Transnational Insurgents: Evidence from Colombia’s FARC at the Border with Chávez’s Venezuela
Does access to foreign territory increase conflict?
More than half of insurgent groups since the end of World War II have operated across international borders, but these transnational insurgent activities are seldom observable and little is known about their consequences. The election of Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 1998, a well-known sympathizer of the insurgent groups in neighboring Colombia, provides a natural experiment to study the effects of increased access to foreign territory on insurgent activity and conflict intensity. Martinez shows that activity by the Colombian insurgent group FARC increased disproportionately in Colombian municipalities next to the border with Venezuela (relative to the rest of the country) after Hugo Chávez became president of the latter. He argues that this finding is consistent with increased FARC presence in Venezuela during the Chávez administration, given that the military and transport technologies employed by the insurgents severely constrained the area in which a safe haven across the border allowed them to expand their operations. The results indicate that exposure to a cross-border guerrilla sanctuary leads to large increases in the intensity of violence, as well as to reductions in local tax revenue and educational enrollment.
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