Landing Peace: Rural-Poor Mobilization and Land Redistribution in Civil War Political Transitions (El Salvador and Guatemala)

Kellogg Institute Graduate Research Grants
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While political transitions are commonly understood as opportunities for the inclusion of previously marginalized groups into the political sphere, they also serve to reconfigure patterns of wealth distribution. Between 1990 and 2021, 42 out of 84 civil war negotiated settlements address land reform. Under which conditions is wealth redistribution forged from below in civil war political transitions? I argue that the strength of insurgent and rural-poor collective action primarily drives land redistribution in civil war political transitions. Land reform in peace settlements hinges on the strength of mobilization to render redistribution as a credible threat to stability or as a liberal normative value endorsed by outsider allies. Then, land allocation occurs through the incorporation of marginalized actors, allowing for systematic influence over policymaking. I probe my argument through a comparative analysis of two major Colombian cases (e.g., 1982-2002 and 2012-2022), and two shadow-case comparison between El Salvador and Guatemala.