Rights in the Time of Populism: Land and Institutional Change Amid the Reemergence of Right-Wing Authoritarianism in Colombia

Sergio Coronado

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13 Citations (Scopus)
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: In Colombia, right-wing leadership returned to power after winning the presidential
elections in 2018 in a campaign in which they opposed the previous government, primarily
because of the negotiations and peacemaking with the FARC-EP (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias
de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo ‘Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia—People’s Army’),
Colombia’s largest guerrilla organization. Globally, there is a vibrant academic debate about how
to characterize the current rise of right-wing populism or authoritarianism, but more profound
insights from each country’s situation and its political economy implications are needed. The victory
in Colombia was due to numerous factors, including the support from some rural elites who
have historically obstructed the enforcement of redistributive land policies. However, the populist
aspirations of the right-wing government have been persistently frustrated not only by social unrest
and political mobilization but also because of the enforcement of institutions previously incorporated
into the country’s political scenario. Specifically, in terms of agrarian political economy, two sets of
human rights-oriented institutional changes are relevant regarding this matter: (a) the Land Restitution
Law enacted in 2011 and (b) the Comprehensive Rural Reform contained in the Agrarian Chapter
of the Peace Agreement between the national government and the FARC-EP in 2016. The purpose
of this paper is to ground the ongoing theoretical and political debate about the rise of different
forms of populism and right-wing authoritarianism in the current Colombian political context, and
its implications on the countryside. The analytical contribution of this paper is twofold: On the one
hand, I propose an alternative for explaining the nature of the current political regime in Colombia as
right-wing authoritarianism; on the other hand, I analyze some features of such regimes in terms of
its disputes with the enforcement of human rights-oriented institutions, that are in force as the result
of political processes triggered by peasants’ mobilization.
Original languageEnglish
Article number119
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding: This research on which this paper is based is possible thanks to the scholarship granted by “Brot für
die Welt” for doing my PhD Research in Social and Political Sciences at the Freie Universität-Berlin (2017–2021).
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of
any correspondent institution.

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