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Homicide, Kidnapping and Armed Conflict in Colombia

NCJ Number
Forum on Crime and Society Volume: 1 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2001 Pages: 55-65
Mauricio Rubio
Date Published
February 2001
11 pages
This analysis of homicide, kidnapping, and armed conflict in Colombia considers conflict trends during the 1990's, the intensification of conflict and reduction of violence, and peace negotiations with guerrilla forces.
The continuing decline in the Colombian homicide rate throughout the 1990's is a major phenomenon for which a satisfactory explanation has not yet been found; the data apparently contradict the widespread belief that the situation in Colombia is continuing to deteriorate. Although the decline in the homicide rates in Medellin and Cali could reasonably be linked to the dismantling of the traditional drug cartels, such an explanation is insufficient in the case of Bogota. The relatively wide range of factors that helped to explain the guerrilla presence in a particular locality in the late 1980's included such factors as the average age of the municipality's population, the standard of living index, and the gender ratio. The ability of these original factors to distinguish the municipalities likely to come under guerrilla influences declined continuously, and in 1997 was approximately one-tenth of what it had been at the end of the previous decade. These findings suggest that during the 1990's, conflict in Colombia ceased to be linked to the country's economic, social, and political situation and began to acquire its own momentum. Incidents such as terrorist attacks and kidnappings contribute significantly to the public's growing sense of insecurity, even though homicide rates are declining. In the 1990's, according to available data, total membership of insurgent groups increased by 60 percent, and the number of municipalities with a guerrilla presence quintupled. With this expansion, criminal conduct directly linked to the conflict, such as massacres, terrorist acts, and kidnappings, intensified during the 1990's. This article concludes with an analysis of the policy dilemmas being encountered in the peace negotiations between guerilla groups and the Colombian government. 3 figures, 28 notes, and 9 references


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