ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

A State within a State? The FARC-EP’s governance practices in Southern Colombia

Conflict
Contentious Politics
Governance
Institutions
Political Violence
Qualitative
War
State Power
Jose Gutierrez
Teagasc

Abstract

It has often been claimed that the Colombian FARC-EP built a State within a State in their rural strongholds. This opinion has been held by Colombian politicians –who claimed the communist guerrillas who preceded the FARC-EP had created ‘independent republics within Colombian territory’- scholars –who have debated if the FARC-EP were a proto-State or a State-within-a-State- and by the FARC-EP themselves –who often claimed to be the embryo of a new State, of the New Colombia. This paper argues, on the contrary, that unlike other insurgent movements, the FARC-EP did not create the rudiments of their own State within the shell of another State. They rather used the structures and institutions of the actually existing State –especially at the local government level- in order to advance their political and insurgent project. This was done through two mechanisms: first, they acted as a State substitute in those areas which were worse articulated to the central State and to markets, organising communities to facilitate the reach of State services in the locality, but also helping to create institutions of local government. Secondly, they engaged in what I call armed advocacy in those areas which were better articulated to the State and market, thus using their coercive capacity to favour sympathetic communities and improve, quantitatively and qualitatively, the State provision of services. As such, the FARC-EP inscribed squarely their struggle against the State within the very apparatus of that State with contradictory results: on the one hand, it increased the sense of autonomy of peasant communities, while at the very same time, it expanded the infrastructural power of the State they antagonised. These conclusions are based on extensive ethnographic work, and qualitative and participatory techniques, in six villages controlled/influenced extensively by the FARC-EP in Southern Colombia (in the regions of Putumayo, Cauca, Cauca Valley and Tolima). This research was conducted in 15 months between 2014-2018, and was a collaborative project with the local community and farmers’ associations. This paper aims at expanding our understanding of the implications of the rebels’ practices embeddedness in cultural, historical and spatial contexts. It also aims at discussing the view that rebels should be understood teleologically as State-builders in the making, a view questioned by Mampilly (2011) who claimed that practices of rebel governance should be understood in their own light. Finally, I aim at discussing the contradictory outcomes of rebel governance from the point of view of State-making and their political legacy in a post-conflict context.