COLOMBIA: The Green Elephant

In Colombia, which produces almost all the world's emeralds, the gems lie so close to the earth's surface that they have been turned up by foraging pigs. Yet from the viewpoint of the government's supposed emerald monopoly, most of the stones might as well be buried beyond reach. The real rulers of the jungle-matted minefields are the esmeralderos (emerald buccaneers); they buy and steal illegally mined stones, smuggle them out, engage in endless shootouts and wind up with most of the estimated $150 million that global sales of Colombian emeralds generate each year. Fed up, the government closed most...

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