Bases, Bullets and Ballots: The Effect of U.S. Military Aid on Political Conflict in Colombia

47 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2010

See all articles by Oeindrila Dube

Oeindrila Dube

University of Chicago - Harris Public Policy

Suresh Naidu

Columbia University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 4, 2010


Does foreign military assistance strengthen or further weaken fragile states facing internal conflict? We address this question by estimating how U.S. military aid affects violence and electoral participation in Colombia. We exploit the allocation of U.S. military aid to Colombian military bases, and compare how aid affects municipalities with and without bases. Using detailed political violence data, we find that U.S. military aid leads to differential increases in attacks by paramilitaries (who collude with the military), but has no effect on guerilla attacks. Aid increases also result in more paramilitary (but not guerrilla) homicides during election years. Moreover, when military aid rises, voter turnout falls more in base municipalities, especially those that are politically contested.

Our results are robust to an instrument based on worldwide increases in U.S. military aid (excluding Latin America). The findings suggest that foreign military assistance may strengthen armed non-state actors, undermining domestic political institutions.

Keywords: Military Aid, Conflict, democracy, Elections

Suggested Citation

Dube, Oeindrila and Naidu, Suresh, Bases, Bullets and Ballots: The Effect of U.S. Military Aid on Political Conflict in Colombia (January 4, 2010). Center for Global Development Working Paper No. 197. Available at SSRN: or

Oeindrila Dube (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Harris Public Policy ( email )

1155 E 60th St
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Suresh Naidu

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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