Themes

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 823

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Violence
The violence inherent to Colombian society, made so apparent by News of a Kidnapping, has been a long-standing characteristic of the country. A political assassination in 1948 set off a wave of killings between vying parties; it became known simply as "La Violencia." Just as some peace was returning to Colombia, guerrilla groups began to launch their own offensives.

By the 1980s, the drug traffickers were imbuing the country with their own brand of terrorism and violence. In the hands of the drug traffickers, Medellín became one of the most dangerous cities in the world. In the city's first two months of 1991, a massacre took place every four days and about 1,200 murders were committed; of these, almost 500 police officers, upon whom Escobar placed a bounty, were the victims. However, the police also made their contribution to the escalation and randomness of violence. Believing that most of the young men and boys who lived in the Medellín slums were working in the drug industry—there were few other economic options available—police officers engaged in indiscriminate killing. In his attempts to negotiate with the government, Escobar demanded that these actions be brought to an end. National and international human rights organizations protested these human rights abuses as well.

Violence is so commonplace in Colombian society that, in many instances, a violent act draws little attention or reaction. As just one example among many, when Marina's son goes to Medellín in an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate with Escobar, he notices a girl lying dead by the side of the road. When he points this out to his driver, the man replies without even looking, "One of the dolls who parties with don Pablo's friends."

Terrorism
Colombia of recent decades is rife with terrorism. The guerrilla groups initiated actions, such as the M-19's assault on the Supreme Court, and the drug cartels quickly embrace such strategies as their most effective means for achieving their goals. By 1991, Medellín has become the center of urban terrorism. Journalists, law enforcement officers, politicians—anyone who attempts to thwart the drug traffickers, or even speak against them—can become a ready victim. Oftentimes, the acts of terrorism committed against these targets affect many ordinary Colombians. García Márquez notes that a car bomb set off in February, which killed three low-ranking officers and eight police agents, also killed another nine passers-by and injured 143 others.

The goal of the narcotraffickers in launching the kidnappings is primarily to gain leverage in negotiating with the government and thus avoid extradition. This strategy places a great deal of pressure on the government; García Márquez explains that "after the first bombs, public opinion demanded prison for the terrorists, after the next few bombings the demand was for extradition, but as the bombs continued to explode, public opinion began to demand amnesty."

As President Gaviria continues to withstand the pressure to bargain with Escobar and his cartel leaders, the acts of terrorism escalate. Marina is executed, and more hostages are threatened. When Gaviria eventually agrees to take extradition off the table, García Márquez writes that the president "did not propose negotiations with terrorism in order to conjure away a human tragedy," but rather, "to make extradition a more useful judicial weapon in the fight against narcotraffic by making non-extradition the grand prize in a package of incentives and guarantees for those who surrendered to the law."

It is noteworthy that in the narcotrafficker's drive to pursue this goal, as well as to protect their families and workers, nothing is scared. In March, Escobar threatens to blow up fifty tons of dynamite in one of the country's most historic cities. Dissuaded from doing so, he still maintains, "If police operations in Medellín continued past April, no stone would be left standing in the very ancient and noble city of Cartagena de Indias."

The United States
Although in other media, García Márquez has made public his objections to the extradition policy, in News of a Kidnapping he makes few references to the role the United States plays in Colombia's drug wars. However, the northern neighbor's pervasive presence is seen throughout the book—and throughout Colombian society as it is enveloped in the narcoviolence. García Márquez notes the horror that the prospect of being sent to the United States to stand trial and inevitable incarceration evokes in the Extraditables, who are so "terrified by the long, worldwide reach of the United States'' that "they went underground, fugitives in their own country." Fear of extradition leads Escobar to order the kidnappings because he hopes they will provide him with bargaining chips. It also contributes to his death. About to be transferred to another prison, Escobar thinks that the government is actually going to kill him or even turn him over to the United States, so he escapes, leading to the exhaustive manhunt that claims his life.

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