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Acero, Camilo and Thomson, Frances (2022) '‘Everything peasants do is illegal’: Colombian coca growers’ everyday experiences of law enforcement and its impacts on state legitimacy.' Third World Quarterly, 43 (11). pp. 2674-2692.

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For decades, Colombian governments have imposed a narrative linking illegal crops with statelessness and presenting ‘more state’ and specifically ‘more law enforcement’ as the solution to a swathe of problems in drug-producing regions. We draw on coca growers’ own accounts of law enforcement to critique this narrative. Their accounts – specifically from Putumayo in Colombia’s Amazonian frontier – refer to persecution for many of the things they do in their everyday lives, not just those directly related to the coca economy. Their livelihoods are constantly under threat from state forces as a result of counternarcotics operations but also due to the imposition of (phyto)sanitary and environmental norms. This generates resentment towards the state, undermining its efforts to establish authority in these territories. Thus, building on coca farmers’ accounts, we argue that state weakness in drug-producing areas is a problem of quality and not only quantity. Improving quality means transforming the way lawmakers and enforcers relate to rural citizens. If the Colombian state continues to wage war against the peasantry, it will hardly achieve effective governance of the coca frontier.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: law enforcement; state legitimacy; counternarcotics; coca; peasants; phytosanitary norms
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Development Studies
ISSN: 01436597
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2022 18:07
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council

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