Bailey83221 (bailey83221) wrote,

NOTES: The Colombian crisis in historical perspective (Record in progress)


PART 2: The Drug Traffickers and the Paramilitaries

I thank Nancy Appelbaum for suggesting the structure of this essay and for co-authoring the first four pages. I am grateful, too, to Claudia Leal and Daniel Bonilla for many helpful comments.

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(f.#1) See Cubides et al. (1998), Sanchez Gomez (2001), The Economist (2001); The New York Times (10 April 2001); El Tiempo (23 April 2003); US Department of State (2000, 2001, 2002); CODHES (2003); Chernick (in press); and the reports of the Colombian Vicepresidencia de la Republica, Programa Presidencial de los Derechos Humanos y DIH, Observatorio, available at or A massacre is defined as the killing of four or more people in the same place at the same time.

Detailing the terrible things that are happening in Colombia may leave the impression that it would be impossible to live in a place like this, that Colombians only think about the violence. However, millions of people live in Colombia and most lead the same kind of normal life that the majority of Latin Americans do. Violence is an important part of Colombia's reality, but so are many other things. To understand how people experience such a situation, one must grasp the duality between awareness of the violence that is reported daily by Colombian newspapers and TV news and that occasionally touches people one knows, and the fact that, for most people, everyday life goes on.

(f.#2) An excellent source of information on current US aid to Colombia and the relevant debates is the Centre for International Policy's Colombia Project at

(f.#3) Major Colombian research centres that study the causes of the violence include the Instituto de Estudios Politicos y Relaciones Internacionales (IEPRI) at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and the Jesuit Centro de Investigaciones y Educacion Popular (CINEP) in Bogota and the Instituto de Estudios Regionales (INER) at the Universidad de Antioquia in Medellin. Important journals that provide insight into Colombian interpretations of the current situation include Analisis Politico (IEPRI), Revista Foro, Controversia (CINEP), and Estudios Politicos (Universidad de Antioquia).

(f.#4) The only export of significance in the colonial period was gold, mined in the province of Antioquia around Medellin, and panned by African slaves in the streams of the rainforests along the Pacific coast and the Atrato river basin (Twinam 1982; Sharp 1976). Useful overviews of Colombian history include Safford and Palacios (2002), Bushnell (1993), Deas (1985), Abel and Palacios (1991), and J. Pearce (1990).

(f.#5) The only area where the formation of large private properties did not occur was central Colombia--in the departments of Antioquia, Caldas, northern Tolima, and northern Valle--which became a coffee smallholding frontier, symbolized by Juan Valdez (the emblem of the Colombian Federation of Coffee Growers). The classic study of the anomalous ''democratic'' colonization process in Antioquia is Parsons (1949).

(f.#6) On Colombian regionalism, see Zambrano Pantoja (1998); Uribe de Hincapie and Alvarez (1987); and Borja (1996, 2001).

(f.#7) Colombia's only military dictatorship of the twentieth century was that of General Gustavo Rajas Pinilla from 1953 to 1957. Brought to power by a consensus of Liberals and most of the Conservative Party during La Violencia, his right to rule was confirmed by the Colombian congress, his administration was mostly civilian, he gave women the vote, he advocated social reform, and he left office quietly when Liberal and Conservative elites turned against him. This was a mild dictatorship, or ''dictablanda'' as Colombians say, completely unlike the later repressive military regimes in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. In the 1960s Rojas Pinilla left military life, founded the populist ANAPO party, and nearly won the presidential elections of 1970. The M-19 guerrilla group came out of the left wing of this party.

(f.#8) On the historiography of La Violencia, see Sanchez Gomez (1985); Roldan (1992, chapt. 1); Penaranda (1992); and LeGrand (1997).

(f.#9) This was the dominant interpretation of Colombian intellectuals in the 1980s (see, for example, Ramirez Tobon 1988; Restrepo 1988; Archila N. 1997; and Chernick and Jimenez 1993).

(f.#10) The ELN website is

(f.#11) On the agrarian conflicts of the late 1920s and early 1930s and the involvement of the Colombian Communist Party, see Medina (1980, 1986); G. Gaitan (1976); Sanchez Gomez (1977); Marulanda (1991); and Jimenez (1985, forthcoming).

(f.#12) See Sanchez Gomez (1988); Sanchez Gomez and Meertens (2001); Ramirez Tobon (1981, 2001); Molano Bravo (1981, 1989, 1990, 1992); Alape (1985); and Pizarro Leongomez (1991). On the history of the guerrilla movements, see Pizarro Leongomez (1996); Braun (2003); and on FARC more recently, Rangel Suarez (1999); Ferro Medina and Uribe Ramon (2002); Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (n.d.); and FARC's websites and

(f.#13) On the history of Colombian peace negotiations, see Chernick (1999); Bejarano Avila (1999a); and Nasi (2002).

(f.#14) An excellent collection on the 1980s is Leal Buitrago and Zamosc (1991).

(f.#15) On women in the Colombian conflict, see Guillermoprieto (2001); Lara S. (2000); Meertens (2000); and Grupo Mujer y Sociedad (2001). Vasquez Perdomo (2000) is a fascinating testimony by a woman guerrilla who spent 15 years with M-19.

(f.#16) French sociologist Daniel Pecaut (2000a) argues that since the 1990s FARC no longer aspires to take power at the national level but rather to a powersharing arrangement, both institutional and territorial: he suggests that a workable peace accord would involve coming up with a ''consociational'' formula through which a new kind of National Front could be put into place. Meanwhile PNUD (in press) hypothesizes that since FARC has failed to take central state power over the last two decades, it is now engaged in constructing ''embryonic states'' in local regions.

(f.#17) See Richani (1997, 2002). Marc Chernick (2000) and PUND (in press) argue in part against this position. Also see Murillo and Maldonado (1997).

(f.#18) See, however, the forthcoming PNUD report, which presents an innovative, nuanced explanation for popular support for the armed groups, focusing on the workings of the illegal economy in Colombia. Also, two recent PhD dissertations explore how specific social movements function within either paramilitary- or guerrilla-controlled zones. See Ramirez de Jara (2001) and Mauricio Romero's forthcoming PhD thesis from the New School for Social Research, chapt. 4 (on the banana workers' union in the paramilitary-dominated region of Uraba).

(f.#19) Good studies of the impact of the drug trade in Colombia include Gutierrez Sanin (2000); Camacho Guizado and Lopez Restrepo (2000); and Salama (2000). Also see the Rocha article in this issue.

(f.#20) On the paramilitaries, see Medina Gallego (1990); Medina Gallego and Tellez Ardila (1994); Atheortua (1995); Richani (1997, 2002); Cubides C. (2001); Romero (2000b); Estrada Gallego (2001); Corporacion Observatorio para la Paz (2002); and the website of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, Mary Roldan (2002) explores the origins of paramilitary groups in the 1950s.

(f.#21) Some observers noted that this percentage of supposed paramilitary supporters elected to congress in March 2002 corresponded to the number of representatives elected from Uraba and the Atlantic coast where the paramilitaries are strong.

(f.#22) On displacement, see Carrion (2000); Meertens (2001a, 2001b); Pecaut (2000b); Segura Escobar (2000); and CODHES and ACNUR (2001).

(f.#23) Much of the following section on the Colombian military is based on Leal Buitrago (1992). See also Leal Buitrago (1994, 2002); Davila Ladron (1998); Pizarro Leongomez (1988, 1995); and Aviles (2001).

(f.#24) For an excellent analysis of the situation in the mid-1980s, see Fellner (1986).

(f.#25) For a fascinating analysis of human rights discourse and its uses in Colombia, see Restrepo M. (2001).

(f.#26) Although the M-19 was influential in the constituent assembly of 1990, thereafter it lost political support rapidly and is not now a serious contender in Colombian elections (Boudon 2001). Clearly, guerrilla groups concerned with what will happen if they lay down their arms are very aware of the somewhat divergent experiences of the M-19 and FARC's Union Patriotica.

(f.#27) Although the Colombian conflict is not an ethnic or religious one, Mary Roldan (1998), Margarita Serje (2001), and Clara Ines Garcia (2003) emphasize that regional imaginaries, which are also racial imaginaries, shape Colombian conceptualizations of place and government perceptions of danger and threat. On region and race, see also Wade (1993, 2000) and Appelbaum (2003); also relevant is Rojas (2002a). For other new approaches to the current Colombian violence, see Riano Alcala (2002).

(f.#28) See Zamosc (1986, 1990); Avirama and Marquez (1994); Escobar (1997); Medina (1984); Jimeno (1997); Villareal Mendez (1997); Wade (2002); Revista Foro (2000-2001); Gow and Rappaport (2002); and NACLA (2000) on the Colombian ''Nunca Mas'' project.

(f.#29) See, for example, Uprimny Yepes (2001) and Urrego (2001). Daniel Pecaut (2000c) describes the social and psychological impact of terrorism and how violence makes it hard for people to come together. See also Pilar Riano Alcala (2000). For other takes on Colombian ''civil society,'' see Archila Neira (1995); Bejarano Avila (1999b); articles by Francisco Santos and Miguel Ceballos in Florida International University (2001); interview with Marco Palacios (Semana 9 April 2001); and Rojas (2002b).

(f.#30) Stimulating efforts to explore continuities and changes between the civil wars of the nineteenth century, La Violencia, and the present conflicts include Sanchez Gomez (2000b), Deas (1997), Bergquist (2001), and Roldan (2002, 281-298).

(f.#31) The discovery of major oil deposits in the department of Arauca made Colombia an important petroleum exporter for the first time in the 1980s. For an insightful explanation of the impact of oil on the Colombian conflict and US policy toward Colombia, see Dunning and Wirpsa (forthcoming); also S. Pearce (2002) and Leech (2003).

(f.#32) FARC, the ELN, and AUC appear on the official US and Canadian lists of terrorist groups around the world.

(f.#33) Ricardo Penaranda's review articles (1992, 2001) and Montenegro and Posada (2001) open a window on the interpretations and debates among Colombian intellectuals trying to make sense of the violence of the past 50 years and possible resolutions.

PART 2: The Drug Traffickers and the Paramilitaries
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