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Electing Displacement: Political Cleansing in Apartadó, Colombia

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  • Abbey Steele

    () (Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University)

Abstract

This article highlights a nefarious effect of elections during civil wars by demonstrating that they can facilitate the displacement of civilians. This occurs through two main mechanisms: they reveal information about civilians' loyalties directly to armed groups; and they threaten the status quo of local elites' power, motivating them to ally with outside armed groups in order to regain it. Armed groups strategically displace civilians identified as "disloyal" in order to gain control over a territory. I test implications of the argument with original, micro-level quantitative and qualitative data from northwest Colombia. Using voter censuses and disaggregated electoral returns in the 1990s, I show that residents in urban neighbourhoods that supported the insurgent-backed political party, the Patriotic Union (UP), were more likely to leave the city of Apartadó than neighbors in other districts. However, residents of the nearby rural communities that supported the UP were the least likely to leave. I trace the patterns of violence across the communities using local archival materials and interviews to assess how well the argument accounts for the variation observed, and to explore the unexpected outcome in the rural area. While I find that counterinsurgents attempted strategic displacement in both the city and the mountains, they only succeeded in the urban areas because residents of the rural hamlets were uniquely able to overcome the collective action problem that strategic displacement generates. The findings demonstrate that political identities are relevant for patterns of violence, and that political cleansing resembles ethnic cleansing.

Suggested Citation

  • Abbey Steele, 2011. "Electing Displacement: Political Cleansing in Apartadó, Colombia," HiCN Working Papers 96, Households in Conflict Network.
  • Handle: RePEc:hic:wpaper:96
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    Cited by:

    1. Mary Kaldor, 2016. "How Peace Agreements Undermine the Rule of Law in New War Settings," Global Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 7(2), pages 146-155, May.
    2. Juan Carlos Munoz Mora & José Antonio Fortou & Sandra L Johansson & Jorge Giraldo-Ramirez, 2015. "This land is My Land: Understanding the Relationship between Armed Conflict and Land in Uraba, Colombia," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2015-17, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    3. Iván Higuera-Mendieta, 2017. "Control armado y comportamiento electoral: Un cuasi-experimento en el Caguán," DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO SOBRE ECONOMÍA REGIONAL Y URBANA 015623, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA - ECONOMÍA REGIONAL.
    4. Laia Balcells & Abbey Steele, 2012. "Warfare, Political Identities, and Displacement in Spain and Colombia," HiCN Working Papers 124, Households in Conflict Network.
    5. Leopoldo Fergusson & Pablo Querubín & Nelson A. Ruiz & Juan F. Vargas, 2017. "The Real Winner's Curse," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 015279, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.

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