Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
Author: Josh Valdez
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, most commonly known as FARC, have been active since 1964 where it started as a guerrilla movement. It was formed during the Cold War promoting equality within rural and urban societies as well as anti-imperialism. FARC has been largely funded over the years by kidnapping for a ransom, drug trade, and illegal mining. They continue to live within the spirit of Che Guevara demanding equality between the classes. FARC claims to at least 18,000 members. However, the Colombian military has estimated 13,800 active committed members where the military actively pursues this group through miles of jungle and mountainous terrain both northern and southern parts of Colombia. (Mercado, 2013)
Many of the tactics this group uses are classified as terrorist tactics meaning that their objective is to instill fear not only in the Colombian government, but also in its citizens. FARC from the start has kidnaped hundreds of military and police personal to be a bargaining token in a prisoner exchange if need be, as well as kidnapped thousands of citizens to be held for ransom and or then recruited to the cause. Lately in 2012, FARC has shifted more toward attacking energy infrastructures throughout the country as well as used hit and run tactics that we see very common in guerrilla based terrorist groups. This group has seeks to not have direct contact with the Colombian military, but will frequently “attack police patrols with home-made mortars, sniper rifles, and explosives, as they are not considered strong enough to engage police units directly” (Caracol Radio, 2013).
During the 1990-2000s, the public would live in constant fear of FARC. Being the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC portrayed themselves as a “people’s army”. 20-30% of their recruitment was toward minors and even forcing children of current members to become soldiers. This created a division between the citizens of Colombia, many who felt as if the government was too powerful and wealthy shifted to joining the cause. Many citizens who were uncertain about the movement, but once kidnappings of citizens and also destruction of cocoa fields caused by FARC, the majority of the citizens of Colombia pushed to stop this active terrorist group (Human Rights Watch, 2005). “The United Nations has estimated that 12% of all killings of civilians in Colombian conflict have been committed by FARC… 80% commited by right-wing paramilitaries, and the remaining 8% commited by security forces.” (Vieira, 2008)
Lead by Timoleon Jimenez, FARC has been uncooperative when reaching some sort of ceasefire or conclusion to their cause. The Uribe Agreement and Union Patriotica that Colombian President Belisario Betancur initiated to encourage peace were unsuccessful. Later, in the late 1990s, continual negotiations took place. However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s, after three United States activists were kills by FARC that the United States really started stepping in to help Colombia with the active group. In 2002, the election of Alvaro Uribe took place where he was able to intensify to seek and destroy this group. The media caught ahold of this shift in attention to this group being that Uribe’s father had been killed by FARC operatives (BBC News, 2010). This gained the confidence of the country and the public responded positively.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia will not continue to flourish if they continue to remain closed to any time of negotiation or peace treaty. Any sort of movement group needs to have an end objective. They need to focus on what they want from all this terror and killing that is taken place. I do continue to believe this is a very dangerous group, who needs to be heavily monitored due to the fact that they have the finances and resources they need to continue to sustain themselves. But they only way they will be able to ready their objective is if they are able to infiltrate the Colombian government from the inside out. FARC will need to elect officials who can continue to push the movement along on a government level.
BBC News. 2010. “Profile: Alvaro Uribe Velez” BBC News. Retrieved December 13, 2016. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3214685.stm)
Caracol Radio. 2013. “FARC Cambiaron Secuestro por Extorsión y se Frenó la Desmovilización.” Caracol Radio. Retrieved December 13, 2016. (http://caracol.com.co/radio/2013/11/19/nacional/1384861380_019212.html)
Human Rights Watch. 2005. “Colombia: Armed Groups Send Children to War”. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved December 13, 2016. (https://www.hrw.org/news/2005/02/21/colombia-armed-groups-send-children-war)
Mercado, Juan Guillermo. 2013. “Desmovilización, Principal Arma contra las Guerrillas” El Tiempo. Retrieved December 13, 2016. (http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/CMS-13077339)