Ideology and Rifles: The Agrarian Origins of Civil Conflict in Colombia

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Abstract

We investigate the relationship between the historical dispossession of peasants’ lands by landlords that led to the rise of peasant grievances and the origin of the rural guerrilla movement – Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) – during the first stage of the Colombian civil conflict (1964–1985). We propose two sequential mechanisms through which previous land dispossession resulted in the emergence of rebel-armed groups. First, the ideological cohesion stemming from radical liberals and communists exacerbated the grievances and helped to shape the political objectives of the rebel armed groups. Once revolutionary ideology had spread in the rural areas, the exposure to violent events that gave military training, access to weapons, and military experience to the rural population, ended up facilitating the formation of rebel groups. Using a matching-pair instrumental variable approach and a novel municipal-level data set, the study documents that municipalities experiencing floods between 1914 and 1946 were more likely to experience land dispossession than municipalities that did not. Floods temporarily worsened the conditions of the land and its value, facilitating the dispossession of peasant land by large landowners and the rise of grievances.

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Lopez-Uribe, M. del P., & Sanchez Torres, F. (2024). Ideology and Rifles: The Agrarian Origins of Civil Conflict in Colombia. World Development, 173. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2023.106387

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