Leadership and Democracy LabWestern Social Science

Colombia, Conflict, and the Future

Colombia, Conflict, and the Future

January 14, 2015

This article has been written with the efforts of Philip Abraham and Richard Schuett

On Wednesday, 14th January 2015, Juan Diego Castro presented to the Leadership and Democracy Lab on the current political climate in Colombia. Castro, a Western Alumnus and former student of Political Science currently works for the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, a research centre that utilizes the skills of academics to understand the conflicts that continue to impact the South American country.

Colombia is a country plagued by guerilla conflict, drug trafficking, and human rights abuses. However, Castro has pointed that many of the problems facing present day Colombia stem from La Violencia, a period of bloody conflict during the 1940s and 50s that saw the mass murders of an estimated 180 000 Colombians.

Today, Castro points out that many of the conflicts are blamed on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and other rebellion groups within the country. Yet, many of the murders that do occur (up to ninety-percent) are based on racially based tensions, which have resulted in vast amounts of internally displaced persons. This is particularly problematic for Colombia as it has the second largest number of internally displaced persons in the world, aside from the Sudan.

Gangs, the consumption of drugs, and resource extraction, have created new demands in Colombia. Castro said, “Illegal mining is a big problem in Colombia.” Many of the illegal operations in Colombia have diversified their operations by investing in resource extraction as a way to fund their illicit activities.

Castro remains optimistic though, and he hopes his research organization will expand in the future to hopefully shed light on the conflicts that are happening both in Colombia as well as other South American countries. Castro hopes that an English version will be accessible in the future so that more students can learn about the struggles and educate themselves on the issues that affect Colombians around the world. Castro proposed establishing a formal relationship with the Leadership and Democracy Lab to provide his organization with research on the risk scenarios that Colombia may face, post-conflict.

The Leadership and Democracy Lab would like to thank Castro for his research efforts and for presenting to the group on this ambitious project and look forward to working together in the future