in colombia, violence seems uncontrollable. along with massacres and group killings of astonishing cruelty, there are also kidnappings and disappearances, abuse of children and the elderly, and rape of young adolescents. every day, without respite, colombians are witnesses or victims of street crimes as well as racial, sexual, and socioeconomic discrimination. unwillingly, they become agents of aggression in public transport, at home, at school, and at work. colombia has the highest rates of mortality from homicide in the world. apart from the enormous institutional burden that violence imposes on the health services and forensic medicine, it now constitutes the principal public health problem in the country. to confront it, the health sector must develop policies and finance actions, develop innovative ways to train personnel, implement public education processes, and devote more effort and greater creativity to research, which up to now has provided some important, albeit insufficient, responses. violence, which is the substitution of force for any type of dialogue, must be considered within the context of life and health. doing so is not an attempt to rationalize violence, much less to substitute words or reflection for action, but rather an attempt to understand it in depth in order to search for alternatives. with that goal, this article analyzes the subject of violence in colombia, principally from the perspective of its effect on the health of the citizens and its implications for the health sector. the author fully recognizes the subjectivity and limitations of the views he expresses herein.