From Tragedy to Success in Colombia: The Centrality of Effectiveness in Civil-Military Relations
Bruneau, Thomas C.
Goetze, Richard B. Jr.
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In the late 1990s, Colombia was considered by many to be a failed state due to endemic crime, pervasive violence, and nation-wide terrorism that resulted in the displacement of the rural population and, due to rampant kidnapping, emigration abroad by professionals and the upper classes. During this decade, the Colombian government had a presence and exercised sovereignty over only 50% of the national territory. Today, Colombia is widely considered a success story, with ex-President Juan Manuel Santos having won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for successful negotiations with the main proponent of terrorism, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Today, the country is considered an exporter of security, having trained 17,000 security personnel from Central America and the Caribbean between 2013 and 2017.1 Foreign dignitaries visit Colombia to learn the secret of its success. As Olesegun Obasanjo, ex-president of Nigeria states in the forward to a book about what he and other dignitaries from Africa learned during many visits to Colombia, “Colombia shows that security is the door through which much else follows, including in the economic domain.” The success is due largely to the achievement of security by both the military success against the FARC, and other armed actors, and the extension of state presence by the military, the police, and other elements of the government throughout the country. It is crucial to stress that the extension of security, via the military and national police (which is under the Ministry of Defense in Colombia), took place under democratic auspices in a country of regular free and fair elections, a powerful judicial system, a hyper-critical media, and an active civil society...
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