A Shift in the Paradigm of Violence: Non-Governmental Terrorism in Latin America since the End of the Cold War
journal contributionposted on 01.04.2021, 19:09 by Andreas Feldmann
While non-state terrorism has grown substantially in many parts of the world since the mid 1990s, in Latin America, the insurgent continent par excellence, where radical non-state actors at both ends of the political spectrum have historically resorted to terror to attain political goals, this scourge has dwindled. Drawing on the seminal work of Timothy Wickham-Crowley, this article posits that this baffling trend can be explained as a result of a shift in the cultural repertoires of Latin American revolutionary and other anti-systemic groups in the 1990s. The traumatic experiences associated with authoritarian backlash and repression; a more pragmatic attitude that values democracy, accommodation, and dialogue as political strategies; and the rejection by vast sectors of the population of wanton violence as a tool to attain political objectives have subtracted terror from the range of activities (stock) of collective action of former and new radical groups. Groups fighting for change have thus internalized that terror ultimately constitutes an ineffectual and de-legitimized strategy. Colombia constitutes the exception to this regional trend. There, it is argued, terror is widely used as and informed by the perverse logic of armed conflict, whereby armed parties deliberately target civilians to advance military and political objectives.