Was the Colombian peace deal so wonderful?

It seems to be increasingly unpopular with the Colombian electorate, and now there is this report:

Hundreds of Colombian farmers, activists, and community organisers have been killed over the past 18 months, despite the landmark peace deal that supposedly ended 52 years of war. For them, and for local leaders in the former conflict zones, the war – which left an estimated 220,000 dead and seven million displaced over five decades – didn’t end: it only became worse.

“Whenever we hear talk of peace, we worry,” says Anadelia Trochez, 43, president of the community council in El Ceral, a village in the Cauca Valley, the most productive coca-growing area in the country. “Out here, that usually means more trouble.”

Of course that is not the final word, but the evidence increasingly suggests it is a perspective to be taken seriously.  I recall how many outsiders swooned when the initial Colombian peace deal was first announced, and how tragic they considered it when the Colombian electorate rejected the first version of the deal.  Critics of the deal were considered warmongers.  Those are classic signs of mood affiliation.

The pointer is from Tom Murphy.


Most Latin American countries have high murder rates. Colombia's no exception to this rule. It's just a great deal safer than it was 15 years ago. You want better, you need to build institutions - police, courts, prisons. Libertarians don't contribute to such efforts, or acknowledge they are necessary.

"Libertarians don't contribute to such efforts, or acknowledge they are necessary."


No, true.

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You might want to end the endless drug wars, too.


Such a surprise that life in a third-world drug-ridden s***-hole did not drastically improve after a piece of paper was written on.

Maybe they should legalize drugs? All the smart people are insisting that it's going to make life in the USA wonderful. Why don't they try it?

File this under "articles that never would have been written if that drunken woman had won the 2016 election like she was supposed to."

Legalization wouldn't help because the cocaine is for export, and other countries would insist that Columbia prevent exportation or face serious consequences

What are you talking about?

The intentional homicide rate in Colombia has declined by 60% in the last 15 years per the World Bank. It was once one of the most disorderly countries in Latin America but is now only 15% north of the Latin American mean.

I'm sure I will regret asking this question on MR, but why does Chile seem to do so well, relative to other countries in Latin America? Is it due to institutions, geography, culture, "other"...?

Copper mines.

Surely the conspicuous absence of the third world economic populism that usually plagues Latam countries has *something* to do with it.

Venezuela has the world's biggest oil reserves by far and that hasn't prevented its complete economic collapse, yes? Sure, oil prices did collapse - but so did copper prices, and Chile didn't crash and burn nowhere near as hard as neighbouring Brazil/Argentina/Venezuela.

Chile's tax burden and tariffs go at about half the rate of my own Brazil. It does a number of things right besides just having a lot of copper.

Chile and Panama are the two most affluent countries in Latin America. Copper usually accounts for about 1/2 the value of Chile's merchandise exports. However, copper exports currently account for perhaps 12% of Chile's nominal gdp. Even deducting the copper sector, Chile retains an advantage over every Latin American country except Panama and Uruguay.

Chile also has an advantage in public order. Its normal homicide rate has been 1/3 of that of Panama in recent years and 1/2 of that of Uruguay. It's also about 40% lower than that of the U.S. and 85% below the Latin American mean. Copper doesn't do that for you.

Chile has been dealing with the matter of government death squads to eliminate political opponents representing the people.

Colombia had access to markets so the political opposition being targeted by government death squads could get coca from the people, turn it into paste and trade it for supplies and guns and ammo to kill the death squads, or more likely, the politicians who ordered the hits. The tit for tat escalated with the US funding both sides with ever more money, the US funding more death squads, the US buying more cocaine.

The peace deal is, or was, based on crimes by both sides being forgiven.

If rebels are to be punished, then current pols, judges, police need to be punished as well.

Or, both sides can return to tit for tat killings.

The drug business has a long value chain outside the country that wants the drug production inside Colombia continued. And the government has not held up its end of the deal, so some see going back to producing drugs and resuming the war to be a better future.

After the US civil war there were large factions who were unhappy with the peace. Violence continued, but for the most part the peace was maintained, and General Lee, for example, not hanged, as many thought he deserved. And rebels killed many who were on the union side, especially blacks. Justice was not done, for acts before the war end, and often for acts after. But the peace held.

Wars can continue for generations. Afghanistan has been at war continuously since at least the 70s. At various points the war lords held more territory, the Taliban at other times, and for the past dozen years the war lords have become respectable and no longer kill each other, but instead negotiate political power, but always with the threat of returning to violence. The Taliban has been at continuous war since at least the 80s, and the hope is to get a peace where they join the government, just like the promise of the Colombia peace deal.

The US played significant roles in expanding the killings in both Afghanistan and Colombia back in the 80s.

"why does Chile seem to do so well ... Is it due to institutions, geography, culture, 'other'...?"

Other. Pinochet heard the gospel according to Milton Friedman.


Yet they elected a Socialist not long ago. I love it when countries don't fit the usual categories.

Ray Hsu - June 21, 2018 at 4:14 pm 8

I'm sure I will regret asking this question on MR,

I am sure you will! But let me say the obvious - Chile is about 60% White. It is about 33% mestizo with a tiny percentage of Native Americans. Colombia is not really that White - there is little point even separating the mestizos from the Whites. But informally it is about 50% mestizo, about 33% White, and about 10% Black.

Violence in Latin America does seem to track closely with race.

'there is little point even separating the mestizos from the Whites'

You don't know any South Americans, do you? Because at least the ones I have known would consider your hard left position the sort of thing expected from people unwilling to talk honestly about race.

As long as the Drug War in the US (and other countries) exists, it’s difficult to imagine how violence in drug growing areas like Colombia will significantly diminish. The “peace” settlement could only be a truce that is obviously being broken more often than not. There will always be someone new to step into the black market here and there. Any resistance will be met with violence. It’s simple economics.

As long as the Drug War in the US (and other countries) exists, it’s difficult to imagine how violence in drug growing areas like Colombia will significantly diminish.

Columbia's homicide rate has declined by 60% in the last 15 years.

Memo to Mr. Anonymous above. Mr. McNeill is providing you the bog standard libertarian response to public order problems. Would wager has a macro which spits these sentences out with just a keystroke or two.

Good move changing your handle, Art.

LOL. Nope, just looking at the current level of violence per the article. It's great that FARC decided to drop their weapons, but obviously someone else decided to step in to supply the same drugs. I'm not sure why common sense that violence is bred by supplying illegal drugs is "bog standard libertarian". You might consider explaining that to the families of the 43 missing students in Mexico who were killed by drug traffickers. Not to mention families of the others who are being killed at increasing rates from the drug supply trade from Mexico to US:

They might disagree.

I'm trying to think of what following Tom Murphy would signal and I can't come up with anything positive.

Also barely anyone in that comment section even talked about the Colombia deal. Straussian take being I guess that Cowen just wanted to link to another place where he bragged about his Coasean magnanimity.

"People here trusted the FARC because they kept law and order," she explains. "Sure, it wasn't a perfect system, but at least it was predictable. Since they disarmed, there've been more robberies, more drugs, and no one is able to put a stop to all the violence against social leaders."

Just goes to show the deal was too harsh on the communists. Perhaps instead of requiring them to disarm, they should have been made the official government of the territory they already controlled, with the backing of the law to maintain the peace.

Pres. Pastrana tried that in 1998-2002. It was a disaster.

I think it's a reasonable wager the reporter is a willing tool of the FARC Pr apparat, and the quotes are cherry-picked.

The Castillian will always be Castillianos.

So when you hear “war” or “crackdown” things are going well? Calderon in Mexico tried the hardline approach and things went from bad to worse quick. I don’t understand what people want?

If I recall correctly, the deal was rejected in a referendum that was necessary to approve it. So the deal was never really fully consummated and approved. This might have something to do with its unpopularity and ineffectual character.

The deal was initially rejected by the referendum but after the government amended it they passed it through the legislative body so the deal is in full force. The supreme court also upheld the agreement passed by the congress. Though it was an unpopular move and one reason why Santos has such low approval ratings. Also probably a big factor as to why Duque just won the presidency

A key thing to remember is that the uptick in violence has come as a result of FARC disarming as required by the agreement and thus opening up a vacuum to be filled by criminals.

Or more likely a lot of former FARC soldiers taking care of their retirements now their pension plan has gone belly up.

Or some go getter free market types are looking at a major market opportunity, and employing the sort of labor they need to keep their profit margins up.

You almost are right. Violence has decreases globally as a result of the peace deal, but has increased locally in areas previously controlled by FARC - the signatory of the peace deal. Colombia's civil war have many factions, the peace deal was only with the largest rebel one.

Tyler's catching up to the reality of the non-U.S. world that Noam Chomsky has called attention to for the last 50+ years or so.
Facts and reality do matter. Tyler is to be congratulated on this cite, which is, nonetheless, trivial to those who do their homework or copy the homework that Chomsky has so ably accomplished.

Those deaths are in fact a consequence of the peace deal working. The peace deal was with FARC, a leftist guerilla, which left a huge power vacuum in the places it used to control. The government was unable to completely secure those places, so right right-wing paramilitaries and drug cartels have been killing left-wing activists, farmers, and community leaders.

Most of the opposition to the peace deal has always been pure tribalism: conservatives screaming about communism.

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