Book Chapter
Of Guns, Ideas and Taxes

Understanding the Political Logic of Violence-Reducing Policy Innovation in Three Colombian Cities

This paper evaluates transformative policy innovations with respect to security and taxation in the three main Colombian cities: Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali. In the first two, such policies were associated with huge success. Elsewhere we (Gutiérrez et al. 2009) have tagged these transformation processes as ‘urban/metropolitan miracles’. The term comes from the fact that both common citizens and pundits considered these to be extremely unlikely, that they were fast, and that they were large-scale. We argue, that the success of Bogotá and Medellín was the result of a set of institutional underpinnings basically related to the 1991 constitution; the opening of a window of opportunity for new political actors; and, as a result, the formation of a new government coalition and ‘governance formula’. Anti-particularism was a language related to political demands—linked organically with the pro-1991 constitution movement—which became effective because it matched the crucial strategic concerns of heterogeneous constituencies with respect to security and state-building. It was the cement holding together the coalitions that allowed large-scale urban transformation, and it tamed the opposition of the rich because it was issued as the solution their (and everyone else’s) collective action problems.