【GGR Brown Bag Lunch Seminar】The Effects of Warring and Civil Oligarchs on Colombia’s Subnational Democracy
DateMarch 1, 2024
PlaceRoom 3302, Mercury Tower
Event Outline

On March 1, 2024, the Institute for Global Governance Research (GGR) at Hitotsubashi University hosted the 26th GGR Brown Bag Lunch Seminar titled “The Effects of Warring and Civil Oligarchs on Colombia’s Subnational Democracy” featuring Dr. Jan Boesten as a speaker. Dr. Boesten is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Freie Universität Berlin and an Associate Member, University of Oxford.

Dr. Boesten began his talk by discussing the history of democracy and violence in Colombia. In this context, Dr. Boesten discussed the “Colombian Paradox” or “Colombian Puzzle,” which aims to explain the country’s high institutional levels and enduring democracy despite being subjected to violence by different types of armed groups, from paramilitary to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. In other words, Colombia has long been relatively advanced in democratic institutionalization while also dealing with violence. Dr. Boesten noted that the debate around violence is inherently connected to drug trafficking and cartels, since Colombia still produces around 80% of the world’s supply of cocaine. The speaker also discussed the main peace processes with the armed groups in the country,  and how these brought about organizational and political consequences.

Dr. Boesten then opened a debate over the concept of oligarchy in Colombia, a key element to explain the situation not only in this country but also as a trait of other regimes in South America and in the United States. In his view, Colombia has two forms of oligarchy: civil oligarchs or political clans or families, and warring oligarchs as armed actors that have evolved through time and exercise a local monopoly of violence. These links converge into Colombia’s subnational democracy. Paramilitary groups work particularly in rural areas and take control of territories outside of urban centers.

Finally, Dr. Boesten talked about “parapolítica,” a phenomenon that connects violence with members of the Colombian Congress, which act under threats from armed groups, resulting in the criminalization of political institutions.

The seminar concluded with questions from the participants, which included a debate over the consequences of the 2017 peace process in the current Ecuadorian security crisis and the coexistence between institutionality and violence.

【Event Report prepared by】

HANNIG NUÑEZ Sascha (Doctoral student, Graduate School of Law, Hitotsubashi University)

RAKWONG Prakrit (Doctoral student, Graduate School of Law, Hitotsubashi University)

NAKAJIMA Takahiro (Master’s student, Graduate School of Law, Hitotsubashi University)