The Changing Political Economy of the War System in Colombia


Over the last decade, several changes occurred in the political economy of the war system in Colombia that may lead to the prolongation of the civil conflict. One of the most significant was the creation of a leviathan security apparatus that exceeds that of any nation in the region. By 2009, the size of the armed forces reached 428,000 personnel consuming close to 6% of the GDP per year. This was tremendously expanded from the 185,000 personnel recorded in the mid 1980s. This expansion in turn provided an institutional, political, and economic foundation for what I term a hyper security state.

This security state has been complemented by the insurgents’ abilities to adjust their military tactics, strategies, and finances to a changing environment. For instance, the insurgency relies less on narcotrafficking and kidnapping-for-ransom to fund its war, and more on tapping the mineral resources such as gold.

Meanwhile, organized criminal organizations, including different variants of paramilitaries and their offspring, have also diversified their economic base that along side narcotrafficking includes exploiting mineral resources.

In sum, the political economy of the conflict is changing, allowing all actors of the war system to sustain their war machines (state, guerrillas, and organized crime), which allows the continuation of this bloody conflict without any end in sight.

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