CSRC Working Paper 44

Politics and Security in Three Colombian Cities
Working Paper No : 44 (series 2)
Author(s) : Francisco Gutierrez-Sanin, Maria Teresa Pinto, Juan Carlos Arenas, Tania
uzman, Maria Teresa Gutierrez
Date : March 2009

This paper discusses the 'metropolitan miracle' that has taken place in Colombia since the early 1990s and which consists of the radical improvement of security in two of Colombia's major cities (Bogota and Medellin) - an improvement that experts considered highly unlikely. This phenomenon has been described, but not explained, and the authors suggest that the explanation lies in politics: coalitions, organisations and state-building. The paper claims that the 'miracle' was able to take place because a new, heterogeneous, governing coalition came to power which had a strong enough incentive to disentangle itself from the dynamics of the private provision of security. Moreover, the miracle was more likely to occur in very large cities since in Latin America in general - and in Colombia in particular - it is only in the metropolis that the middle classes have substantial power.