Colombian Democracy Essay

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Colombian Democracy

There is a practical problem to capturing a cogent understanding of Colombia in a single snapshot. There are two realities of Colombia scholars use to frame analysis of the birthplace of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magical realism: “armed conflict” and “political democracy.” These phenomena are a defining feature of modern Colombia. They have coexisted since 1958 when the National Front political pact ended intra-elite conflict in La Violencia but failed to guarantee a stable social order. In a sense, Colombian society was never successfully “pacified” in the way its neighboring nations were. The question of whether and how these two realities will be linked in the future is what stimulates my interest in this Andean
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These theories are perhaps always true according to their own criteria but whether they advance understanding of an issue—let alone opened up new possibilities for interpreting it—is a separate question. Let me be more concrete about my critique. Security-specific and most democratization studies interventions on Colombia trouble me because they detach their respective complementary realities. As a result, they produce unsatisfactory substantive accounts.

Naturally, security wonks and democratization studies scholars proceed differently in presenting their views of Colombia. But in reviewing the scholarship of influential works on Colombia such as Jonathan Hartlyn’s, The politics of coalition rule in Colombia (1988 and an update, 1999), John D. Martz’s, The Politics of Clientelism (1995), Laurence Whitehead’s, “Reforms” (2001), Fernando Cepeda Ulloa’s, “Colombia: The Governability Crisis,” (2003), Nazih Richani’s, Systems of Violence: The Political Economy of War and Peace in Colombia (2002), and Ricardo Vargas’s, “State, Espirit Mafioso, and Armed Conflict in Colombia,” (2004), I find a blank middle space between security and democracy approaches that renders either narrative inadequate. This void needs filling in to make intelligible the contradictions mediating the juxtaposed realities of Colombia. Social movement scholars creatively address this deficit from the micro level. I follow scholars such as Daniel Pecaut (1992, 2001,
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