Harrowing stories from victims of the Colombian drugs trade were heard in Birmingham yesterday at a conference aimed at educating cocaine users of the wider effects of their addiction.
The conference marked the start of the 'Shared Responsibility' awareness-raising campaign which intends to highlight links between drug use on the streets of the UK and terrorism in South America.
The Home Office-sponsored seminar focused on the cycle of violence and bloodshed endemic in Colombia because of the market for cocaine.
A woman who lost her best friend and brother when she was caught up in the Colombian drugs war told the conference that cocaine users in the UK were responsible for her country's problems.
Paola Carrillo survived a car bomb outside a nightclub in the capital Bogota in 2003 which claimed the lives of her nine-year-old brother Juan Sebastian and best friend Ana Maria Londono.
The 17-year-old was at the conference with four other women whose lives were turned upside-down by drugs trafficking.
One of the victims was Olinda Giron, aged 17, who was blinded when she stepped on an antipersonnel mine left in the fields by cocaine producers in Miraflores, a small town in the south of the country.
Another is Natalia Rodriguez, who was kidnapped by druglords and held hostage for more than three years, from the age of 16 to the age of 20.
Emperatriz de Guevara had her son, police captain Julian Guevara, kidnapped by drug terrorists and heard nothing for eight years until she was told he had died in captivity.
Mrs Carrillo said the conference was crucial to the Shared Responsibility campaign, which also aims to highlight the environmental effects of the drugs trade on tropical rain forests, which are often destroyed in order to cultivate cocaine.
She said: "This conference is very important because it is the first time we have done something like this. Birmingham marks the first step, and everything needs a beginning.
"We are trying to make a difference and we are starting to make a difference. We are trying to show people who are consuming drugs that they are not only affecting themselves, but other people from far away who are the innocent victims.
"The idea is to make people who use drugs see the reality. It is to make people think. It is to show them that their actions are also affecting other people."
Ms Carillo said the campaign was not designed to blame politicians for her country's problems.
She said: "Because it is a shared responsibility we are not trying to blame anyone. We know where the problem is in relation to drug trafficking, but we also know there is a consensus to do something about it.
"There is no point in blaming anyone because many people are affected. There are people out there damaging their bodies but they are also damaging other people's lives. That is the important message."
The Birmingham Drug Action Team (DAT) co-ordinated the event, which will assess the city's consumption of Colombian drugs.
Drug addicts receiving treatment, medics and counsellors were also at the conference, held at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, on Margaret Street.
Colombian government spokesman Ignacio Greiffenstein said: "We want people who use cocaine to know that the money they spend will be used to finance terrorism in Colombia.
"They plant landmines, they destroy the environment, they displace people and kidnap.
"We have come to Birmingham because we have the support of the council and it is one of the UK's most important cities in relation to the drugs war."