Colombia’s internal conflict and its implications

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Officially known as the Republic of Colombia, Colombia is a country in South America located in the northwestern part of the region. The country is boarded by the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Colombia is named after the discoverer of the new world Christopher Columbus. In the late 1800’s the conservative and liberal parties were founded, within the 1861-85, the liberal party ruled and this caused a division in the country. It was divided into different organizations, and the church was separated from the state (Bergquist, Peñaranda& Sánchez, 2001).

According toFlorez-Morris (2007), the end of 1885, the conservative party took over, and power was centralized returning the primary influence of the church within the state. Between the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, war erupted between the conservatives and liberals, which carried on for a considerably long time. In 1958, the two parties agreed to form National Front in an effort to conclude the civil war.

Colombia’s conflict

The conflict started with the civil war famously known as “the war of the thousand days” with 110,000 people killed in the battle between conservatives and liberals. There was a continued struggle for power between the two parties, which only led to more conflicts. In 1948, an assassination of the mayor of Bogota ignited riots hence fuelling the civil war further (Collier&Hoeffler, 2001). The mayor who served as a minister of education in 1940, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan was an influential figure. He led the radical factions of Liberals and in 1946 ran for the presidency. His death led to the uprising of the bogotazo that only exacerbated the civil unrest. This period of civil war was known as the La Violencia. By the year 1957, over 250,000 people had been killed because of the civil war (Richani, 2005).

With the formation of the National Front, there was an apprising of armies within the country. By the year 1966, more groups were formed the Leftist National Liberation Army, which was inspired by the revolution in Cuba. Unlike the dominating group FARC, the ELN was more political and did not involve themselves in the drug trade (Solimano 2001). However, they were involved in kidnappings and destruction of infrastructure, in recent years, the group has cultivated collaborations with criminal gangs, therefore, getting into the drug trade. They have over the years reduced in numbers but are still have an effect on the security of Colombia, making it on the list of terrorist organizations in the United States and Europe.

Popular Liberation Army, the group, brought about a revolution based on the countryside with the aim of destabilizing the urban centers in the future. Their plans were not successful especially with bigger groups emerging. The rise of the M-19 Guerrilla group happened in 1971; this era was the era of the guerrilla war. The M-19 guerrilla came to power because of what they called a fraudulent election. It was the second largest group of rebels in Colombia and had an enormous amount of influence on public opinion.

From the right wing, the AUC only known as the paramilitaries was formed with the aim of stylizing the economy and fighting against the FARC and ELN. Supported by mostly drug traffickers, local communities suffering from the civil war and economic elites, they claimed that their main aim was to protect these groups. However, their contribution to the stabilization of security in Colombia was not positive. Reports say that they were involved in drug trafficking, hijacking, and kidnappings, which were shadowed by their fight against the rebel groups.

In 1978, the then President Julio Turbay of the Liberal party intensified the fight against drug traffickers. The fight carried on throughout the years, but six years later after the assassination of the justice minister, the campaign against traffickers grew stronger. Nevertheless, as the war against drug traffickers intensified, court officials were killed resulting in the formation of another party, the Patriotic Union Party. In 1991, the way against drug trafficking experienced a win with the death of Pablo Escobar, the Medellin drug cartel leader (Nilsson, 2008). Before being a cartel leader, Pablo Escobar was a common thief, with the amounts of profits that the drug cartels were attracting, commoners like him soon got involved. He moved up fast due to his violent tendencies that lead a standoff between the cartel and the government in a fight for power. According to Moser (2000), the Medellin Cartel was a key player in drug trafficking leaving an impact that is experienced to date, due to Pablo. Two years after his death, the elected president was charged with receiving money from the drug cartels; the charges were however not proven.

The first peace talks were held in 1998between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the talks officially started at the beginning of 1999. FARC is the world’s richest guerrilla army, one of the left-wing rebels. The group was formed with the intention of overthrowing the government; it was the strongest group of rebels in Colombia. In 2000, the government stopped the talks alleging that FARC had harbored a person who had hijacked a plane. Following this accusation, FARC refused to continue with the talks (Moser, 2000). In the next year, negotiationswere resumed after a meeting between the President and the leader of the guerillas. Within the same year, 2001, both parties then signed a ceasefire agreement known as the San Francisco agreement. However, in 2002, the government stopped the peace talks following another hijacking. Within the same year, another president was sworn in with the promise that he would crack down on the rebel groups.


With the kidnappings and hijacking cases recorded as carried out by FARC, the group continually destabilized the security of Colombia. With attacks such as the bombing of a club in 2003, the military’s fight against the group grew, the peace talks were put aside, in 2012 (Collier, 2003), the talks resume. The main agenda of the Colombia government and the international community remains peace. A deal was then signed in 2015 after three years negotiations with the key point of the deal being finding justice for the victims of the conflict. The deal was officially signed in 2016, with both sides agreeing to a ceasefire.

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  1. Bergquist, C., Peñaranda, R., & Sánchez, G. (Eds.). (2001). Violence in Colombia, 1990-2000: waging war and negotiating peace. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  2. Collier, P. (2003). Breaking the conflict trap: Civil war and development policy. World Bank Publications.
  3. Collier, P., & Hoeffler, A. (2001). On the duration of the civil war (Vol. 2681). World Bank Publications
  4. Collier, P., & Hoeffler, A. (2004). Greed and grievance in civil war. Oxford economic papers, 56(4), 563-595.
  5. Florez-Morris, M. (2007). Joining guerrilla groups in Colombia: Individual motivations and processes for entering a violent organization. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 30(7), 615-634.
  6. Holmes, J. S., Piñeres, S. A. G., & Curtin, K. M. (2006). Drugs, violence, and development in Colombia: A department‐level analysis. Latin American Politics and Society, 48(3), 157-184.
  7. Koonings, K., & Krujit, D. (1999). Societies of Fear: The legacy of civil war, violence, and terror in Latin America. Zed Books.
  8. Moser, C. (2000). Violence in Colombia (1st ed.). Washington, DC: World Bank.
  9. Nilsson, D. (2008). Partial peace: Rebel groups inside and outside of civil war settlements. Journal of Peace Research, 45(4), 479-495.
  10. Richani, N. (2005). Multinational corporations, rentier capitalism, and the war system in Colombia. Latin American Politics and Society, 47(3), 113-144.
  11. Solimano, A. (2001). Colombia (1st ed.). Washington: World Bank Publications.
  12. Walter, B. F. (1999). Designing transitions from civil war: Demobilization, democratization, and commitments to peace.International Security, 24(1), 127-155.
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