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Colombia officials, some observers have called the country the world’s first ­“Narco-­Democracy.” The drug trade permeates every sector of Colombia’s government, economy, and society. It has become one of the most lawless lands in the world, with astronomical rates of murder, kidnapping, and other crimes. It certainly has severely hurt the legal economy. Tourism, for example, which holds vast potential for growth, is all but nonexistent. In addition, many farmers who could be growing legal crops, such as coffee, have turned to raising coca and heroin ­poppies. The drug cartels hold awesome power in the country. Throughout much of Colombia, their word is the “law.” To take a stand against their authority can be an honorable, but fatal, position. Colombians are intimidated and many live in constant ­fear. The United States is actively involved in helping Colombia curb its drug problem. From 1997 to 2007, nearly $5 billion in foreign aid went to the country, most of which was earmarked to fight the illegal drug industry. It is very easy to blame Colombia and Colombians for their role in this sordid business, which takes a huge toll on people’s lives and health. Where does the fault really lie, though? You must ­ remember—­not one cent would be made in the production and sale of illegal drugs if no market existed in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. Is the fault really theirs, or ­that of people who ruin their lives through the purchase and use of drugs? Primary ­Industries Economic activities can be categorized in a number of ways. Many geographers prefer a ­three-­sector classification: primary, secondary, and tertiary. This system will be used in the following discussion of the Colombian economy. Primary industries are those that are based on the direct human use, or extraction, of natural resources. They include agriculture, mining, forestry, and fishing. About 23 percent of Colombia’s labor force is engaged in primary economic activities, yet they contribute


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