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Volume 57 / Social Sciences


MARC CHERNICK, Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Government and Center for Latin American Studies, Georgetown University

COLOMBIA AND ECUADOR ARE KEY REGIONS for social science research related to the emerging issues of post-Cold War, late-20th-century scholarship, including drug-trafficking, indigenous movements, democratic consolidation, decentralization, violence, and peace.

In Colombia, first-rate studies are being published on political violence, drug-trafficking, human rights violations, and the impact of corruption. Scholars continue to contemplate the escalation of violence in the country. Especially noteworthy studies on this topic include Daniel Pecaut’s, "Presente, pasado y futuro de la violencia en Colombia" (item bi 97014112), Camilo Granada and Leonardo Rojas’ "Los costos del conflicto armado, 1990-1994" (item bi 96022794), and Colombia: inseguridad, violencia y desempeño en las areas rurales (item bi 99002326). For discussions of peace processes, see Jesus Antonio Bejarano, Una agenda para la paz (item bi 97003695), and the special edition of Colombia Internacional "Seminario sobre procesos de negociación y paz" (item bi 99002366). A seminal work on drug trafficking sponsored by the United Nations Development Program, Drogas ilícitas en Colombia: su impacto económico, político y social, clarifies issues, provides data and dispels certain myths (item bi 99002370). For a Colombian perspective on the US anti-narcotics war, see Juan Gabriel Tokatlian’s En el límite: la (torpe) norteamericanización de la guerra contra las drogas (item bi97-17471).

Many studies have focused on the Gaviria presidential administration’s (1990-94) efforts to alleviate the country’s political crisis, particularly in regard to the Constituent Assembly (items bi 96011690 and bi 96001492). The allegations of illegal drug fund use during the 1994 presidential elections, which paralyzed the Samper Administration, have also been well-analyzed: See works by Francisco Leal (item bi 97017476), Ingrid Betancourt Pulecio (item bi 97017451), and Chernick (item bi 99002368). Significant works among the growing body of literature on human rights violations are Enterrar y callar: las masacres en Colombia, 1980-1993 (item bi 97017487), publications by the Colombian Commission of Jurists (items bi 96001498 and bi 97017450), and works by other national and international human rights organizations (items bi 97017486 and bi 97017456).

In Ecuador, the surprising election of populist leader Abdalá Bucaram, followed only months later by his extraordinary removal from office by Congress has escalated the debate regarding causal factors of the country’s inability to consolidate a democratic regime. For the Bucaram crisis and "congressional coup," refer to Y ahora que? (item bi 97017472). Un solo toque: populismo y cultura política en Ecuador provides a broader sociological analysis of Bucaram and populism (item bi 97017479). In regard to the unconsolidated democratic system, refer to Catherine Conaghan’s, "Politicians against Parties: Discord and Disconnection in Ecuador's Party System" (item bi 95007713). Jorge Leon-Trujillo argues that there is evidence of democratic consolidation, but that it is threatened by a growing concentration of political power and economic wealth (item bi 95007761).

Other scholars have focused on the rise of indigenous movements, and the escalating conflicts among different actors regarding the environment, indigenous rights, multinational investments, and political sovereignty. Articles by Melina Selverston, (items bi 96022870 and bi 99002488), and Joe Kane, (item bi 99002489) offer insights on these topics.

Scholars continue to produce significant government and political analyses of Colombia and Ecuador allowing for a better understanding of the individual countries, and also providing useful comparative research on drug-trafficking, violence, democratic consolidation, and other issues. Although economic crisis has caused a slight decline in academic output from Ecuador, there is a growing community of social scientists, and an even larger group of foreign political analysts, examining key issues affecting the country. In Colombia, meanwhile, the growing numbers of works being published demonstrate a correspondingly high quality level. As the works reviewed in this section underscore, the international social science community is increasingly turning their attention toward this region with fine result.

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