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Transnational networks of insurgency and crime: explaining the spread of the revolutionary armed forces of Colombia beyond national borders.

Palma, Oscar (2013) Transnational networks of insurgency and crime: explaining the spread of the revolutionary armed forces of Colombia beyond national borders. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Through official and academic circles a particular understanding of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had spread: an almost devastated terrorist group whose interests in profiting from drug trafficking clouded its political objectives. Its transnational networks were either underestimated, perceiving they didn’t offer much to the organization; or overestimated, believing that every Latin American agent on the Left of the political spectrum was part of a conspiracy against the Colombian state. The dissertation proposes a different narrative to explain the importance of transnational networks and structures, especially how they may serve as a base for FARC to survive. The Colombian insurgency is here addressed as a typical case of a kind of organization in which political and criminal interests are blended. It further develops the concept of ‘commercial insurgencies’, opposing a vision of the insurgency as a monolithic entity, to explain it as a system of interconnected individuals with diverse functions and interests who constitute its three dimensions: political, military and criminal. It is here argued that commercial insurgencies exploit specific elements through the environment to embed its nodes beyond the borders of a single state. These include sympathy from individuals, support from national governments, connections with political and social organizations, alliances with armed actors, the exploitation of empty spaces, and the secretive placement of nodes. Common single-variable explanations to the embedment of insurgents, such as support from a foreign allied government, are insufficient as an objective account of this phenomenon. Furthermore, given certain environmental processes, survival of insurgency elements may contribute to the reconstitution and re-emergence of the organization. In this sense the challenge of the counterinsurgent is two-fold: the insurgency is multidimensional, and it tends to be transnational. Consequently, for an offensive to be successful it needs to address all the dimensions simultaneously and to control the effects of elements existing beyond borders.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Oscar Palma
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Coker, Christopher

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