What is, and What is Not, Authoritarian Constitutionalism? An Analysis of Colombia’s Constitutional Limbo, 1930-1974

We provide a clear analytical framework that considers authoritarian constitutionalism as a mix of two seemingly incompatible components: a regime type commonly known for its tendency to abuse power with a centuries-old lineage of theories and practices seeking precisely to place limits on how it be used. Based on the distinction between regime type and effectiveness of institutional limits on power, we analyze the constitutional trajectory of Colombia during the intricate years between 1930 and 1974. Our analysis highlights the role of powerful actors that are required to enforce otherwise mere words on paper, such as the armed forces and the Catholic church, and their interaction with social and political forces, to understand the varying degrees of constitutional limits on the use of power across the different regimes that Colombia experienced during these years: from (limited)democracy, to civil dictatorship, to military dictatorship, and back to (limited)democracy again.