Criminal organizations territorial control and violence against civilians

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för freds- och konfliktforskning

Abstract: Criminal organizations have been commonly associated with violence and disorder. Despite there being truth in that, what is more concerning is their growing influence. Criminal violence has exceeded traditional forms of political violence in the world. In the wake of the signing of the Peace Accord on November 26, 2016, between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — People’s Army, the disarmament and demobilization process created an institutional and security vacuum in rural regions of Colombia. These rural regions currently experience partial peace, with violence levels peaking under the competition of criminal organizations and other non-state armed groups to govern abandoned territories and communities over the pursuit of illicit markets and trade routes. This study focuses on a more profound understanding of the micro-dynamics between criminal organizations territorial control, governance, and its effects on violence against civilians in rural and post-conflict contexts. This thesis contributes to this research gap by asking why do criminal organizations territorial control affect violence against civilians? Through a qualitative study using the method of structured focused comparison and selecting a most similar research design, the period of study covers September 1, 2017, to June 30, 2022. The municipalities selected were Tarazá and Zaragoza, in the department of Antioquia. The findings seem to suggest that it is more likely that a criminal organization that has or in this case the Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia that progressively achieved segmented territorial control would have the incentives to monopolize all functions of governance and to their capacity establish a public goods-based legitimacy governance system reducing the cost of social control and criminal violence against civilians in Tarazá and Zaragoza. 

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