IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Ideology and Rifles: the Agrarian Origins of Civil Conflict in Colombia


  • María del Pilar López-Uribe
  • Fabio Sanchez Torres


We investigate the relationship between land dispossessions of peasants and the origin of the civil conflict in Colombia. Using a matching-pair instrumental variable approach, we show that the historical dispossession of peasants' lands by landlords that led to the rise of peasant grievances is associated with the activity of the rural guerrilla movement -Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) - during the first stage of the Colombian civil conflict ( 1964-1985). We exploit the random variation in floods to identify the effect of peasants' land dispossessions during 1914-1946 on the rise of rural guerrilla movements. Using a novel municipal-level data set, the study documents that municipalities experiencing floods b etween 1914 and 1946 were substantially more likely to experience land dispossession than municipalities that did not. Floods temporarily worsened the conditions of the land and its value, facilitating the dispossession of peasant land by large landowners. We propose two mechanisms through which previous land dispossession resulted in the emergence of rebel-armed groups. On the one hand, the ideological cohesion stemming from radical liberals and communists exacerbated the grievances and helped to shape the political objectives of the rebel armed groups. On the other hand, exposure to prior violent events gave military training, access to weapons, and military experience to the rural population, that likely emboldened the formation of rebel groups.

Suggested Citation

  • María del Pilar López-Uribe & Fabio Sanchez Torres, 2022. "Ideology and Rifles: the Agrarian Origins of Civil Conflict in Colombia," Documentos CEDE 20225, Universidad de los Andes, Facultad de Economía, CEDE.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000089:020225

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hodler, Roland & Raschky, Paul A., 2014. "Economic shocks and civil conflict at the regional level," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 124(3), pages 530-533.
    2. Grossman, Herschel I, 1999. "Kleptocracy and Revolutions," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(2), pages 267-283, April.
    3. Guardado, Jenny, 2018. "Land tenure, price shocks, and insurgency: Evidence from Peru and Colombia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 256-269.
    4. Sharma, Kishor, 2006. "The political economy of civil war in Nepal," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 34(7), pages 1237-1253, July.
    5. Christian Dippel & Robert Gold & Stephan Heblich & Rodrigo Pinto, 2017. "Instrumental Variables and Causal Mechanisms: Unpacking the Effect of Trade on Workers and Voters," CESifo Working Paper Series 6816, CESifo.
    6. Sánchez Fabio & Jairo Núñez, 2000. "La geografía y el desarrollo económico en colombia: una aproximación municipal," Revista Desarrollo y Sociedad, Universidad de los Andes,Facultad de Economía, CEDE, September.
    7. Cederman, Lars-Erik & Weidmann, Nils B. & Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede, 2011. "Horizontal Inequalities and Ethnonationalist Civil War: A Global Comparison," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 105(3), pages 478-495, August.
    8. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(3), pages 379-414, July.
    9. Weinert, Richard S., 1966. "Violence in Pre-Modern Societies: Rural Colombia," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(2), pages 340-347, June.
    10. Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler & Dominic Rohner, 2009. "Beyond greed and grievance: feasibility and civil war," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(1), pages 1-27, January.
    11. Albert Berry, 2002. "¿Colombia encontró por fin una reforma agraria que funcione?," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 4(6), pages 24-70, January-J.
    12. Vestby, Jonas & Buhaug, Halvard & von Uexkull, Nina, 2021. "Why do some poor countries see armed conflict while others do not? A dual sector approach," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 138(C).
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Clayton L. Thyne, 2006. "Cheap Signals with Costly Consequences," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 50(6), pages 937-961, December.
    2. Stefan Wolff & Simona Ross & Asbjorn Wee, 2020. "Subnational Governance and Conflict," World Bank Publications - Reports 34436, The World Bank Group.
    3. Flores Thomas Edward, 2014. "Vertical Inequality, Land Reform, and Insurgency in Colombia," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 20(1), pages 5-31, January.
    4. Kjetil Bjorvatn & Alireza Naghavi, 2010. "Rent seekers in rentier states: When greed brings peace," Center for Economic Research (RECent) 039, University of Modena and Reggio E., Dept. of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    5. Stoop, Nik & Verpoorten, Marijke & van der Windt, Peter, 2019. "Artisanal or industrial conflict minerals? Evidence from Eastern Congo," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 660-674.
    6. Faisal Z. Ahmed, 2022. "From grievances to civil war: The impact of geopolitics," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 427-451, July.
    7. Vincenzo Bove & Ron Smith, 2011. "The Economics of Peacekeeping," Chapters, in: Derek L. Braddon & Keith Hartley (ed.), Handbook on the Economics of Conflict, chapter 10, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Rohner, Dominic & Esteban, Joan & Flamand, Sabine & Morelli, Massimo, 2018. "A Dynamic Theory of Secession," CEPR Discussion Papers 12398, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Herschel I. Grossman, 2003. "...and six hundred thousand men were dead," Working Papers 2003-13, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    10. Sunde, Uwe & Cervellati, Matteo & Esposito, Elena & Valmori, Simona, 2016. "Malaria Risk and Civil Violence," CEPR Discussion Papers 11496, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Tommaso Sonno, 2020. "Globalization and conflicts: the good, the bad and the ugly of corporations in Africa," CEP Discussion Papers dp1670, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    12. Bodea, Cristina & Higashijima, Masaaki & Singh, Raju Jan, 2016. "Oil and Civil Conflict: Can Public Spending Have a Mitigation Effect?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 1-12.
    13. Joan-Maria Esteban & Sabine Flamand & Massimo Morelli & Dominic Rohner, 2018. "The Survival and Demise of the State: A Dynamic Theory of Secession," Working Papers 1028, Barcelona School of Economics.
    14. Massimo Morelli & Dominic Rohner, 2010. "Natural Resource Distribution and Multiple Forms of Civil War," HiCN Working Papers 80, Households in Conflict Network.
    15. David Siroky & Carolyn M. Warner & Gabrielle Filip-Crawford & Anna Berlin & Steven L. Neuberg, 2020. "Grievances and rebellion: Comparing relative deprivation and horizontal inequality," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 37(6), pages 694-715, November.
    16. Yuri M. Zhukov, 2014. "Theory of Indiscriminate Violence," Working Paper 365551, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    17. Morelli, Massimo & Rohner, Dominic, 2015. "Resource concentration and civil wars," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 32-47.
    18. Skali, Ahmed, 2017. "Moralizing gods and armed conflict," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 184-198.
    19. Christopher Blattman & Edward Miguel, 2010. "Civil War," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(1), pages 3-57, March.
    20. Caroline T. Witte & Martijn J. Burger & Elena Ianchovichina, 2020. "Subjective Well‐Being and Peaceful Uprisings," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 73(1), pages 120-158, February.

    More about this item


    Land reform; Land Conflict; Property Rights; Weather shocks; Civil Conflict.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N46 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • N56 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:col:000089:020225. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Universidad De Los Andes-Cede (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.