Colombia's Paramilitaries: Criminals or Political Force?

  • December 01, 2001
  • Mr David Spencer

The intent of this monograph was to explore the multiple dimensions of Colombia's ongoing crisis and inform the public debate regarding the challenges faced by the statesmen, intellectuals, military strategists, and others who take on the responsibility to deal with that crisis. Hopefully, it will also generate serious reflection about the tough choices Colombian, U.S., and other global leaders face. The author points out, first, that the Colombian paramilitary self-defense forces represent some important sectors of society, and enjoy more popular support from Colombian society than the insurgents. Second, the paramilitaries have developed into a powerful irregular force that is proving itself capable of challenging Colombian guerrillas. Third, while they commit horrendous atrocities, they have been successful where the state has not. Therefore, the paramilitaries are seen by many as a viable solution to the conflict. Finally, he argues that, until the segments of the society represented by the paramilitaries are--somehow-- incorporated into the solution to the Colombian crisis, there will be no solution.