Violent Momentum: Paramilitary Demobilization, Grey Zones and the Search for Wealth in Contemporary Colombia
Abstract: Why are countries that transition from conflict to peace often
characterized by high levels of violence? In 2006, Colombia disarmed, demobilized and
reintegrated [DDR] its most lethal armed group, the paramilitaries [AUC]. While the
national homicide rate has since dropped, there is substantial heterogeneity in rates of
violence within the country. This project utilizes mixed methods... read moreto evaluate both the
impact of DDR on rates of violence, as well as to identify the drivers of violence in
Colombia at the sub-national level. A fixed effects econometric model was specified
utilizing panel data for each municipality in the country [n=1097] over a 13-year period
[1997-2010]. A positive relationship was found between the demobilization of
paramilitaries and the homicide rate. In other words, the more combatants who demobilized
to an area, the higher the homicide rate in the post-demobilization period, holding other
causes of homicide constant. These findings run counter to the general goals of DDR to
improve security. In order to address this puzzle, four qualitative case studies were
conducted in Montería, Santa Marta, Tierralta and Ciénaga. This study found that
armed groups will form or reconfigure regardless of DDR in areas where there are
opportunities to access illegal rents and where the state is weak at the local level.
Illegal rents identified include: coca fields, laboratory locations, drug transport
corridors, land grabbing, front men, protection rackets and urban markets including local
drug consumption, extortion and money laundering. Violence is generated when armed groups
combat for territorial control over these areas and when civilians obstruct the operation
of these illegal groups. Three types of local state weakness were identified: state
absence, state inefficiency or misalignment with on-the-ground realities, and corruption.
Violence is generated because the local state cannot provide protection to civilians,
civilians do not view the local state as legitimate and they develop parallel systems of
authority or engage in vigilantism, and/or because the local justice system is inefficient
and criminals operate with impunity. Findings from this study provide valuable information
for policy makers and peacebuilders and have implications for other conflict affected
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2012.
Submitted to the Dept. of Diplomacy, History, and Politics.
Advisor: Peter Uvin.
Committee: Karen Jacobsen, and Robert Muggah.
Keywords: International relations, and Political Science.read less