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Volume 65 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: COLOMBIA


STEVEN L. TAYLOR, Associate Professor of Political Science, Troy University

INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND VIOLENCE continue to be the dominant themes within the scholarly literature on Colombian government and politics. In terms of institutional development the main foci are on questions of the political legacy of Álvaro Uribe (items #bi2008000015# and #bi2008000019#), the evolution of the party system, and general questions of governance. The ubiquity of the violence continues to fuel discussion of the on-again, off-again peace process as well as the study of specific belligerents.

Two important issues regarding political developments in need of serious study are the long-term implications of the presidency of Álavro Uribe and the effects of the 2003 electoral reforms. The literature reviewed for this Handbook volume only begins to address these issues. Uribe's democratic security policies are worthy of investigation and his overall political trajectory merits further examination due to the lasting implications for Colombia.

In regards to Uribe, Jaramillo (item #bi2007000501#) discusses re-election, while Medellín (item #bi2008000019#) and Torre (item #bi2008000015#) more broadly address Uribe's effects on the presidency and Colombian politics. Understudied in this topic area is Uribe's effect on the evolution of the party system. He has run twice as an independent, but never has formed his own party formally, and yet a number of pro-Uribe political parties have emerged to support him. Ceballos does address the political role of several pro-Uribe parties in local elections (item #bi2009002051#), while Ungar also examines these pro-Uribe parties in the context of the 2002 elections (item #bi2009000599#).

In regards to political parties, several works add to the literature on the development of the party system, such as those by Gutiérrez (item #bi2008000029#) and Guzmán (item #bi2008000017#). Both are of interest, although Guzmán's especially so as it focuses on regional and local development, which is a topic in need of deeper study. Within the general topic of political parties and worthy of individual note is Ayala's book on the Alianza Nacional Popular (ANAPO) and the 1970 presidential election (item #bi2008000022#). While the focus is on political history rather than contemporary party behavior, the work is useful for understanding the trajectory of the party system, both historically as well as within the new electoral rules, especially since some current political actors involved in party formation have legacies linked to ANAPO. Along the lines of the reform, Posada-Carbó contributes a key piece on the effect of reform on legislative elections (item #bi2009001752#).

Alongside these specific political themes, the broader issues of institutionalization of the state, citizenship, and corruption continue as key topics in the literature. Such discussions underscore the ongoing difficulties of governance in Colombia. Unfortunately, however, recent publications on these topics have not offered original research or perspectives to further innovative discussion. All too often these publications are mere descriptions augmented with a list of prescriptions, rather than useful analyses of the problems at hand (e.g., items #bi2008000025# and #bi2008000026#).

Beyond studies of political conditions and state capacity, violence remains a key theme. The evolution of the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) continues to be a central topic in the literature. Of note are works by Kline (item #bi2007002549#) and Cadena (item #bi2006003887#) on Andrés Pastrana's (1998–2002) peace initiative and Peceny's analysis of the effects of US antidrug policies on the guerrilla violence (item #bi2009000119#). Noteworthy, too, is Vargas' work on the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional), if only because the ELN is understudied relative to the FARC (item #bi2008000030#). Aviles' piece on paramilitarism is also worth noting (item #bi2008002627#).

A book that deserves special attention is the edited volume by Welna et al. (item #bi2007003476#). One of the most comprehensive examinations of Colombian politics published in English in some years, this work includes contributions by several prominent observers of Colombian politics (e.g., Herbert Tico Braun, Daniel García-Peña, Eduardo Pizarro, and Matthew Shugart, to name a few). Another text worthy of singling out is the collection edited by Leal, which offers an analysis of current political conditions in Colombia (item #bi2008000027#).

Moving forward, the implications of Uribe's tenure in office will be a major area in need of scholarly attention, as will the long-term evolution of the political party system. Beyond these key issues, a number of areas warrant deeper study, including the fortunes of the FARC in the wake of several dramatic events in 2007–2009, as well as the long-term evolution of paramilitary groups.


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