Working Paper
Local Government, Taxes, and Guns

Successful 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.