State Building and Conflict Resolution in Colombia, 1986-1994

State Building and Conflict Resolution in Colombia, 1986-1994

State Building and Conflict Resolution in Colombia, 1986-1994

State Building and Conflict Resolution in Colombia, 1986-1994


This volume documents the efforts of two Colombian presidents to reduce political violence and bring more stable governance to their country. Both Virgilio Barco Vargas and Cesar Gaviria Trujillo tried to end a variety of armed disturbances.


This is the fifth book I have written about Colombia, including the one I coauthored with Gary Hoskin, Francisco Leal, Dora Rothlisberger, and Armando Borrero at the Universidad de los Andes in the early 1970s. Those books have come from research trips to Colombia in 1968-1970, 1974, 1980-1981, 1991, 1992, and 1994.

To collect data for this book, I made four trips to Bogotá. The dates of the trips were (1) June 15-August 1, 1991, (2) July 1-29, 1992, (3) May 17-June 1, 1994, and (4) July 25-August 2, 1995. The point of the first trip in 1991 was to study the constituent assembly, which was still meeting. In 1992 the negotiations with the Coordinadora Guerrillera Simón Bolϭvar were being emphasized; in 1994, the priority was on the drug and paramilitary groups. Although the 1995 trip was primarily to give some of the results of this research at the meeting of the Asociación de Colombianistas, I used the opportunity to collect recent publications related to the theme of this book and to reinterview several of the individuals who had already proved to be of great value.

My research techniques were different on each trip, and in these first pages I would like to answer questions about why, how, and who with regard to this book.

I remember very well that the why question first came from a friend in Washington, D.C., in early 1991, before I began this project. "Why take the risk," he asked, "of going to a country with so much violence since you are already a tenured, full professor?" There is no simple answer to this question, although it turned out that I was barely affected by the violence so rampant in Colombia, including in Bogotá. In part it was because I was eager to get back to research after a seven- year hiatus spent in university administration, and I had many contacts in Bogotá from previous trips. Also I had many good friends in Colombia who were always willing to share their time and affection.

Another part was that I had used secondary sources to follow closely the growth of Colombian turbulence in the Betancur and Barco years (1982-1990). I had read and written about the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán--a leading candidate for president in 1990 and a man my age whom I had interviewed in 1981. Also I was intrigued by the constituent assembly and by the plans of the new Colombian president to resolve the conflicts.

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