|Colombian Armed Conflict|
Colin Powell, then the US Secretary of State visiting Colombia as part of the United States' support of Plan Colombia.
Quintín Lame Command (Dis)*
|Fidel Castano †
Carlos Castaño †
Vicente Castaño †
Rodrigo Tovar Pupo
| Álvaro Uribe
Juan Manuel Santos
| Manuel Marulanda †
Raúl Reyes †
|Black Eagles: 4,000|| National Police: 145,871 
Air Force: 13,108 
| FARC: 16,000 in 2001
8,000 in 2008 according to government 
ELN: 3,500 - 5,000
|Casualties and losses|
|Army and Police: 4,286 killed, 13,076 injured (since 2002)|| FARC: 12,981 demobilized (since 2002)
ELN: 2,789 demobilized (since 2002)
|total casualties=50,000-200,000 
The Colombian armed conflict or Colombian Civil War are terms that are employed to refer to the current asymmetric low-intensity armed conflict in Colombia that has existed since approximately 1964 or 1966, which was when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and later the National Liberation Army (ELN) were founded and subsequently started their guerrilla insurgency campaigns against successive Colombian administrations.
It originally began as a backlash produced by a previous conflict known as La Violencia, which had been triggered by the 1948 assassination of populist political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán.
The subsequent targeting of civilians and public infrastructure by the different armed factions contributed both to the creation of the guerrillas and that of paramilitary groups organized to fight against them. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the spread of both the illegal drug trade, the drug cartels and the U.S.-backed War on Drugs increased the intensity of the conflict and involved all of its participants.
The direct origins of the current conflict are usually dated to 1964–1966, while the remote origins would at least go back as far as 1948.
The 1948 assassination of Jorge Eliecer Gaitán lead to the Bogotazo, an urban riot killing more than 4,000 people, and subsequently to ten years of sustained rural warfare between members of Colombian Liberal Party and the Colombian Conservative Party, a period known as La Violencia ("The Violence"), which took the lives of more than 200,000 people throughout the countryside.
As La Violencia wound down, most self-defense and guerrilla units made up of Liberal Party supporters demobilized, but at the same time some former Liberals and active Communist groups continued operating in several rural enclaves. One of the Liberal bands was a group known as the "Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia" (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), or FARC, formed by Dumar Aljure in the early 1950s, one of the largest Liberal guerrillas in 1958.  This group eventually ceased to exist, but its name remained as a historical reference.
Also in 1958, an exclusively bipartisan political alternation system, known as the National Front, resulted from an agreement between the Liberal and Conservative parties. The agreement had come as a result of the two parties attempting to find a final political solution to the decade of mutual violence and unrest, remaining in effect until 1974.
Inspired by the Cuban revolution, members of the Liberal and Communist guerrillas reorganized as a communist insurgency. In 1966, the modern incarnation of the "Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia" (FARC) was formally founded. The Cuban-backed ELN foco began operations independently that same year as well.
Unlike the rural FARC, which had roots in the previous Liberal peasant struggles, the ELN was mostly an outgrowth of university unrest and would subsequently tend to follow a small group of charismatic leaders, including Camilo Torres Restrepo. 
Both guerrilla groups remained mostly operational in remote areas of the country during the rest of the 1960s.
The Colombian government organized several short-lived counter-guerrilla campaigns in the late 50s and early 60s. These efforts were aided by the U.S. government and the CIA, which employed hunter-killer teams and involved U.S. personnel from the previous Philippine campaign against the Huks, and which would later participate in the subsequent Phoenix Program in Vietnam.  These efforts were combined with civic action programs, based on John F. Kennedy's "Alliance for Progress", in a bid to resolve the longstanding conflict using a "carrot and stick" strategy, by bringing development to some of the areas that had been hardest hit by the conflict.
The immediate results were mixed. In some areas the programs were relatively successful, but in others, psychological traumas resulting from the violence of the hunter-killer operations may have overshadowed any goodwill created by the civic action programs, which were eventually discontinued as well. Several analysts argue that, even today, much of Colombia's continuing violence can be traced to individual acts of revenge for the deaths of family members, both on the side of the guerrillas and that of their opponents.
From the perspective of the Colombian government, the relative weakness of the guerrillas, especially after initial efforts appeared to be successful, would gradually lead to the end of most sustained operations against them by the end of the decade.
By 1974, another challenge to the state's authority and legitimacy had come from the 19th of April Movement (M-19), leading to a new phase in the conflict. The M-19 was a mostly urban guerrilla group, allegedly founded in response to an electoral fraud during the final National Front election of Misael Pastrana Borrero (1970–1974) and the defeat of former dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla.
Initially, the M-19 attracted a degree of attention and sympathy from mainstream Colombians that the FARC and ELN had found largely elusive. This was due to extravagant and daring operations, such as stealing a sword that had belonged to Colombia's Independence hero Simon Bolívar and its theft of thousands of weapons from a Colombian Army installation. At the same time, its larger profile soon made it the focus of the state's counterinsurgency efforts.
Different presidential administrations chose to focus on ending the persistent insurgencies, all of which claimed to represent the poor and weak against the rich and powerful classes of the country, demanding the completion of true land and political reform, from an openly Communist perspective.
The ELN had been seriously crippled by military operations in the region of Anorí in 1974, but it managed to reconstitute itself and escape destruction, in part due to the administration of Alfonso López Michelsen (1974–1978) allowing it to escape encirclement, hoping to initiate a peace process with the group.
By 1982, the perceived passivity of the FARC, together with the relative success of the government's efforts against the M-19 and ELN, enabled the administration of the Liberal Party's Julio César Turbay Ayala (1978–1982) to lift a state-of-siege decree that had been in effect, on and off, for most of the previous 30 years. Under the latest such decree, president Turbay had implemented security policies that, though of some military value against the M-19 in particular, were considered highly questionable both inside and outside Colombian circles due to numerous accusations of military human rights abuses against suspects and captured guerrillas.
Citizen exhaustion due to the conflict's newfound intensity led to the election of president Belisario Betancur (1982–1986), a Conservative who won 47% of the popular vote, directed peace feelers at all the insurgents, and negotiated a 1984 cease-fire with the FARC at La Uribe, Meta, after a 1982 release of many guerrillas imprisoned during the previous effort to overpower them. A truce was also arranged with the M-19. The ELN rejected entering any negotiation and continued to recover itself through the use of extortions and threats, in particular against foreign oil companies of European and U.S. origin.
As these events were developing, the growing illegal drug trade and its consequences were also increasingly becoming a matter of widespread importance to all participants in the Colombian conflict. Guerrillas and newly wealthy drug lords had mutually uneven relations and thus numerous incidents occurred between them. Eventually the kidnapping of drug cartel family members by guerrillas led to the creation of the 1981 Muerte a Secuestradores (MAS) death squad ("Death to Kidnappers"). Pressure from the U.S. government and critical sectors of Colombian society was met with further violence, as the Medellín Cartel and its hitmen, bribed or murdered numerous public officials, politicians and others who stood in its way by supporting the implementation of extradition of Colombian nationals to the U.S. Victims of cartel violence included Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, assassinated in 1984, an event which made the Betancur administration begin to directly oppose the drug lords.
The first negotiated cease-fire with the M-19 ended when the guerrillas resumed fighting in 1985, claiming that the cease-fire had not been fully respected by official security forces, saying that several of its members had suffered threats and assaults, and also questioning the government's real willingness to implement any accords. The Betancur administration in turn questioned the M-19's actions and its commitment to the peace process, as it continued to advance high profile negotiations with the FARC, which led to the creation of the Patriotic Union (Unión Patriótica) -UP-, a legal and non-clandestine political organization.
On November 6, 1985, the M-19 stormed the Colombian Palace of Justice and held the Supreme Court magistrates hostage, intending to put president Betancur on trial. In the ensuing crossfire that followed the military's reaction, some 120 people lost their lives, as did most of the guerrillas, including several high-ranking operatives and 12 Supreme Court Judges. Both sides blamed each other for the outcome. This marked the end of Betancur's peace process.
Meanwhile, individual FARC members initially joined the UP leadership in representation of the guerrilla command, though most of the guerrilla's chiefs and militiamen did not demobilize nor disarm, as that was not a requirement of the process at that point in time. Tension soon significantly increased, as both sides began to accuse each other of not respecting the cease-fire..
According to historian Daniel Pecáut, the creation of the Patriotic Union took the guerrillas' political message to a wider public outside of the traditional communist spheres of influence and led to local electoral victories in regions such as Urabá and Antioquia, with their mayoral candidates winning twenty-three municipalities and their congressional ones gaining fourteen seats (five in the Senate, nine in the lower Chamber) in 1988. According to journalist Steven Dudley, who interviewed ex-FARC as well as former members of the UP and the Communist Party, FARC leader Jacobo Arenas insisted to his subordinates that the UP's creation did not mean that the group would lay down its arms nor a rejection of the Seventh Conference's military strategy. Pecáut states that new recruits entered the guerrilla army and its urban militia units during the period, also claiming that FARC did not stop kidnapping and continued to target regional politicians for assassination.
In October 1987, the UP's 1986 presidential candidate Jaime Pardo Leal was assassinated amid a wave of violence that would lead to the deaths of thousands of its party members at the hands of death squads.According to Pecáut, the killers included members of the military and the political class who had opposed Belisario Betancur's peace process and considered the UP to be little more than a "facade" for FARC, as well as drug traffickers and landowners who were also involved in the establishment of paramilitary groups.
The Virgilio Barco Vargas (1986–1990) administration, in addition to continuing to handle the difficulties of the complex negotiations with the guerrillas, also inherited a particularly chaotic confrontation against the drug lords, who were engaged in a campaign of terrorism and murder in response to government moves in favor of their extradition overseas..
In June 1987, the ceasefire between FARC and the Colombian government formally collapsed after the guerrillas attacked a military unit in the jungles of Caquetá. Acccording to journalist Steven Dudley, FARC founder Jacobo Arenas considered the incident to be a "natural" part of the truce and reiterated the group's intention to continue the dialogue, but President Barco sent an ultimatum to the guerrillas and demanded that they immediately disarm or face military retaliation. Regional guerrilla and Army skirmishes created a situation where each violation of the ceasefire rendered it null in each location, until it was rendered practically nonexistent.
By 1990, at least 2,500 members of the FARC-founded Patriotic Union had been murdered, according to historian Daniel Pecáut, leading up to that year's assassination of presidential candidate Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa. The Colombian government initially blamed drug lord Pablo Escobar for the murder but journalist Steven Dudley argues that many in the UP pointed at then-Interior Minister Carlos Lemos Simmonds for publicly calling out the UP as the "political wing of FARC" shortly before the murder, while others claimed it was the result of an alliance between Fidel Castaño, members of the Colombian military and the DAS. Pecáut and Dudley argue that significant tensions had emerged between Jaramillo, FARC and the Communist Party due to the candidate's recent criticism of the armed struggle and their debates over the rebels' use of kidnapping, almost leading to a formal break. Jaramillo's death led to a large exodus of UP militants; in addition, by then many FARC cadres who joined the party had already returned to clandestinity, using the UP experience as an argument in favor of revolutionary war.
The M-19 and several smaller guerrilla groups were successfully incorporated into a peace process as the 1980s ended and the 90s began, which culminated in the elections for a Constituent Assembly of Colombia that would write a new constitution, which took effect in 1991.
Contacts with the FARC, which had irregularly continued despite the end of the ceasefire and the official 1987 break from negotiations, were temporarily cut off in 1990 under the presidency of César Gaviria Trujillo (1990–1994). The Colombian Army's assault on the FARC's Casa Verde sanctuary at La Uribe, Meta, followed by a FARC offensive that sought to undermine the deliberations of the Constitutional Assembly, began to highlight a significant break in the uneven negotiations carried over from the previous decade.
Both parties nevertheless never completely broke off some amount of political contacts for long, as some peace feelers continued to exist, leading to short rounds of conversations in both Caracas, Venezuela (1991) and Tlaxcala, Mexico (1992). Despite the signing of several documents, no concrete results were achieved when the talks ended.
FARC military activity increased throughout the bulk of the 1990s as the group continued to grow in wealth from both kidnapping and drug-related activities, while drug crops rapidly spread throughout the countryside. The guerrillas protected many of the coca growers from eradication campaigns and allowed them to grow and commercialize coca in exchange for a "tax" either in money or in crops.
In this context, FARC had managed to recruit and train more fighters, beginning to use them in concentrated attacks in a novel and mostly unexpected way. This led to a series of high profile raids and attacks against Colombian state bases and patrols, mostly in the southeast of Colombia but also affecting other areas.
In mid-1996 a civic protest movement made up of an estimated 200,000 coca growers from Putumayo and part of Cauca began marching against the Colombian government to reject its drug war policies, including fumigations and the declaration of special security zones in some departments. Different analysts have stressed that the movement itself fundamentally originated on its own, but at the same time, FARC heavily encouraged the marchers and actively promoted their demands both peacefully and through the threat of force.
Additionally, in 1997 and 1998, town councilmen in dozens of municipalities of the south of the country were threatened, killed, kidnapped, forced to resign or to exile themselves to department capitals by the FARC and the ELN.
In Las Delicias, Caquetá, five FARC fronts (about 400 guerrillas) recognized intelligence pitfalls in a Colombian Army base and exploited them to overrun it on August 30, 1996, killing 34 soldiers, wounding 17 and taking some 60 as prisoners. Another significant attack took place in El Billar, Caquetá in March 2, 1998, where a Colombian Army counterinsurgency battalion was patrolling, resulting in the death of 62 soldiers and the capture of some 43. Other FARC attacks against Police bases in Miraflores, Guaviare and La Uribe, Meta in August 1998 killed more than a hundred soldiers, policemen and civilians, and resulted in the capture or kidnapping of a hundred more.
These attacks, and the dozens of members of the Colombian security forces taken prisoner by the FARC, contributed to increasingly shaming the government of president Ernesto Samper Pizano (1994–1998) in the eyes of sectors of public and political opinion. He was already the target of numerous critics due to revelations of a drug-money scandal surrounding his presidential campaign. Perceptions of corruption due to similar scandals led to Colombia's decertification as a country cooperating with the United States in the war on drugs in 1995 (when the effects of the measure were temporarily waived), 1996 and 1997.
The Samper administration reacted against FARC's attacks by gradually abandoning numerous vulnerable and isolated outposts in more than 100,000 km².² of the rural countryside, instead concentrating Army and Police forces in the more heavily defended strongholds available, which allowed the guerrillas to more directly mobilize through and influence events in large areas of rural territory which were left with little or no remaining local garrisons.
Samper also contacted the guerrillas in order to negotiate the release of some or all of the hostages in FARC hands, which led to the temporary demilitarization of the municipality of Cartagena del Chairá, Caquetá in July 1997 and the unilateral liberation of 70 soldiers, a move which was opposed by the command of the Colombian military. Other contacts between the guerrillas and government, as well as with representatives of religious and economic sectors, continued throughout 1997 and 1998.
Altogether, these events were interpreted by some Colombian and foreign analysts as a turning point in the armed confrontation, giving the FARC the upper hand in the military and political balance, making the Colombian government a target of critics from some observers who concluded that its weakness was being evidenced, perhaps even overshadowing a future guerrilla victory in the middle term. A leaked 1998 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report went so far as to speculate that this could be possible within 5 years if the guerrilla's rate of operations was kept up without effective opposition. Some viewed this report as inaccurate and alarmist, claiming that it did not properly take into account many factors, such as possible actions that the Colombian state and the U.S. might take in response to the situation, nor the effects of the existence of paramilitary groups. 
Also during this period, paramilitary activities increased, both legally and illegally. The creation of legal CONVIVIR self-defense and intelligence gathering groups was authorized by Congress and the Samper administration in 1994. Members of CONVIVIR groups were accused of committing numerous abuses against the civilian population by several human rights organizations. The groups were left without legal support after a 1997 decision by the Colombian Constitutional Court which restricted many of their prerrogatives and demanded stricter oversight. After 1997, preexisting paramilitary forces and several former CONVIVIR members joined in creating the "Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia" ("United Self-defense Forces of Colombia") or AUC, a now illegal loose federation of regional paramilitary groups.
The AUC, originally present around the central/northwest part of the country, executed a series of offensives into areas of guerrilla influence, targeting those that they considered as either guerrillas in disguise or their suspected collaborators. This resulted in a continuing series of massacres, such as a July 1997 operation against the village of Maripipán, Meta, which left between 30 and 49 civilians dead. After some of these operations, government prosecutors and/or human rights organizations repeatedly blamed officers and members of Colombian Army and Police units for either passively permitting these acts, or directly collaborating in their execution.
On August 7, 1998, Andrés Pastrana Arango was sworn in as the President of Colombia. A member of the Conservative Party, Pastrana defeated Liberal Party candidate Horacio Serpa in a run-off election marked by high voter turn-out and little political unrest. The new president's program was based on a commitment to bring about a peaceful resolution of Colombia's longstanding civil conflict and to cooperate fully with the United States to combat the trafficking of illegal drugs.
In July of 1999, Colombian military forces attacked the town of Puerto Lleras, Colombia where FARC rebels were stationed. Using U.S. supplied aircraft and equipment, and backed with U.S. logistical support, Colombian government forces strafed and bombed the town for over 72 hours. In the attack, 3 civilians were killed, and several others were wounded as the military attacked hospitals, churches, ambulances, and residential areas. FARC rebels were forced to flee the area, and many were killed or wounded. The Colombian government claimed that this was a significant victory, while human rights groups claimed this as proof that "anti-narcotics" aid, was actually just military aid which was being used to fight a leftist insurgency.
No single explanation fully addresses the deep roots of Colombia's present-day troubles, but they include limited government presence in large areas of the interior, the expansion of illicit drug cultivation, endemic violence, and social inequities. In order to confront these challenges, the Pastrana administration unveiled its Plan Colombia in late 1999, an integrated strategy to deal with these longstanding, mutually reinforcing problems.
Although the FARC accepted participation in the peace process, they did not make explicit commitments to end the conflict in the short term. The FARC suspended talks in November 2000, to protest what it called "paramilitary terrorism" but returned to the negotiating table in February 2001, following two days of meetings between President Pastrana and FARC leader Manuel Marulanda. The Colombian Government and ELN in early 2001 continued discussions aimed at opening a formal peace process, though no concrete agreements were reached.
On September 10, 2001, the AUC were added to the US State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Critics had long accused the US of hypocrisy for labeling the FARC and ELN terrorists, while ignoring the AUC, which was responsible for far more killings. Due to payments made by Chiquita Brands International to the AUC, requests have been made for the extradition of Chiquita's board members and executive officers.
After the eventual breakup of the peace negotiations in early 2002, which had been stalled numerous times and finally ended due to a guerrilla kidnapping of a congressman and other political figures, the Caguán demilitarized zone was terminated by the Pastrana administration.
On January 17, 2002, right-wing paramilitaries entered the village of Chengue, and divided up the villagers into two groups. They then went from person to person in one of the groups, smashing each person's head with sledgehammers and rocks, killing 24 people, as the Colombian military sat by and watched. 2 other bodies were later discovered dumped in a shallow grave. As the paramilitaries left, they set fire to the village.
Soon after that, in May 2002, a former liberal politician with conservative leanings, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, whose father had been killed by left-wing guerrillas, was sworn in as Colombian president. He immediately began taking action to crush the FARC, ELN, and AUC, including the employment of citizen informants to help the police and armed forces track down suspected members in all three armed groups.
During President Uribe's first term in office (2002–2006), the security situation inside Colombia showed some measure of improvement and the economy, while still fragile, also showed some positive signs of recovery according to observers. But relatively little has been accomplished in structurally solving most of the country's other grave problems, possibly in part due to legislative and political conflicts between the administration and the Colombian Congress (including those over a controversial project to eventually give Uribe the possibility of re-election), and a relative lack of freely allocated funds and credits.
Some critical observers considered that Uribe's policies, while admittedly reducing crime and guerrilla activity, were too slanted in favor of a military solution to Colombia's internal war, neglecting grave social and human rights concerns to a certain extent. They asked for Uribe's government to change this position and make serious efforts towards improving the human rights situation inside the country, protecting civilians and reducing any abuses committed by the armed forces.
Two important FARC commanders were undergoing trial in Washington D.C., after being extradited due to drug-related offenses and other charges. One of them was Ricardo Palmera, aka "Simon Trinidad", who has been accused of "hostage taking" because of his alleged complicity in the capture of three U.S. contractors and/or CIA agents, who either crashed or were shot down while conducting surveillance over rural areas under FARC influence and control. Palmera has been related to this case due to his admission that he would allegedly have traveled to Ecuador, where he was arrested, in order to supposedly arrange for the negotiation of a prisoner exchange with the Colombian government. The defendant has argued that such efforts were made under the auspices of the UN. The other "co-defendant" in Palmera's case is the entire FARC organization.  The court heard arguments on Palmera's status as a prisoner of war. The other FARC commander was Nayibe Rojas Valderrama, also known as "Sonia", who has been accused of drug trafficking and, if convicted, would be a landmark case tying the FARC to the drug trade.
In mid 2005, after a long debate, the law for presidential re-election was finally approved, giving Uribe the opportunity to stay in office 4 more years if he were to be successfully reelected. His strongest contenders were Carlos Gaviria, of the new left-leaning Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA) and Horacio Serpa for the Colombian Liberal Party. During the campaign, there were complaints from media commentators and Uribe's adversaries who considered that he was taking advantage of his position as president to promote his campaign. There were numerous manifestations by followers of the PDA and the Liberal Party in public spaces and universities, where the opposition criticized the government's policies and the alleged links of several officials with the AUC.
In May 2006, Uribe was finally re-elected on the first round of the elections, with a historically unprecedented 62% of the total vote, with Carlos Gaviria in second place (22%) and Horacio Serpa in third. His success is due to high approval rate among the citizens to his Democratic Security Policy and positive economy's growth rate of 5%. In March of that same year, new elections for the Senate and Chamber of Representatives took place. Uribe's supporters won most of the positions, running in the name of newly created parties including the Social National Unity Party, ("Party of the U"), Radical Change and the less prominent Colombia Democrática and Alas-Equipo Colombia. It was expected that, with a majority of the legislative backing him, Uribe's potential new term (if reelected) would enjoy improved relations between the executive and legislative branches.
The first few months of Uribe's new administration (beginning on August 7, 2006, brought forth several complications, which could affect the solid image it originally projected. There have been conflicts among pro-uribist members of Congress, as well as a relative stagnancy in the work of both the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives, especially when dealing with important government initiatives such as a tributary reform project. Scandals surrounding the Army have surfaced, including accusations against several officers who could have planted and deactivated false car-bombs in Bogotá in the days before Uribe's new inauguration, with the participation of some members and ex-members of the guerrilla, allegedly to "show results" and advance their own careers in the military. High officials have also made contradictory statements on subjects such as the Free Trade Agreement, among other issues.
On June 28, 2007 the FARC suddenly reported the death of 11 of the 12 kidnapped provincial deputies from Valle del Cauca Department. The Colombian government accused the FARC of executing the hostages and stated that government forces had not made any rescue attempts. FARC claimed that the deaths occurred during a crossfire, after an attack to one of its camps by an "unidentified military group". FARC did not report any other casualties on either side.
In 2007, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Colombian Senator Piedad Córdoba were acting as authorised mediators in the ongoing Humanitarian Exchange between the FARC and the government of Colombia. Colombian President Álvaro Uribe had given Chávez permission to mediate, under the conditions that all meetings with the FARC would take place in Venezuela and that Chávez would not contact members of the Colombian military directly, but instead go through proper diplomatic channels. However, President Uribe abruptly terminated Chávez's mediation efforts on November 22, 2007, after Chávez personally contacted General Mario Montoya Uribe, the Commander of the Colombian National Army. In response, Chávez said that he was still willing to mediate, but had withdrawn Venezuela's ambassador to Colombia and placed Colombian-Venezuelan relations "in a freezer" President Uribe responded that Colombia needed "mediation against terrorism, not for Chávez to legitimise terrorism," that Chávez was not interested in peace in Colombia, and that Chávez was building an expansionist project on the continent.
On the end of 2007, FARC agreed to release former senator Consuelo González, politician Clara Rojas and her son Emmanuel, born in captivity after a relationship with one of her captors. Operation Emmanuel was proposed and set up by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, with the permission of the Colombian government. The mission was approved on December 26. Although, on December 31, FARC claimed that the hostage release had been delayed because of Colombian military operations. On the same time, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe indicated that FARC had not freed the three hostages because Emmanuel may not be in their hands anymore. Two FARC gunmen were taken prisoner.
Colombian authorities added that a boy matching Emmanuel's description had been taken to a hospital in San José del Guaviare in June 2005. The child was in poor condition; one of his arms was hurt, he had severe malnutrition, and he had diseases that are commonly suffered in the jungle. Having been evidently mistreated, the boy was later sent to a foster home in Bogotá and DNA tests were announced in order to confirm his identity. On January 4, 2008, the results of a mitochondrial DNA test, comparing the child's DNA with that of his potential grandmother Clara de Rojas, were revealed by the Colombian government. It was reported that there was a very high probability that the boy was indeed part of the Rojas family.. The same day, FARC released a communique in which they admitted that Emmanuel had been taken to Bogotá and "left in the care of honest persons" for safety reasons until a humanitarian exchange took place. The group accused President Uribe of "kidnapping" the child in order to sabotage his liberation.. However, on January 10, 2008, FARC released Rojas and Gonzalez through a humanitarian commission headed by the International Committee of the Red Cross. On January 13, 2008, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stated his disapproval with the FARC strategy of armed struggle and kidnapping saying "I don't agree with kidnapping and I don't agree with armed struggle" . He repeated his call for a political solution and an end to the war on March and June 2008, "The guerrilla war is history...At this moment in Latin America, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place" .
On February 2008, FARC released four others political hostages "as a gesture of goodwill" toward Chávez, who had brokered the deal and sent Venezuelan helicopters with Red Cross logos into the Colombian jungle to pick up the freed hostages..
On March 1, 2008, the Colombian armed forces launched a military operation 1.8 kilometres into Ecuador on a FARC position, killing 24, including Raúl Reyes, member of the FARC Central High Command. This led to the 2008 Andean diplomatic crisis between Colombia and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, supported by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
On May 24, 2008, Colombian magazine, Revista Semana, published an interview with Colombian defense minister Juan Manuel Santos in which Santos mentions the death of Manuel Marulanda Vélez. The news was confirmed by FARC-commander 'Timochenko' on Venezuelan based television station Telesur on May 25, 2008. 'Timochenko' announced the new commander in chief is 'Alfonso Cano'.
In March 2008 alone, FARC lost 3 members of their Secretariat, including their founder.
On July 2, 2008, the Colombian armed forces launched Operation Jaque that resulted in the freedom of 15 political hostages, including former Colombian presidential candidate Íngrid Betancourt, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell, three American military contractors employed by Northrop Grumman and 11 Colombian military and police. Two FARC members were arrested. This trick to the FARC was presented by the Colombian government as a proof that the guerilla organisation and influence is declining.
On October 26, 2008, the ex-congressman, Óscar Tulio Lizcano escaped after 8 years of captivity with a FARC rebel he convinced to travel with him. Soon after the liberation of this prominent political hostage, the Vice President of Colombia Francisco Santos Calderón called Latin America's biggest guerrilla group a "paper tiger" with little control of the nation's territory, adding that "they have really been diminished to the point where we can say they are a minimal threat to Colombian security," and that "After six years of going after them, reducing their income and promoting reinsertion of most of their members, they look like a paper tiger." However, he warned against any kind of premature triumphalism, because "crushing the rebels will take time." The 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles) of jungle in Colombia makes it hard to track them down to fight.
According to Colombian government, FARC has launched in early 2009 plan Rebirth to avoid being defeated. They planed to intensify guerrilla warfare by the use of landmines, snipers, and bomb attacks in urban areas. They also plan to buy missiles to fight the Colombian air forces which highly contribute to their weakness since few years.
On February 2009, the guerilla released 6 hostages as a humanitarian gesture. In March, they released Swedish hostage Erik Roland Larsson.
On April 2009, the Colombian armed forces launched Strategic Leap, an offensive in borders areas where the FARC's forces has still a strong military presence, especially in Arauca, near the Venezuelan border.
On November 2009, Nine Colombian soldiers were killed when their post was attacked by FARC guerrillas in a southwestern part of the country.
On December 22, 2009, FARC rebels raided the home of Provincial governor Luis Francisco Cuellar, killing one police officer and wounding two. Cuellar was found dead the following day.
On January 1, 2010, Eighteen FARC rebels were killed when the Colombian Air Force bombed a jungle camp in Southern Colombia. Colombian troops of the elite Task Force Omega then stormed the camp, capturing fiften FARC rebels, as well as 25 rifles, war materials, explosives, and information which was given to military intelligence. In Southwestern Colombia, FARC rebels ambushed an army patrol, killing a soldier. The troops then exchanged fire with the rebels. During the fighting, a teenager was killed in the crossfire.
There is an informal yet relatively widespread controversy about what would be the most accurate term to describe Colombia's war . A common argument would be that a civil war would have started in 1964 as the result of the social, economic and political background of the country and thus current violence could not be considered an isolated phenomenon. This application of the term civil war to the ensuing conflict that began in Colombia has been considered debatable by some, as another position held by several analysts would point out that the conflict's characteristics, scale and intensity have not reached those of a full blown civil war.
Specifically, it is argued that the FARC and other guerrillas would not have become a powerful and relevant enough threat to the Colombian establishment until a couple of years in the mid-1990s, if at all. There was a period of approximately two to three years (1996 to 1998) when the FARC executed a string of military attacks considered as impressive operations nationally and internationally, which were interpreted as a demonstration of its armed strength.
Another of the arguments that have been employed by analysts would allege that Colombian society, as a whole, would not have noticeably and massively divided into organized supporters of both the insurgents and the government. Some have also pointed out that the label is not as often applied to past and present wars against armed insurgencies of some significance in the rest of South America, such as the Shining Path in Peru. It is additionally argued that such a label would give recognized legitimacy to the actions of the insurgents, something as of yet unclear in the international arena.
Others consider that the term civil war should also apply to those situations as well, as it would be suggested that, irrespective of the proportional strength of arms or numbers between the involved parties, several different social, political and ideological projects would be in conflict.. In some vast, sparsely populated rural areas of the country where the FARC is present it has been considered to operate as a de facto government with a degree of civilian support. Some, including Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, argue that, as the FARC and the ELN have increasingly come to resemble a regular army during the last two decades, with uniforms, modern weapons and a large, disciplined, hierarchical organization which has also engaged the Colombian Army in open combat, those factors give some legitimacy to the term "civil war" to describe the Colombian conflict.
By 2002, President Andrés Pastrana, as well as certain intellectuals and international organizations had often referred to the conflict as a "war against civilians" or a "war against civilian society", choosing to highlight the fact that most of the victims from guerrilla, drug lord and paramilitary violence (as well as from any state abuses) are civilians irrespective of their specific political positions, as the result of the degeneration of a war that they considered currently devoid of any previous political and social meaning. President Pastrana also separately admitted that an armed conflict does exist in Colombia, but rejected its characterization as a civil war.
Another side of the issue has to do with translation and interpretation concerns. In traditional studies and press reports written in the English language, the term civil war is often used to refer to the war in Colombia. Even though this term is sometimes used inside Colombia, it is somewhat rarer to see it with as much regularity in the Spanish-speaking media, both inside and outside of Colombia. This has also become rare in some recent academic studies written in the English language as well, where the terms "armed conflict" or "internal conflict" are more common.
After having desisted repeatedly from categorizing the FARC as terrorists, President Pastrana adopted that terminology in the speech that ended the peace process on February 20, 2002. This position had been stated by the United States administration since November 2, 2001, when the State Department included FARC in its "List of Terrorists and Groups Identified Under Executive Order 13224", after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
There are also several political and legal ramifications to the issue that have gained notoriety outside of academic circles. In recent years, an extra level of complexity has been added to the debate, as in different instances Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has said that he doesn't consider Colombia's war to be either an armed conflict or a civil war, rejecting both labels and instead focusing on what he calls the "terrorist threat". This new position had been considered increasingly controversial in Colombia itself, and this perspective initially had few outright defenders outside the circles of the Colombian administration.
The use of this new term has been criticized or ignored by both national and international NGOs, several supporters and opponents of president Uribe's government policies, some of the mainstream Colombian media outlets and also by other Colombian government officials associations, such as mayors and governors. Most of these groups would consider that there is in fact an armed conflict in the country, though in turn they all still disagree among themselves as to the proper employment of the term "civil war".
In September 2005, President Uribe modified his previous stance, by stating that if the ELN was willing to declare a ceasefire and enter negotiations with the government, he was willing to set aside his personal beliefs (the existence of a "terrorist threat" in Colombia) and accept the existence of an "armed conflict"
[Updated information about current prisoners released July 2, 2008 is needed]
Due to the wide range of groups and interests involved in the ongoing conflict, journalists have come under threat from various sides. Self-censorship is often practiced by journalists, as certain stories can risk upsetting one or more of the country's armed groups. Others have been threatened, murdered or forced into exile. Colombia ranks 131st out of 168 on Reporters Without Borders' 2006 press freedom index. A number of civil society organizations intend to preserve the objectivity and integrity of journalism in the country.
|Colombian Armed Conflict|
Participants in Colombian armed conflict
• La Violencia (1948-1958)
||Government of Colombia||Paramilitaries