State Building and Conflict Resolution in Colombia, 1986-1994

By Harvey F. Kline | Go to book overview

in prison or killed were proof that the strategy was making possible important achievements that a few years ago few thought could be accomplished.75

The president's words proved to be true. On December 2, 1993, Pablo Escobar was killed during a shoot-out with the Bloque de Búsqueda in Medellín.


Conclusion

Once again, on the surface it would seem to many that the "bottom line" was that President Gaviria, like President Barco, had failed with his policies in controlling drug terrorism. Yet, there were thirteen months during which it appeared that the policy of César Gaviria was quite a success. And in the end drug terrorism was significantly reduced during the Gaviria years, albeit not because of his conflict resolution policies but because of the death of Pablo Escobar. That finality was more likely because of Escobar's alienation of former allies during his time in prison, and the alienation was largely based, either directly or indirectly, on Escobar's accepting the Gaviria plea bargain.

Several conclusions can been drawn about the attempts of the Gaviria government to find a peaceful solution to the conflict with Pablo Escobar, the Extraditables, and drug leaders in general.

First, Gaviria was not bargaining from a position of strength at the beginning of his government. It seems more reasonable to conclude that his strategy was based on his understanding that during the Barco years the Colombian government had been losing the war. Despite powerful setbacks to the narcos and the death of Rodriguez Gacha, the big fish of the Mafia were still free, directing their troops and threatening the institutional stability of the country. As Semana pointed out, "The new policy of Gaviria recognized implicitly that incapacity of the state to capture and put the leading narcos in safe keeping."76 When one inspects the proposals over time, it seems logical to conclude that from Panamá in 1984 to Bogotá in 1990, the narcos were becoming stronger and hence were willing to give up less.

Second, the Gaviria government always had to deal with two camps: Colombians who wanted a softer line and others who wanted a harder one. What for the former was pragmatic policy, for the latter was a surrender of principles. After the first decree, the next three that were issued coincided with the kidnappings of journalists and the petitions from the Extraditables, through their lawyers, to modify the decrees. If

-140-

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