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Colombia's increasingly effective efforts to mitigate the power of the FARC and other illegitimately armed groups in the country can offer important lessons for the Peruvian government as it strives to prevent a resurgence of Sendero Luminoso and other illegal non-state actors. Both countries share certain particular challenges: deep economic, social, and in the case of Peru ethnic divisions, the presence of and/or the effects of violent insurgencies, a large-scale narcotics production and trafficking, and a history of weak state presence in large tracts of isolated and scarcely-populated areas. Important differences exist, however in the nature of the insurgencies in the two countries, the government response to them and the nature of government and society that affects the applicability of Colombia's experience to Peru.

The security threat to Panama from drug trafficking and Colombian insurgents --often a linked phenomenon-- are in many ways different from the drug/insurgent factor in Colombia itself and in Peru, although there are similar variables. Unlike the Colombian and Peruvian cases, the security threat in Panama is not directed against the state, there are no domestic elements seeking to overthrow the government -- as the case of the FARC and Sendero Luminoso, security problems have not spilled over from rural to urban areas in Panama, and there is no ideological component at play in driving the threat. Nor is drug cultivation a major factor in Panama as it is in Colombia and Peru.

The key variable that is shared among all three cases is the threat of extra-state actors controlling remote rural areas or small towns where state presence is minimal. The central lesson learned from Colombia is the need to define and then address the key problem of a "sovereignity gap," lack of legitimate state presence in many part of the country.

Colombia's success in broadening the presence of the national government between 2002 and the presence is owed to many factors, including an effective national strategy, improvements in the armed forces and police, political will on the part of government for a sustained effort, citizen buy-in to the national strategy, including the resolve of the elite to pay more in taxes to bring change about, and the adoption of a sequenced approach to consolidated development in conflicted areas. Control of territory and effective state presence improved citizen security, strengthened confidence in democracy and the legitimate state, promoted economic development, and helped mitigate the effect of illegal drugs.

Peru can benefit from the Colombian experience especially in terms of the importance of legitimate state authority, improved institutions, gaining the support of local citizens, and furthering development to wean communities away from drugs. State coordinated "integration" efforts in Peru as practiced in Colombia have the potential for success if properly calibrated to Peruvian reality, coordinated within government, and provided with sufficient resources. Peru's traditionally weak political institutions and lack of public confidence in the state in many areas of the country must be overcome if this effort is to be successful.


The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this report (paper) are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as an official Department of the Army position, policy or decision unless so designated by the official documentation.

Funded by the National Defense Center for Energy and Environment (NDCEE), ID W91WAW-09-D-0022, delivery order number 0616.



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