I am Associate Professor in the Escuela de Gobierno Alberto Lleras Camargo at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, Director of the Security and Violence Area of the Center for the Study of Security and Drugs (CESED) at the same university, and Senior Researcher at Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

My research agenda focuses on crime and political violence in Latin America, particularly in Colombia, Central America, and Mexico. I am also interested in historical legacies of violence and how they affect contemporary outcomes. To study these and other topics I use a combination of primarily experimental and quasi-experimental methods. While I wrote my dissertation on Colombia, and live in Bogotá, I also study Mexico and the three countries in the so-called “Northern Triangle” of Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Prior to graduate school, I worked for three years on human rights and development, primarily in East and Southern Africa.

I was co-PI on a $5 million project supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – El Salvador that sought to build regional institutional capacity on citizen security policies, promote evidence-based public policies, and disseminate best practices in the Northern Triangle. I am also PI on a National Science Foundation grant studying patterns of criminal governance in Colombia; co-PI on a Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs grant examining attitudes towards and experiences with the implementation of the Colombian peace agreement; and co-PI on a Research Council of Norway grant focusing on the Microfoundations of Conflict Escalation.

My articles have been published or are forthcoming in the Journal of Politics, Comparative Political StudiesJournal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace ResearchConflict Management and Peace Science, Terrorism and Political Violence, Research & Politics, Journal of Theoretical Politics, and Critical Review. For more information on these and my working papers, please see my Research page.

In May 2014 I received my Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown University and have been a Predoctoral Fellow at Yale University’s Program on Order, Conflict, and Violence (2013-2014) and a Jennings Randolph Peace Scholar at the United States Institute of Peace (2012-2013). I was an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Binghamton University (SUNY) from 2014-2016.

Born and raised in the great state of New Jersey, I enjoy short fiction, antique maps and records, and playing jazz piano.

HiCN Working Papers Series


Learning How (Not) to Fire a Gun: Combatant Training and Civilian Victimization

Ben Oppenheim,  Juan F. Vargas,  Michael Weintraub, 

What is the relationship between the type of training combatants receive upon recruitment into an armed group and their propensity to abuse civilians in civil […]