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Avoiding the Perfect Storm: Criminal Economies, Spoilers, and the Post-Conflict Phase in Colombia

Juan Carlos Garzón-Vergara

  • 21 February 2018
  • Posted by: Nicolas Devia
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Avoiding the Perfect Storm: Criminal Economies, Spoilers, and the Post-Conflict Phase in Colombia

The Colombian peace agreement signed in 2016 signified the promise of the disarmament of the FARC guerrillas and the start of a difficult process of stabilization and healing of the country. Avoiding violence is an imperative for Colombia, as previous experiences around the world show that the post-conflict could be even more violent than the conflict itself (as it happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guatemala and El Salvador). A common cause of said wave of post-conflict violence are the criminal activities related to the occupation of vacuums created by the demobilization of an armed group. In the Colombian case, territories left behind by the FARC guerrillas could (and most possibly be) disputed by criminal organizations, FARC dissidents and ELN guerrillas, were the habitants will find themselves in a crossfire.

The State has then two options to fill those type of vacuums: intervening with force and dismantling entirely the criminal structures or intervening through a strengthening of the institutions whose objective is to provide public services. While the first looks for the neutralization of criminal activities through force, the second one tries to create conditions that incentivize legality and legitimacy for democratic institutions. Both of them alone will find themselves ineffective: it’s not possible to create democratic institutions in an unsafe and crime-ridden territory, nor is it possible to create legitimate institutions in an atmosphere of violence triggered by a war against illegality. In some sort of way, the government should try to isolate criminal organizations from entering in territories without institutions, while keeping safe the citizens who are under the influence of illegal economies.

The author proposes the creation of a “National Stabilization Force” (NSF) in order to provide security to the areas affected by illegal economies and lack of governmental institutions. The strategy of this organization should have as objective the generation of trust between the citizens and the democratic institutions, in order to facilitate future efforts on the dismantling of criminal networks. A depuration and cleaning of existing institutions is also needed to inspire even more legitimacy and to render bureaucracies more effective and responsive. As of now, the Colombian government finds itself on a race against illegal actors to be the first one to provide access to legal markets and institutions to the populations whose only authority during decades were the guerrillas. Losing that race could mean an increase of violence seen in homicides of social leaders, human rights activists and political figures, as it would also mean the strengthening of illegal markets and criminal structures.

Category:Publications
Country:Colombia
Language:English
Year:2016
Institution:Fundación Ideas para la Paz & Igarapé Institute
Author:Juan Carlos Garzón-Vergara

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