Greed and grievance?: why did FARC-EP leadership become involved in the illicit trades of coca-cocaine and money laundering?

Date
2014
Authors
Cooper, Paul R.
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Abstract

Starting from the late 1970s the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia- People's Army (FARC-EP) became involved with trades in illicit narcotics and money laundering. Some scholars argue this change of behavior by the FARC-EP shifted it from an ideological and grievance-based insurgency to a greed-based insurgency. Other scholars assert that the FARC-EP is still a grievance and ideological organization. I focus this research on the FARC-EP leadership (FUECC) and I hypothesize it is mostly operating along grievance and ideological lines. I ask why did the FARC-EP leadership, become involved in the illicit trades of coca-cocaine and money laundering? I address this question by applying Charles Tilly's theories of State Formation and War-Making to empirical data demonstrating FARCs actions and rhetoric are mostly consistent with each other. To add to this research I employ a range of literature in addition to interviews and press releases. This qualitative, temporal case study finds that FARCs behavioral changes over a period of several decades were necessary due to its initial mobilization and eventual escalation of conflict. U.S. and Colombian law enforcement, military and paramilitary operations, as well as its substantial and growing profits gained from the lucrative narcotics trade played significant parts in affecting FARC's behavior. This research demonstrates FARCs actions are the result of a complex relationship between the FARC, it's environment, other actors, as well as social, political and economic events. By applying Charles Tilly's theories to deepen and enrich our understanding of the FARC, I argue it became a legitimate parastate working in rivalry against the Colombian nation-state. Because of these findings, I press for a reexamination of how we analyze and define insurgencies like the FARC.

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Keywords
Civil War, Conflict, Guerrilla Warfare, Insurgency, Insurrection, Terrorism
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Department
Political Science and Geography