The Social Determinants of Terrorist Organizations' Resilience in Latin America


Project Details


The primary perpetrators of terrorism in the Americas are Colombian narco-terrorists and radical leftist groups in the Andes (U.S. Department of State, 2006).  In addition, U.S. officials, worry that Hezbollah and HAMAS are building bases of support among Muslim communities in the TriBorder region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. This project examined the organizational origin and development of violent/terrorist minority organizations in Latin America, in order to seek explanations for their resiliency. To this end, the research team collected and analyzed data on a range of organizational attributes for groups active in three critical countries: Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, The investigators also completed in-depth analyses of three cases in Peru, Colombia, and the TriBorder region of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. This research design also allowed for systematic comparison to rebel movements elsewhere in the world. The finished data provides information spanning several levels of analysis on those organizations most likely to employ violence and terrorism in the pursuit of their perceived grievances with local, national, or international authority structures.

Primary Findings:

Descriptive findings from a sample of Bolivia, Peru and Colombian organizations:

  • While violent organizations in Latin America are numerous there are many more organized indigenous groups that never engage in violence, suggesting that violence is not the norm. 
  • In our sample we found a strong correlation between an organization's democratic and nonviolent values.
  • We also found a strong correlation between organizations with strong ruling councils and nonviolence.
  • Our sample also revealed a strong correlation between organizations that promote gender inclusiveness and democracy.
  • Majority of organizations we examine actively use social media such as Facebook.
  • Violent organizations that are commonly thought defeated continue to demonstrate a pattern of contentious interaction with the state suggesting that reports of their demise are premature.
  • Most violent organizations in our sample did not use small-scale guerilla tactics but engaged in lower level violence. The research team will also conduct statistical analysis of the data, once final data cleaning is completed.

The research team used both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, including (1) Cross-national analysis of data on 33 organizations representing minority groups that have been active for at least three consecutive years in Colombia, Peru, or Bolivia, with variables related to organizational characteristics (including duration of organization), organization-state relations, external support for the organizations, and organizational behavior (including the use of violence); and (2) comparative case studies of organizational behavior in three distinct Latin American contexts: Peru, Colombia, and the TriBorder region of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil to identify causal factors contributing to differential behavior among organizations operating in distinct contexts. For the quantitative data collection, the team used open sources, including media accounts, academic analyses, information from the organizations themselves and other NGOs, and government reports. For the qualitative portion of the project, the research team used a variety of primary sources in studying indigenous mobilization. 


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