Professor Paarlberg conducts field work in Colombia

August 19, 2019

map of Colombia

Assistant Professor Michael Paarlberg traveled to Colombia in August to do field work for a project about that country’s civil war.

Here is Prof. Paarlberg’s dispatch from Colombia:

In 2016, Colombian voters went to the polls to vote in a nationwide referendum on a recently concluded peace deal to end the 60-year civil war between the government and the FARC rebels. Voters narrowly voted it down. The peace deal eventually went through Congress anyway, but the referendum raises the question of why voters might vote against peace.

I observed the peace referendum in Colombia as an election observer with the Organization of American States. My current project hopes to answer this question so as to inform negotiators in future conflicts about potential pitfalls of the disconnect between peace processes and public opinion.

I have been collecting data from the Colombian police and other official sources on acts of violence and extortion at the municipal level. By building this database, I hope to test if and how patterns of violence and criminality by armed groups may have affected votes in the peace referendum. I will be supplementing this with site visits to communities affected by the conflict which ended up voting in opposite ways on the peace accords.