Caudillos and the crisis of the Colombian State: Fragmented sovereignty, the war system and the privatisation of counterinsurgency in Colombia

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This article examines the rise of private militias within the historical context of the crisis of the Colombian nation-state. Taking a political economy approach, the paper attempts to assess the consequences of the emergence of the United Auto Defenses of Colombia (auc) for the country's political trajectory. It argues that the auc and the narco-bourgeoisie have created a new 'reactionary class configuration' that has regenerated a 'labour-repressive' mode of capital accumulation best characterised as a rentier-based political economy. Hence the counterinsurgency in Colombia is not the typical military instrument of the state, but rather an instrument for class articulation and socioeconomic and political transformation beyond the state. Although these transformations were consistent with the neoliberal economic path that the Colombian government had adopted in earnest by the late 1980s, they also deepened the political crisis of the state and accentuated 'fragmented sovereignty' and the 'war system'. Finally, this article sheds light on the social class composition of the auc and on the insurgency led by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (farc), revealing the social class differences between the two main warring actors.

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Third World Quarterly

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