Conflict, Decentralisation and Local Governance in Colombia, 1974-2004


The Colombian armed conflict is one of the oldest in the world; it is only superseded in time by the Israeli-Palestinian and India-Pakistan conflicts, and it is the only ongoing armed conflict in North and South America. The end of the Cold War did nothing to reduce the military capacity of Colombian guerrilla forces. In fact, in the early-1990s they escalated their activities (attacks, combat, intimidation, etc.) to cover a greater proportion of Colombian territory. They financed their activities from a variety of different sources – kidnapping, extortion, illicit crops, theft of municipal funds – and became one of the “world’s most salient cases of the successful self-financing of insurgency” (Rangel, 2001). At the same time, paramilitary, or illegal self-defence groups, appeared to combat the guerrilla groups; they also scaled up their activities during the 1990s, financing them from similar sources to those of the guerrilla groups.

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