing collection of blackened miners. Their pockets bulge with stolen emeralds and loaded pistols. Stealing is part of the rules in Victor’s empire. His workers are simply supervised to ensure they don’t steal more than their labour deserves. In this feudal system favours are given by the powerful and loyalty is shown in return. The poor must be content to search through the scraps thrown out by the powerful. It’s a ruthless system, but as Jose puts it, “Where’s there’s money there is madness. It’s the same all round the world.”

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