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Colombia: Empowerment of non-violent Groups & the Future

Former hostage Marcos Baquero, center top, embraces his wife Olga Lucia Tao, right, after he was released by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, in Villavicencio, Colombia, Wednesday Feb. 9, 2011. Baquero, member of the municipal council of San Jose del Guaviare, was relased by the FARC who kidnapped him in June 2009

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1991 Constitution: A New Beginning Frustrated

  • National Executive

    • President elected by a plurality (every four years)

    • Re-election initially prohibited

      • Liberal and Conservative party leaders fear an independent political leader

      • Concern with dictatorship

    • 2004 - Uribe gains approval for reelection of the president

      • Uribe’s success with pacification

      • Discrediting of Liberal & Conservative political parties

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Institutions: Legislative Power – 1991 Constitution

  • National Legislature

    • Congress (more powerful than under 1886 Constitution)

      • Senate –

        • by national constituency

        • proportional representation

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Institutions: Legislative Power – 1991 Constitution

  • National Legislature

    • Congress (more powerful than under 1886 Constitution)

      • House –

        • by departmental constituency,

        • proportional representation

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Political Institutions: Constitution of 1991

  • Judiciary

    • Code law system typical of Latin America

    • Remains weakest of the three branches of government

    • Office of National Procurator – separated from the courts

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Changes in Political Institutions: Departments

  • Departmental Governors traditionally named by the national executive

  • Constitution of 1991

    • Initially kept the traditional system of appointed departmental governors

    • Popular pressure forced move to direct election

    • Plurality in one department-wide election

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Government Machinery – other features

  • 1991 constitution made efforts to decentralize power to the Departments

    • Plans for revenue sharing

    • Value added taxes

  • Municipal Government

    • Popular elections of mayors

    • Municipal Councils strengthened

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Non-governmental organizations

  • Proliferation in 1990’s

    • Most commonly encompass middle classes

    • Support for Colombian NGO’s strong in Europe and the USA

  • Influence on policy making is limited

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Traditional Groups

  • Association of large industrialists (ANDI)

    • Founded in 1944

    • Leading advocate of free enterprise in Colombia

    • Interests of members overlap with large agricultural producers

  • National Federation of Coffee Growers (FEDECAFE)

    • Founded in 1927

    • Dominated by larger coffee producers/exporters

  • Roman Catholic church

    • Historic conservatism

    • Efforts to mediate violence relatively ineffectual

    • Camillo Torres & worker priests

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Organized Labor

  • Labor Federations

    • CTC (Confederation of Colombian Workers)

      • Founded in 1935

      • Ties to the Liberal Party

    • UTC (Union of Colombian Workers)

      • Founded during presidency of Conservative Mariano Ospina (in 1946)

      • Surpassed CTC in 1950’s

    • CSTC (Syndical Confederation of Workers of Colombia)

      • Became Colombia’s largest labor federation in 1980’s

      • Largely independent from the political parties

      • Most aggressive of the three in upholding worker rights

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Policy Making and the “New Actors”

  • Peasants

    • not well organized

    • Displaced and cluster around large cities

  • Urban poor

  • Drug Dealers

    • Large cartels broken apart due largely to international pressure

    • After the Cartels?

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Policy Making and the “Violent Groups (anti-establishment elements )

  • Guerrillas

    • FARC

    • ELN

    • M19 (largely destroyed)

  • FARC guerrillas in Putumayo where Plan Colombia is being implemented

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Paramilitary Groups: elements )AUC (violent pro-establishment)

  • Formed initially by large land owners for protection against the insurgents

  • Ranks of AUC filled by same kinds of individuals who were in the surgency

  • Often turned against large land owners and siezed property for themselves

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USA Offers Counterinsurgency Assistance - 1999 elements )

  • Colombia supplies 90% of the United States’ Cocaine

  • Main Refinery for Latin American drugs

  • FARC. ELN, and AUC are continuous threats to peace and prosperity in Colombia and the United States

  • U.S.A. Interest:

    • Prevent drug traffickers from taking over

    • Preserve a stable democracy

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“Accepts “Plan Colombia” 1999 elements )

Military to military relationships strengthened

Equipment provided to Colombian military

U. S. “trainers” teach counterinsurgency tactics

Pastrana policy of providing sanctuaries for insurgents worsens the situation

Conservative political party loses credibility


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Wins election of 2002 by promising to be hard on violence and drugs

Close alliance with President Bush

No sanctuaries

Increased commitment of central government to fight FARC and ELN


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Results of Uribe Policies and drugs

  • Homicides both individual and massacre down by 19.2% and 62% respectively

  • Drug trading set record lows and believe that half of cocaine did not make it to the market

  • Many FARC, ELN and Parliamentary leaders have been captured

  • Reports of success must be taken with a “grain of salt” (In terrorist’s best interest – and on occasion that of the government – not to reveal unfavorable information)

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Álvaro Uribe Vélez and drugs Success in restoring order: Key issue in 2006 Presidential election

  • Campaigning for the 2006 presidential elections in Bogotá, Colombia.

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Criticism of “Plan Colombia” and drugs

  • Leftist governments question the real objectives behind the Plan(i.e. oil and natural resources)

  • US help intended to suppress the peasants and strengthen exploitative ruling elites

  • Despite over a million acres of coca plants being destroyed, the same percentage of cocaine is supplied to the United States as was supplied when Plan Colombia began in 2000

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No Third Term: End of the Uribe Era and drugs

  • Supreme Court rejects referendum proposal to to allow for a second reelection of President

  • Liberal & Conservative political parties unable to regain traction

  • Contenders

    • Party of U

    • Greens

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Presidential Run Off Election and drugs(June 20, 2010)

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The Future of Political Order in Colombia and drugs

  • Capture of Mono Joyoy Sept. 2010 (Víctor Julio Suárez Rojas)

  • Will the gains in political order be consolidated?

  • Role of the United States

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Other Critical Questions for Assessing the Political Future of Colombia

  • Can the poor be integrated into national public life?

    • Displaced peasants

    • Slum dwellers

  • Will the political system become more responsive?

  • Can the economy be diversified?

  • Will relations with Venezuela & other South American states improve?