Democracy in Latin America: Colombia and Venezuela

By Donald L. Herman | Go to book overview

5
The Colombian State in Crisis: Continuity and Change

Harvey F. Kline

Colombia and the role of its state seem to fit into few of the categories most commonly used in literature about Latin American politics. Indeed, the mixed character of the country's political economy has become part of the ruling mythology. The Bogotaá journal, Estrategia econoómica y financiera, applauded this mixed character with the following words:

Economic policy . . . is an eclectic mixture of market economics and of state interventionism in which elements of import substitution coexist with elements of export promotion; protectionism, with international competition; the stimulation of a vigorous private sector, with the deliberate action of the state as an industrial mover and promoter in determined fields; relative financial liberty internally, with exchange controls; stimuli for foreign private investment, with strict limits to its behavior; a prudent monetary and fiscal management, with deliberate efforts to modify the productive structure of the country. . . . In the political aspect, the model has produced legitimacy in the exercise of government; ordered, predictable, and periodic transfer of power; and clear limitations to authority. This in turn has given sufficient continuity to economic and social policy in order to gain experience, develop institutions, and to initiate long-term programs and projects. 1

Yet, although they are safe, statements that " Colombia is eclectic" do not go very far in describing and analyzing its state system. The purpose of this chapter is to suggest what the state system has been historically and to consider problems and opportunities that might soon change it.

We must begin by clarifying terms. Alfred Stepan defines the state as more than the government, suggesting that it is "the continuous administrative, legal, bureaucratic and coercive system that attempts not only to structure relations

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