Most accounts of civil war are bounded by a dyadic conceptualization of conflict. Unfortunately, such an approach offers limited leverage to understand conflicts characterized by multiple actors. By extending prominent theories of territorial competition and natural resources, this work claims that violence depends not only on the number of armed actors, but also on their kind. By focusing on Colombia, the study disaggregates the violent behavior of 30 different armed actors between 1988 and 2014, including government authorities, guerrilla organizations, paramilitary groups, and criminal syndicates. The identification strategy relies on the presumably exogenous price shocks of coca, oil, and coffee to explain the violent presence of different armed actors, and their subsequent effect on the number of homicides. Results show that different commodities have distinct effects on the behavior of rent-seeking and support-seeking armed actors, and the resulting multi-polar configurations of conflict increase the levels of violence in different magnitudes.
Javier Osorio, a former Kellogg PhD Fellow and Notre Dame PhD, is assistant professor of political science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. His research interests are located at the intersection of political violence, quantitative research methods, and natural language processing. In particular, his academic agenda is focused on understanding the causes and consequences of organized criminal violence in Latin America with a special emphasis on Mexico.
To conduct his research, Osorio co-developed Eventus ID, a software for automated coding of event data from text written in Spanish. Recent extensions of the program are capable of coding text written in French, Portuguese, and Russian. This software is used to create massive databases of violent behavior by extracting information from newspapers in their native language.
For more information, visit Kellogg Institute for International Studies.