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Research Report

Path to Peace and Prosperity: The Colombian Miracle

Miguel Silva
Copyright Date: Nov. 1, 2015
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 22
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-1)

    The Colombia of today would have been nearly impossible to imagine at the turn of the century. But its transformations are real and are a lesson for what is possible when consensus is made a national priority. Numbers only begin to tell the story. From 2000 to 2010, Colombia multiplied its gross domestic product (GDP) fourfold¹ and moved up seven positions on the International Monetary Fund’s list of countries by GDP size—from thirty-nine to thirty-two.² An economy that for most of the twentieth century was heavily dependent on coffee exports³ and a backward import substitution industrialization model started to...

  2. (pp. 2-3)

    Although peace is potentially closer than ever, Colombia is still home to the world’s longest armed conflict. Its origins stretch to the mid-1960s, but the initial catalyst dates back to the 1948 assassination of Liberal caudillo Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. This unleashed “La Violencia”—two decades in which Liberal and Conservative party members killed one another in a struggle for political power. The two parties finally agreed in 1958 to alternate the presidency every four years and equally divide all other governmental positions. However, as was the case in many Latin American countries, left-wing guerilla groups—including the Revolutionary Armed Forces...

  3. (pp. 4-6)

    In a country with profound inequalities, constitutional changes and success in the security realm alone could not provide long-term political accord. Indeed, the consensus that brought together disparate public- and private-sector leaders did not end with constitutional changes and security.

    A major political and social effort was needed to extend the social improvements that are critical to today’s Colombian miracle. The country is now a leader in improving access to basic public and health care services, reducing poverty levels, increasing infrastructure investments, and bringing in direct foreign investment.

    In the early 1990s, Colombia faced serious challenges in terms of health...

  4. (pp. 7-11)

    Much of what Colombia has achieved throughout the past two and a half decades is due to consensus—sometimes explicit and other times implicit—about what had to be done. Here lies the key to what some call the Colombian miracle.

    Today, however, major political, social, and economic pressures are stressing the very consensus that brought Colombia so much progress. Without renewed political agreement regarding the country’s direction, Colombia could enter an era of polarization and division that would make further change difficult and slow the country’s transformation. This process has already started.

    Security was restored and other critical institutional...