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Joining Guerrilla Groups in Colombia: Individual Motivations and Processes for Entering a Violent Organization

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 30 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2007 Pages: 615-634
Mauricio Florez-Morris
Date Published
July 2007
20 pages
Based on in-depth interviews with 42 former Colombian guerrillas from 3 former terrorist groups--M-19, EPL, and CRS--this article identifies 11 motivations for joining these violent organizations.
The most popular motivation for joining a guerilla movement was concern about socioeconomic injustice and inequality, which included the desire to improve these situations. The second most popular motivation was commitment to the communist ideology of liberation. The third most common motivation for joining a guerrilla movement was the individual's previous experiences in grass-roots organizations such as student associations, workers' unions, and peasant cooperatives. The fourth most important motivation was the revolutionary climate of the era, and the fifth most popular motivation was the individual's contact with political propaganda that espoused socialist ideals. The sixth most popular motivation was a feeling that they must respond to their perceptions of the excessive use of police force in the government's response to legal demonstrations. Other motivations in the order of their frequency of mention in the interviews were the influence of peers attracted to an insurgent group, family attitudes, resolution of a feeling of restlessness, the influence of individuals in criminal groups, and religious zeal. The 42 individuals interviewed left their political-military organizations when peace agreements were signed between each group and the Colombian Government. In 2003, they participated in structured, face-to-face, in-depth interviews that lasted approximately 2 hours. All interviews were recorded and transcribed for analysis. 23 references