This paper seeks to determine the variables that explain the armed activity of irregular groups since the mid-1970's and to establish the possible causes of their expansion up to 2002, especially in terms of decentralisation (understood as the increased political, budgetary and administrative autonomy of local government). Over the past 30 years, Colombia has experienced profound changes at an economic, social and institutional level. Not only has the process of urbanisation been consolidated at the same time as the participation of agriculture in GDP has fallen but the process of decentralisation has accelerated since the mid-1980's. The paper argues that decentralisation tuned the conflict into a dispute for local power. This was manifested in the use of violence to gain control of public goods and services, to influence political and electoral results of interest to the irregular groups and to consolidate local-level territorial control.
The paper draws on new historical data on the conflict and on new municipal economic, fiscal, social and political information. It also makes use of new IEPRI municipal information on the activities and actions of the different guerrilla groups (FARC, ELN, M-19) from 1974 to 1982 and on municipal databases from the Social Foundation, the National Planning Dept and the President's Office.
Sánchez, F.; Chacon, M. Working Paper No. 70. Conflict, State and Decentralisation: from social progress to an armed dispute for local control, 1974-2002. (2005) 38 pp.