CSRC Briefing Paper 8

Title : Challenging the 'Criminal Rebel' thesis
Date : May 2003

Abstract : Based on Working Paper no.27 by Francisco Gutierrez Sanin, "Criminal Rebels? A discussion of war and criminality from the Colombian Experience". It is intended to provide a summary of the principal findings and an indication of the implications these may have for debates over policy.

The Colombian conflict seems to be a typical instance of a 'greedy war', and exhibits very strong links between criminal activities and rebel organisations. Against this, Gutierrrez suggests that not even in Colombia does Collier?s 'criminal rebels' thesis hold, with the Colombian case showing that criminality and war mix in ways that escape a strictly economic interpretation of war. Analysing the experience of the two leading Colombian guerrilla armies (FARC and ELN), he demonstrates the need for a different framework for the understanding of wars waged by non- (or not strictly) materialistic soldiers.