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Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(Spanish) Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia
Participant in Colombian Armed Conflict
FARC-EP’s flag  Logofarc.png
flag and logo of the FARC-EP
Active 1964–Present
Ideology Marxism-Leninism Revolutionary Socialism
Leaders Manuel Marulanda  
Jacobo Arenas  
Raúl Reyes  
Ivan Rios  
Alfonso Cano
Mono Jojoy
Iván Márquez
Joaquín Gómez
Timoleón Jiménez
Mauricio Jaramillo
Pablo Catatumbo
Headquarters “Mountains of Colombia"
Area of
operations
concentrated in southern and eastern Colombia, Venezuela. Incursions in Peru, Brazil, Panama, Ecuador. Sporadic presence in other countries of Latin America, predominantly Mexico, Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia.
Strength unknown (est. 6,000 - 18,000)[1][2][3]
Allies Coordinadora Continental Bolivariana
Opponents Government of Colombia
Government of Canada
Government of Peru
Government of the United States
European Union
Colombian paramilitary groups
United Nations

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People's Army (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo), also known by the acronym of FARC or FARC-EP, is a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization based in Colombia, which is involved in the ongoing Colombian armed conflict.[4][5][6][7]

FARC-EP is a peasant army which has proclaimed itself as a revolutionary agrarian, anti-imperialist Marxist-Leninist organization of Bolivarian inspiration.[4][8][9][10] It claims to represent the rural poor in a struggle against Colombia’s wealthier classes, and opposes United States influence in Colombia (e.g. Plan Colombia), neo-imperialism, monopolization of natural resources by multinational corporations, and paramilitary/government violence. It funds itself principally through ransom kidnappings and taxation of the illegal drug trade.[11][12]

FARC-EP remains the largest and oldest insurgent group in the Americas. According to the Colombian government, FARC-EP had an estimated 6,000-8,000 members in 2008, down from 16,000 in 2001, having lost much of their fighting force since President Álvaro Uribe took office in 2002.[1][13] Political analyst and former guerrilla León Valencia has estimated that FARC's numbers have been reduced to around 11,000 from their 18,000 peak but cautions against considering the group a defeated force.[2] In 2007 FARC-EP Commander Raúl Reyes claimed that their force consisted of 18,000 guerrillas.[3]

From 1999 to 2008 the FARC-EP, together with the ELN guerrilla group, was estimated to control up to 40% of the territory in Colombia[14][15][16][17][18][19][20]. The largest concentrations of FARC-EP guerrillas are believed to be hiding throughout the southeastern parts of Colombia's 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles) of jungle and in the plains at the base of the Andean mountains.[21][22]

FARC-EP (then known simply as FARC) was established as a military wing of the Colombian Communist Party after government military forces attacked rural communist enclaves during the aftermath of La Violencia in 1964[8][18].

FARC-EP is a violent non-state actor (VNSA), described as a terrorist group by the Colombian government,[23] the United States Department of State,[24] the Canadian government[25] and the European Union.[26][27] The Venezuelan government and others are less hostile towards the FARC-EP.[28] Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez publicly rejected their classification as "terrorists" in January 2008, considering them to be "real armies", and called on the Colombian and other governments to recognize the guerrillas as a “belligerent force”, arguing that this would then oblige them to renounce kidnappings and terror acts, and respect the Geneva Conventions.[29][30]

Contents

History

The period that followed the murder of populist politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948 saw the loss of more than 200,000 lives in what became known as La Violencia ("The Violence”), which lasted until about 1958. By 1953, the Colombian Conservative Party government of Laureano Gómez, unable to cope with the violence, became increasingly unpopular in the eyes of both the public and other political figures of both parties. In 1953 the military under General Gustavo Rojas seized control of the country[citation needed].

The new military government offered amnesty to insurgents who surrendered their weapons, leading to the demobilization of thousands of former fighters. However, some radical Liberal and communist guerrilla groups refused to surrender their arms. They retreated to isolated areas of the country where they continued to operate and organize their own communities. In other areas, such as Villarrica, Tolima, former guerrillas suffered attacks. Jacobo Arenas, who would later become the ideological leader of the FARC-EP, was sent by the Colombian Communist Party as a political activist to help organize existing self-defense and guerrilla units in a rural enclave[citation needed].

Civilian rule was restored in 1958 after moderate Conservatives and Liberals, with the support of dissident sectors of the military, agreed to unite under a bipartisan coalition known as the National Front. Political alternation within the coalition eventually resulted in the 1970 election of Misael Pastrana as president. Armed self-defense groups of communists had by then established their own local government in a remote region of the country, the Marquetalia Republic[citation needed].

Separately, the Colombian government had initially ignored the growing influence of several communist enclaves in and around Sumapaz (a locality of Bogotá) until 1964 when, under pressure by Conservatives who considered the autonomous communities (which were labeled as “independent republics” by senator Álvaro Gómez Hurtado,[31]) to be a threat, the Colombian National Army was ordered to take full control of the area.

Following the attack, the communists dispersed, only to later reorganize as the “Southern Bloc” ("Bloque Sur”). In 1964, the Bloque Sur renamed itself the “Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia” (FARC). Jacobo Arenas and Manuel Marulanda were two of the founders of the new guerrilla group and became its top leaders[citation needed].

Seventh Guerrilla Conference of the FARC-EP

In 1982, FARC-EP held its Seventh Guerrilla Conference, which called for a major shift in FARC's strategy. FARC had historically been doing most of its fighting in rural areas, and was limited to small-scale confrontations with Colombian military forces. By 1982, increased income from the "coca boom" allowed them to expand into an irregular army, which would then stage large scale attacks on Colombian troops. They also began sending fighters to Vietnam and the Soviet Union for advanced military training. They also planned to move closer to middle-sized cities, as opposed to only remote rural areas, and closer to areas rich in natural resources, in order to create a strong economic infrastructure. It was also at this conference that FARC added the initials "EP", for "Ejército del Pueblo" or "People's Army", to the organization's name.[32][33]

1982-1989

Until the 1980s, the FARC-EP grew relatively slowly, in addition to suffering from a split that saw Javier Delgado and Hernando Pizarro Leongómez, former commanders of the FARC-EP, form a separate guerrilla group called the Ricardo Franco Front Command-South. The FARC-EP then counted between 1,000 and 3,000 men. The Seventh Conference, held from 4 to 14 May 1982 under the command of the political leader Jacobo Arenas, formulated several new strategic approaches and reaffirmed the principle of "combination of all forms of struggle", political and armed.

The FARC-EP also introduced the policy of "double fronts", the objective of which was to double its size, and set dates for a future takeover of power in the 1990s.[34]

Initially, the FARC-EP rejected any involvement in the emerging phenomenon of drug growing and trafficking, but during the 1980s the group gradually came to accept it as it became a burgeoning business. Taxes on drug producers and traffickers were introduced as a source of funding, in the form of the compulsory so-called "gramaje" tax.[35]

In 1984, after a meeting of the leaders of the 27 fronts and the General Staff, a cease-fire was implemented through the agreements signed with the government of Belisario Betancourt ("Cease-Fire, Truce, and Peace Agreements", also known as the "La Uribe Agreements").

However, negotiations failed owing to violations of the cease-fire on both sides and the political violence that occurred between right- and left-wing extremist groups in Colombia.

By 1985, the major guerrilla groups (EPL, FARC-EP, M-19, and ELN) had come together under an umbrella organization known as the Guerrilla Coordinating Board (CNG). This group evolved in 1987 into the Simón Bolívar Guerrilla Coordinating Board (CGSB), which led negotiations between the numerous guerrilla groups and the government. While the CGSB did achieve some of its goals, its success was very limited. The CGSB's initiative led to the successful peace process with the M-19. The FARC-EP and ELN, on the other hand, decided to continue their struggle.

The Patriotic Union

In 1984 the Patriotic Union was created as the political wing of FARC-EP. The political movement was a victim of political persecution, from paramilitaries, drug traffickers and members of the Colombian security forces. The movement was not exclusively an organ of the FARC-EP, as it had members from civil movements with different aims. Several leaders of the UP disagreed with the armed direction of the FARC-EP and sought to continue following the political route in spite of the new wave of violence, criticizing the government and the FARC-EP for not making greater attempts to control the situation.

The UP insisted on continuing to follow the political route until its extermination, partially through the assassination or disappearance of between 2,000 and 4,000 of its members.[36]

1990-1998

During this period, the Colombian government continued its negotiations with the FARC-EP and other armed groups, some of which were successful. Some of the groups which demobilized at this time include the (EPL, the ERP, the Quintín Lame Armed Movement, and the M-19).

Towards the end of 1990, the army, with no advance warning and while negotiations were still ongoing with the group, attacked a compound known as Casa Verde, which housed the National Secretariat of the FARC-EP. The Colombian government argued that the attack was caused by the FARC-EP's lack of commitment to the process, since the organization was continuing its criminal activities.[citation needed]

During this year on August 10 senior leader Jacobo Arenas, an ideological leader and founder of FARC-EP, died.

On 3 June 1991 dialogue resumed between the Coordinating Board and the government on neutral territory in Caracas, Venezuela and Tlaxcala, Mexico.[37]. However, the war did not stop, and armed attacks by both sides continued. The negotiation process was broken off in 1993 after no agreement was reached. The Coordinating Board disappeared not long after that time, and guerrilla groups continued their activities independently.

Before the break off of dialogue, a letter written by a group of Colombian intellectuals (among whom were Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez) to the Simón Bolívar Guerrilla Coordinating Board was released denouncing the approach taken by the FARC-EP and the dire consequences that it was having for the country.[38]

In the early 1990s, the FARC-EP had between 7,000 and 10,000 fighters, organized into 70 fronts spread throughout the country.[citation needed] From 1996 to 1998 they inflicted a series of strikes on the Colombian Army, including a three-day offensive in Mitú (Vaupés department), taking a large number of soldiers prisoner.

Over this period in Colombia the cultivation of different drugs expanded and there were widespread coca farmers' marches. These marches brought to a halt several major arteries in southern Colombia in which the government claimed there was FARC-EP involvement, although it has not been fully investigated what, if any, specific involvement the group had.[39][40]

Andres Pastrana's Presidency (1998-2002)

In March 1999 members of a local FARC contigent killed 3 indigenous rights activists, who were working with the U'Wa people to build a school for U'Wa children, and were fighting against encroachment of U'Wa territory by multinational oil corporations. The killings were almost universally condemned, and seriously harmed public perceptions of FARC[41].

1999–2002 Peace Process

With the hope of negotiating a peace settlement, on November 7, 1998, President Andrés Pastrana granted FARC-EP a 42,000 km2 (16,200 sq mi) safe haven meant to serve as a confidence building measure, centered around the San Vicente del Caguán settlement[citation needed].

The demilitarization of this area had been among the FARC-EP's conditions for beginning peace talks. The peace process with the government continued at a slow pace for three years during which the BBC and other news organizations reported that the FARC-EP also used the safe haven to import arms, export drugs, recruit minors, and build up their armed forces.[citation needed]

After a series of high-profile guerrilla terrorist actions, including the hijacking of an aircraft, the attack on several small towns and cities, the arrest of the Irish Colombia Three (see below), the alleged training of FARC-EP militants in bomb making by them, and the kidnapping of several political figures, Pastrana ended the peace talks on February 21, 2002 and ordered the armed forces to start retaking the FARC-EP controlled zone, beginning at midnight. A 48-hour respite that had been previously agreed to with the rebel group was not respected as the government argued that it had already been granted during an earlier crisis in January, when most of the more prominent FARC-EP commanders had apparently left the demilitarized zone.[42] Shortly after the end of talks, the FARC-EP kidnapped Oxygen Green Party presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was traveling in guerrilla territory. Betancourt was rescued by the Colombian government on July 2, 2008 (see Operation Jaque below).

The Colombia Three case

On April 24, 2001, the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations published the findings of its investigation into IRA activities in Colombia. Their report alleged a longstanding connection between the IRA and FARC-EP, mentioned at least 15 IRA members who had been traveling in and out of Colombia since 1998, and estimated that the IRA had received at least $2 million in drug proceeds for training FARC-EP members[43]. The IRA/FARC-EP connection was first made public on August 11, 2001, following the arrest in Bogota of two IRA explosives and urban warfare experts and of a representative of Sinn Féin who was known to be stationed in Cuba. Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly (known as the Colombia Three), were arrested in Colombia in August 2001 and were accused of teaching bomb-making methods to FARC-EP.[44]

On 15 February 2002 the Colombia Three were charged with training FARC-EP members in bomb-making in Colombia. The Colombian authorities had received satellite footage, probably supplied by the CIA, of the men with FARC-EP in an isolated jungle area, where they are thought to have spent the last five weeks. They could have spent up to 20 years in jail if the allegations were proved.[45]

During October 2001, a key witness in the case against the three Irish republicans disappeared. This came as Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams admitted one of the men was the party's representative in Cuba. The missing witness, a former police inspector, said he had seen Mr McCauley with FARC-EP members in 1998. Without his testimony, legal sources said the chances of convicting the three men were reduced[citation needed].

They were eventually found guilty of traveling on false passports in June 2004, but were acquitted of training FARC-EP members. That decision was reversed after an appeal by the Attorney General of Colombia and they were sentenced to 17-year terms.[46] However, they vanished in December 2004 while on bail and returned to Ireland.[46] Tánaiste Mary Harney said no deal had been done with Sinn Féin or the IRA over the three's return to Ireland adding that the Irish government would consider any request from the Colombian authorities for their extradition.[46] Colombian vice-president Francisco Santos Calderón did not rule out allowing them to serve their sentences in Ireland.

Álvaro Uribe's Presidency (2002-Present)

2002-2005 period

President Álvaro Uribe has intensified military operations against the FARC-EP, seeking to defeat them.

For most of the period between 2002 and 2005, the FARC-EP was believed to be in a strategic withdrawal due to the increasing military and police actions of new president Álvaro Uribe, which led to the capture or desertion of many fighters and medium-level commanders. Uribe ran for office on an anti-FARC-EP platform and was determined to defeat FARC-EP in a bid to create "confidence" in the country[citation needed]. Uribe's own father had been killed by FARC-EP in an attempted kidnapping in 1983.[47]

In 2002 and 2003, FARC broke up ten large ranches in Meta, an eastern Colombian province, and distributed the land to local subsistence farmers[48].

During the first two years of the Uribe administration, several FARC-EP fronts, most notably in Cundinamarca and Antioquia, were broken by the government’s military operations[citation needed].

On July 13, 2004, the office of the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights publicly condemned the group, accusing the FARC-EP of violating article 17 of the additional Protocol II of the Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law, as a result of the July 10 massacre of seven peasants and the subsequent displacement of eighty individuals in San Carlos, Antioquia[49].

In early February 2005, a series of small scale military actions by the FARC-EP around the southwestern departments of Colombia, resulted in an estimated 40 casualties. The FARC-EP, in response to government military operations in the south and in the southeast, would now be displacing its military center of gravity towards the Nariño, Putumayo and Cauca departments.[50]

Attacks during 2005

See also: List of FARC-EP attacks in 2005

During 2005, the FARC-EP launched a response to Álvaro Uribe’s democratic security strategy and to Plan Patriota, apparently adopting a new style of operations, in particular near the southwest of Colombia.[citation needed]

The FARC-EP implemented what was later called “Plan Resistencia” to combat Plan Patriota by withdrawing into the jungle and executing a temporary halt in its larger scale attacks. It is widely believed that their military capacity has been weakened enormously.[citation needed]

Possibility of prisoner exchange with the government

The FARC-EP have demanded a mechanism for prisoner exchange, which would involve the liberation of 23 military and police "prisoners of war"[12] (not including civilians held for extortion or ransom, which may number in the thousands) that the group currently holds, in exchange for the release of at least 500 jailed criminal rebels. During the duration of the DMZ negotiations, a small humanitarian exchange took place.

The group demanded a demilitarized zone including two towns (Florida and Pradera) in the strategic region of Valle del Cauca, where much of the current military action against them has taken place, plus this region is also an important way of transporting drugs to the Pacific coast. This demand was rejected by the Colombian government based on previous experience during the 2002 peace talks[citation needed].

On December 2, 2004, the government announced the pardon of 23 FARC-EP prisoners, to encourage a reciprocal move. The FARC-EP ignored the gesture, and the 23 rebels released were all of low rank and had promised not to rejoin the armed struggle. In November, the FARC-EP rejected a proposal to hand over 59 (number at the time) of its captives in exchange for 50 guerrillas imprisoned by the government.[51]

In a communique dated November 28 but released publicly on December 3, the FARC-EP declared that they are no longer insisting on the demilitarization of San Vicente del Caguán and Cartagena del Chairá as a pre-condition for the negotiation of the prisoner exchange, but instead that of Florida and Pradera in the Valle department.[52] They state that this area would lie outside the “area of influence” of both their Southern and Eastern Blocks (the FARC-EP’s strongest) and that of the military operations being carried out by the Uribe administration[citation needed].

They request security guarantees both for the displacement of their negotiators and that of the guerrillas that would be freed, which are specifically stated to number as many as 500 or more, and ask the Catholic Church to coordinate the participation of the United Nations and other countries in the process[citation needed].

The FARC-EP also mention in the communique that Simón Trinidad’s extradition, would be a serious obstacle to reaching a prisoner exchange agreement with the government.[53] On December 17, 2004, the Colombian government authorized Trinidad’s extradition to the United States, but stated that the measure could be revoked if the FARC-EP released all political and military hostages in its possession before December 30. The FARC-EP rejected the demand[citation needed].

Partial hostage releases and escapes during 2006 and 2007

On March 25, 2006, after a public announcement made weeks earlier, the FARC-EP released two captured policemen at La Dorada, Putumayo. The release took place some 335 miles (539 km) southwest of Bogotá, near the Ecuadorean border. The Red Cross said the two were released in good health. Military operations in the area and bad weather had prevented the release from occurring one week earlier.[54]

In a separate series of events, civilian hostage and German citizen Lothar Hintze was released by FARC-EP on April 4, 2006, after five years in captivity. Hintze had been kidnapped for extortion purposes, and his wife had paid three ransom payments without any result.

One hostage, Julian Ernesto Guevara Castro, a police officer, died of tuberculosis on January 28, 2006. He was a captain and was captured on November 1, 1998.[55][56] On March 29, 2009, the FARC-EP announced that they would give Castro's remains to his mother. [57]

Another civilian hostage, Fernando Araújo, later named Minister of Foreign Relations and formerly Development Minister, escaped his captors on December 31, 2006. Araújo had to walk through the jungle for five days before being found by troops in the hamlet of San Agustin, 350 miles (560 km) north of Bogotá. He was kidnapped on December 5, 2000 while jogging in the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena. He was reunited with his family on January 5, 2007.[58]

Another hostage, Jhon Frank Pinchao, a police officer, escaped his captors on April 28, 2007 after nine years in captivity. He was reunited with his family on May 15, 2007.

2007 death of 11 hostage lawmakers

On June 28, 2007, the FARC-EP reported the death of 11 out of 12 provincial deputies from the Valle del Cauca Department whom the guerrillas had kidnapped in 2002. The guerrillas claimed that the deputies had been killed by crossfire during an attack by an “unidentified military group.” The Colombian government has stated that government forces had not made any rescue attempts and that the FARC-EP executed the hostages. FARC did not report any other casualties on either side and delayed months before permitting the Red Cross to recover the remains. According to the government, the guerrillas delayed turning over the corpses to let decomposition hide evidence of how they died. The Red Cross reported that the corpses had been washed and their clothing changed before burial, hiding evidence of how they were killed. The Red Cross also reported that the deputies had been killed by multiple close-range shots, many of them in the back of the victims, and even two by shots to the head.[59]

In February 2009, Sigifredo López, the only deputy who survived and was later released by FARC, accused the guerrilla group of killing the 11 captives and denied that any military rescue attempt had taken place. According to López, the unexpected arrival of another guerrilla unit resulted in confusion and paranoia, leading the rebels to kill the rest of the Valle deputies. He survived after previously being punished for "insubordination" and was held in chains nearby but separated from the rest of the group.[60]

Major developments during 2008

Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez liberation

On January 10, 2008, former vice presidential candidate Clara Rojas and former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez were freed after nearly six years in captivity.[61] In a Venezuela-brokered deal, a helicopter flew deep into Colombia to pick up both hostages. The women were escorted out of the jungle by armed guerrillas to a clearing where they were picked up by Venezuelan helicopters that bore International Red Cross insignias.[62] In a statement published on a pro-rebel Web site, the FARC-EP said the unilateral release demonstrated the group's willingness to engage the Colombian government in talks over the release of as many as 700 people who are still being held.[62] In a televised speech, Colombia's U.S.-allied president, Alvaro Uribe, thanked Chavez for his efforts.

During the period she was held captive in the jungle in 2004, Clara Rojas gave birth to her son by Caesarean. At 8 months old, the baby was removed from the area and Rojas didn't hear of the boy again until Dec. 31, when she heard Colombian President Alvaro Uribe say on the radio that the child was no longer with her captors. DNA tests later confirmed the boy, who had been living in a Bogota foster home for more than two years under a different name, was hers. She reclaimed her son.[63] Asked if she sees the FARC-EP as a terrorist group, Rojas did not answer directly but called it "a criminal organization," condemning its kidnappings as "a total violation of human dignity" and saying some captive police and soldiers are constantly chained.[63]

Hugo Chavez's call to stop branding FARC-EP as terrorists

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged European and Latin American governments on January 11, 2008 to stop branding Colombia's guerrillas as terrorists, a day after welcoming two hostages released by the rebels. "I am asking the governments (across Latin America) to take the FARC-EP and ELN (National Liberation Army) off their lists of global terrorist groups," Chavez told the National Assembly. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was quick to respond, ruling out any change in the FARC-EP's or ELN's status. Alvaro Uribe later issued a statement saying the insurgents are indeed terrorists who fund their operations with cocaine smuggling, recruit children and plant land mines in their effort to topple a democratically elected government[64].

February 2008 liberations

On January 31, 2008, the FARC-EP announced that they would release civilian hostages Luis Eladio Perez Bonilla, Gloria Polanco, and Orlando Beltran Cuellar to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a humanitarian gesture. On February 27, 2008, the three hostages and Jorge Eduardo Gechem Turbay (who was added to the list due to his poor health) were released by FARC-EP. With the authorization of the Colombian government and the participation of the International Red Cross, a Venezuelan helicopter transported them to Caracas from San Jose del Guaviare[65]. The FARC-EP had called its planned release of the hostages a gesture of recognition for the mediation efforts of Chávez, who last month called on the international community to recognize the rebels as belligerents[66]. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who has tense relations with Chavez, thanked the socialist leader and called for the release of all hostages. He said Colombia is still in a fight "against terrorist actions" but is open to reconciliation[citation needed].

Anti-FARC rallies

On February 4, 2008, several rallies were held in Colombia and in other locations around the world, criticizing FARC-EP and demanding the liberation of hundreds of hostages. The protests were originally organized through the popular social networking site Facebook and were also supported by local Colombian media outlets as well as the Colombian government. Participation estimates vary from the hundreds of thousands to several millions of people in Colombia and thousands worldwide.[67][68][69][70][71]

Kiraz Janicke of Venezuelanalysis.com criticized the rallies, claiming that "right-wing paramilitary leaders featured prominently" in their organization and arguing that workers were also pressured to attend the gatherings. According to her, the purpose of the protests was to promote "[Uribe's] policy of perpetuating Colombia's decades-long civil war."[18] Shortly before the rallies took place thirteen demobilized AUC paramilitary leaders, including Salvatore Mancuso, had expressed their support of the protest through a communique. However, this move was rejected by organizer Carlos Andrés Santiago, who stated that such an endorsement was harmful and criticized the AUC's actions.[72]

On July 20, 2008, a subsequent set of rallies against FARC included thousands of Colombians in Bogotá and hundreds of thousands throughout the rest of the country.[73][74]

Death of Raúl Reyes

On March 1, 2008, the Colombian military attacked a FARC-EP camp inside Ecuador’s territory, resulting in the death of over 20 people, with at least 17 of them being FARC-EP guerillas.[75][76] Raúl Reyes was among the dead, along with at least 16 of his fellow guerrillas. Raúl Reyes was FARC-EP’s international spokesman and hostage release negotiator and considered to be FARC-EP’s second-in-command. This incident led to a breakdown in diplomatic relations between Ecuador and Colombia, and between Venezuela and Colombia.[77][78] Ecuador condemned the attack[citation needed].

This is considered the biggest blow against FARC-EP in its more than four decades of existence.[77] [79] This event was quickly followed by the death of Ivan Rios, another member of FARC-EP's seven-man Secretariat, less than a week later, by the hand of his own bodyguard. It came as a result of heavy Colombian military pressure and a reward offer of up to $5 million from the Colombian government.[80][81]

Death of Manuel Marulanda Vélez

Manuel Marulanda Vélez died on March 26, 2008 after a heart attack. His death would be kept a secret, until Colombian magazine, Revista Semana, published an interview with Colombian defense minister Juan Manuel Santos on May 24, 2008 in which Santos mentions the death of Manuel Marulanda Vélez. The news was confirmed by FARC-EP-commander 'Timochenko' on pan-Latin American television station teleSUR on May 25, 2008. 'Timochenko' announced the new commander in chief is 'Alfonso Cano'[82] After speculations in several national and international media about the 'softening up' of the FARC and the announcement of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe that several FARC-leaders were ready to surrender and liberate hostages, the secretariat of the FARC sent out a communique emphasizing the death of their founder would not change their approach towards the hostages or the humanitarian agreement[83][84].

Hugo Chavez's call to disarm

On January 13, 2008, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stated his disapproval with the FARC-EP strategy of armed struggle and kidnapping saying "I don't agree with kidnapping and I don't agree with armed struggle" [85]. President Hugo Chavez has repeatedly stated his disapproval of the practice of kidnapping stating on April 14 that "If I were a guerrilla, I wouldn't have the need to hold a woman, a man who aren't soldiers...Free the civilians who don't have anything to do with the war. I don't agree with that."[86]. On March 7 at the Cumbre de Rio, Chavez stated again that the FARC-EP should lay down their arms "Look at what has happened and is happening in Latin America, reflect on this (FARC-EP), we are done with war... enough with all this death"[87]. On June 8 Chavez repeated his call for a political solution and an end to the war, "The guerrilla war is history...At this moment in Latin America, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place".[88]

Operation Jaque

On July 2, 2008, under a Colombian military operation called Operation Jaque, the FARC-EP was tricked by the Colombian Government into releasing 15 hostages to Colombian Intelligence agents disguised as journalists and international aid workers in a helicopter rescue. Military intelligence agents infiltrated the guerrilla ranks and led the local commander in charge of the hostages, Gerardo Aguilar Ramírez, alias Cesar, to believe they were going to take them by helicopter to Alfonso Cano, the guerrillas' supreme leader. The hostages rescued included Íngrid Betancourt (former presidential Candidate), U.S. military contractors Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell, as well as eleven Colombian police officers and soldiers. The commander, Cesar and one other rebel were taken into custody by agents without incident after boarding the helicopter.[89] On July 4, some observers questioned whether or not this was an intercepted hostage release made to look like a rescue.[90]

In a July 5 communique, FARC itself blamed rebels Cesar and Enrique for the escape of the hostages and acknowledged the event as a setback, but reiterated their willingness to reach future humanitarian agreements.[91]

Immediately after the hostage rescue, Colombian military forces cornered the rest of FARC-EP's 1st Front, the unit which had held the hostages captive. Colombian forces have so far elected not to attack the 1st Front, but is instead offering them amnesty if they surrender.[92]

Colombia’s Program for Humanitarian Attention for the Demobilized announced in August 2008 that 339 members of Colombia’s rebel groups surrendered and handed in their weapons in July, including 282 guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. [93]

Óscar Tulio Lizcano liberation

Lizcano, a Colombian Conservative Party congressman, was kidnapped Aug. 5, 2000. On Sunday, October 26, 2008, the ex-congressman, Óscar Tulio Lizcano escaped from FARC-EP rebels. Tulio Lizcano was a hostage for over 8 years, and escaped with a FARC-EP rebel he convinced to travel with him. They evaded pursuit for three days as they trekked through mountains and jungles, encountering the military in the western costal region of Colombia. Tulio Lizcano is the first hostage to escape since the successful military rescue of Ingrid Betancourt, and the longest held political hostage by the organization. He became the 22nd Colombian political hostage to gain freedom during 2008[citation needed].

This is how the escape took place. During his final days in captivity, Lizcano told Santos, they had nothing to eat but wild palm hearts and sugar cane. With the military tightening the noose, a FARC-EP rebel turned himself in and provided Colombian authorities with Lizcano's exact location in the northwest state of Choco. As police and army troops prepared to launch a rescue operation, Lizcano escaped alongside one of his guerrilla guards who had decided to desert. The two men hiked through the rain forest for three days and nights until they encountered an army patrol[94]. Speaking from a clinic in the western city of Cali, Mr Lizcano said that when soldiers saw him screaming from across a jungle river, they thought he was drunk and ignored him. Only when he lifted the FARC-EP rebel's Galil assault rifle did the soldiers begin to understand that he was escaping from the FARC-EP rebels. "They jumped into the river, and then I started to shout, 'I'm Lizcano'," he said.[94].

Other late 2008 developments

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[22].

February 2009 liberations

On December 21, 2008, The FARC-EP announced that they would release civilian hostages Alan Jara, Sigifredo López, three police officers and a soldier to Senator Piedad Córdoba as a humanitarian gesture.[95]. On February 1, 2009, the FARC-EP proceeded with the release of the four security force members, Juan Fernando Galicio Uribe, José Walter Lozano Guarnizo, Alexis Torres Zapata and William Johany Domínguez Castro. All of them were captured in 2007. Jara (kidnapped in 2001) was released on February 3 and López (kidnapped in 2002) was released on February 5.

Liberation of Swedish hostage

On March 17, 2009, The FARC-EP released Swedish hostage Erik Roland Larsson. Larsson, paralyzed in half his body, was handed over to detectives in a rugged region of the northern state of Cordoba. Larsson was kidnapped from his ranch in Tierralta, not far from where he was freed, on May 16, 2007, along with his Colombian girlfriend, Diana Patricia Pena while paying workers. She escaped that same month following a gunbattle between her captors and police. The FARC-EP had sought a $5 million ransom. One of Larsson's sons said that the ransom was not paid. [96]

December 2009 hostage killing

On 22 December 2009, the body of Luis Francisco Cuellar, the Governor of Caquetá, was discovered, a day after he had been kidnapped from his house in Florencia, Caquetá. Officials said the abduction and execution had been carried by the FARC. According to officials, he had been killed soon after the abduction. The kidnappers cut the governor's throat as they evaded security forces. In a statement broadcast on radio, the acting governor, Patricia Vega, said, "I no longer have any doubts that FARC has done it again." The FARC claimed responsibility for Cuellar's kidnapping and murder in January 2010. The group said that they kidnapped him in order to "put him on trial for corruption" and blamed his death on an attempt to rescue him by force.[97][98]

Financing

FARC receives most of its funding -which has been estimated to average some $300 million per year- from taxation of the illegal drug trade, ransom kidnappings, bank robberies, and extortion of large landholders, multinational corporations, and agribusiness. From taxation of illegal drugs alone, FARC has been estimated to receive approximately 60 to 100 million dollars per year.[33][99]

Drug trafficking

FARC-EP was not initially involved in direct drug cultivation, trafficking, or trans-shipment prior to or during the 1980s. Instead, it maintained a system of taxation on the production that took place in the territories that they controlled, in exchange for protecting the growers and establishing law and order in these regions by implementing its own rules and regulations[100][101]. During the 1990s, FARC expanded its operations, in some areas, to include trafficking and production, which has provided a significant portion of its funding[102]. Right-wing paramilitary groups also receive a large portion of their income from drug trafficking and production operations[102].

FARC has called for crop substitution programs that would allow coca farmers to find alternative means of income and subsistence. In 1999, FARC worked with a United Nations alternative development project to enable the transition from coca production to sustainable food production. On its own, the group has also implemented agrarian reform programs in Putumayo[103][100][101][104].

In areas where it is involved in coca production, FARC generally makes sure that peasant coca growers receive a much larger share of profits than the paramilitaries would give them[105][99][101], and demands that traffickers pay a decent wage to their workers[99]. According to journalist and author Garry Leech, when growers in a FARC-controlled area are caught selling coca to non-FARC brokers, they are generally forced to leave the region, but when growers are caught selling to FARC in paramilitary-controlled areas, they are generally killed[105]. He concludes that the lower prices paid for raw coca in paramilitary-controlled areas lead to significantly larger profits for the drug processing and trafficking organizations, which means that they generally prefer that paramilitaries control an area rather than FARC[105].

After the April 21, 2001 capture of Brazilian druglord Luiz Fernando da Costa (aka Fernandinho Beira-Mar) in Colombia, Colombian and Brazilian authorities accused him of cooperating with FARC-EP through the exchange of weapons for cocaine. They also claimed that he received armed protection from the guerrilla group.[106][107][108]

Kidnappings

The FARC-EP is responsible for ransom kidnappings in Colombia. The group’s kidnapping targets are usually those that it considers wealthy landowners and businessmen, the police and military, as well as foreign tourists and entrepreneurs, and prominent international and domestic officials.[109]

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has expressed his disagreement with their resorting to kidnappings[110].

Human rights concerns

FARC has been accused of committing violations of human rights by numerous groups, including the Colombian government, U.S. government, European Union, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and United Nations.

A February 2005 report from the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights mentioned that, during 2004, “FARC-EP continued to commit grave breaches [of human rights] such as murders of protected persons, torture and hostage-taking, which affected many civilians, including women, returnees, boys and girls, and ethnic groups."[111]

Child soldiers

FARC-EP, the ELN, and right-wing paramilitaries all train teens as soldiers and informants. Human Rights Watch estimates that the FARC-EP has the majority of child combatants in Colombia, estimating that approximately one quarter of the guerrillas are under 18 years of age[112][113]. Forcible recruitment of children, by either side, is rare in Colombia; most of the children join of their own volition without any threats of force to themselves or their families. They join for a variety of reasons including poverty, lack of educational opportunities, avoiding work in the coca processing plants (which is dangerous), escaping from domestic violence, offers of money (mostly from paramilitaries, who pay their soldiers), and other reasons[113].

Use of gas cylinder mortars and landmines

The FARC-EP has employed a type of improvised mortars made from gas canisters (or cylinders), when launching attacks.

According to Human Rights Watch, the FARC-EP has killed civilians not involved in the conflict through the use of gas cylinder mortars [114] and its use of landmines.[115]

Human Rights Watch considers that “the FARC-EPs continued use of gas cylinder mortars shows this armed group’s flagrant disregard for lives of civilians...gas cylinder bombs are impossible to aim with accuracy and, as a result, frequently strike civilian objects and cause avoidable civilian casualties."[114]

Violence against indigenous people

FARC has sometimes threatened or assassinated indigenous Colombian leaders for attempting to prevent FARC incursions into their territory and resisting the forcible recruitment by FARC of indigenous youth. Between 1986 and 2001, FARC was responsible for 27 assassinations, 15 threats, and 14 other abuses of indigenous people in Antioquia Department[41]. In March 1999 members of a local FARC contigent killed 3 indigenous rights activists, who were working with the U'Wa people to build a school for U'Wa children, and were fighting against encroachment of U'Wa territory by multinational oil corporations. The killings were almost universally condemned, and seriously harmed public perceptions of FARC[41].

Organization and structure

FARC-EP remains the largest and oldest insurgent group in the Americas. According to the Colombian government FARC-EP has an estimated 11,000 members in 2009, down from 16,000 in 2001, having lost about one third of its fighting force since President Álvaro Uribe took office in 2002.[116][1][13] However, in 2007 FARC-EP Commander Raúl Reyes claimed that its force consisted of 18,000 guerrillas.[3]

From 1999 to 2008, the FARC-EP, together with the ELN guerrilla group, was estimated to control up to 40% of the territory in Colombia[14][15]J[16][17][18][19][20]. The largest concentrations of FARC-EP guerrillas are located throughout the southeastern parts of Colombia's 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles) of jungle and in the plains at the base of the Andean mountains.[21][22]

FARC-EP is organized hierarchically with a central Secretariado, composed of five permanent members and two "supplements". Below the secretariat is the Estado Mayor Central, which contains 25 members. Beneath the Estado Mayor Central is a collection of Blocs, which correspond to Colombia's geographical regions: south, central, east, west, Middle Magdalena, Carribean, and Cesar. Each of these Blocs is composed of several Frentes (Fronts).[117] There is no fixed size for a Front. Within each Front, there are combat, support, and infrastructure elements. Fronts are organized into Columns, which contain two or more Companies. A Company generally has about 50 fighters, grouped into two sets of platoons known as Guerrillas. These Guerrillas can be further broken down into squads of about 8 fighters[118].

The FARC-EP secretariat has been led by Alfonso Cano and six others after the death of Manuel Marulanda (Pedro Antonio Marín), also known as “Tirofijo”, or Sureshot in 2008. The “international spokesman” of the organization was represented by “Raul Reyes”, who was killed in a Colombian army raid against a guerrilla camp in Ecuador on March 1, 2008.[77]

From approximately 1949 to 1964, during the “La Violencia” period of Colombian history, the FARC-EP’s precursor was a small Communist guerrilla band situated in and around Marquetalia. In May 1964, the Colombian Army retook Marquetalia. The rebels scattered, reorganized, and in 1966, the FARC-EP was formally created as a slightly enlargened guerrilla entity (estimated at 350 members).[citation needed]

During the 1970s, the FARC-EP kept a low profile by staying inside its traditional heartland areas, but the Seventh Guerrilla Conference in 1982 represented a significant change in outlook, as the FARC-EP changed its structure[citation needed].

Manuel Marulanda was the organization’s leader until his death, subsequently replaced by Alfonso Cano. Jacobo Arenas was the FARC-EP's main ideologue and academic until his death on August 10, 1990. From the early 1980s, the FARC-EP added ranks and unit badges to uniforms, and it also introduced a new inventory system for firearms and ammunition, in addition to providing new weapons and technology for its militants. Jacobo Arenas was probably central to planning the logo and flag for FARC-EP, which is used to this day[citation needed].

The FARC-EP believes that since the early 1980s it has met the requirements for the recognition of a “state of belligerence” contained within the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949 and additional protocols. Their opponents in the Colombian government claim that the practice of civilian kidnapping for ransom and the tax levied on coca crop buyers makes it an illegitimate army, and also point to a rejection of the guerrilla policies in government-funded surveys[citation needed].

In addition, there are various independent, elite or mobile fronts attached to some blocks normally under the direct control of the FARC-EP’s high command. The FARC-EP also maintains various “Military intelligence units”[citation needed].

The FARC-EP maintains a Military Academy and a two-month basic military training program, mainly involving infantry tactics. After basic training, guerrilla fighters are further assessed and have evaluation and performance records. After some time, better candidates may do advanced training[citation needed].

FARC-EP remains open to a negotiated solution to the nation’s conflict through dialogue with a flexible government that agrees to certain conditions, such as the demilitarization of certain areas and the release of all jailed (and extradited) FARC-EP rebels.[119] At the same time, it claims that until these conditions surface, the armed revolutionary struggle will remain necessary to fight against Colombia's elites.[citation needed] The FARC-EP says it will continue its armed struggle because it perceives the current Colombian government as an enemy because of historical politically motivated violence against its members and supporters[citation needed] including members of the Patriotic Union, a FARC-EP-created political party[120].

See also

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  103. ^ Nikolas Kozloff (2007). Hugo Chávez: oil, politics and the challenge to the United States. Palgrave MacMillan. pp. 148. ISBN 9781403984098. http://books.google.com/books?id=kYGdEtdZrFUC&pg=PA148&dq=farc+tax&ei=kgOOS-KpC52glQSpzNngDQ&cd=6#v=onepage&q=farc%20tax&f=false. 
  104. ^ Mario A. Murillo; Jesús Rey Avirama (2004). Colombia and the United States: war, unrest, and destabilization. Seven Stories Press. pp. 69. ISBN 9781583226063. http://books.google.com/books?id=EdhCanqQN8kC&pg=PA93&dq=farc+crop+substitution&ei=PCiPS6WeO4HglQS9s52wDQ&cd=9#v=onepage&q=farc%20crop%20substitution&f=false. 
  105. ^ a b c Garry Leech (2009). Beyond Bogota: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia. Beacon Press. pp. 223. ISBN 9780807061459. http://books.google.com/books?id=YTbZ9NnqZIEC&pg=PA223&dq=farc+paramilitaries&lr=&ei=HO2JS9G2GpPslQSqsIyVDQ&cd=61#v=onepage&q=farc%20paramilitaries&f=false. 
  106. ^ El Mercurio Online. “'Fernandinho Beira-Mar'”, un temible capo aliado de Hernández Norambuena.” June 15, 2005. Available online. Accessed September 1, 2006.
  107. ^ Clarín.com. “Un capo narco reveló lazos con poderosos de Brasil.” Available online. Accessed November 11, 2006.
  108. ^ BBC News. “Polícia investiga relação de Beira-Mar com as Farc.” April 22, 2001. Available online. Accessed November 3, 2006
  109. ^ US Hostages Rescued from Colombian Drug Lords. [internet video]. CBS News. 2008. http://www.webcastr.com/videos/news/us-hostages-rescued.html. 
  110. ^ Reuters.“Hugo Chavez tells Colombian rebels to stop kidnapping” January 13, 2008. Available online. Accessed December 23, 2008.
  111. ^ Commission on Human Rights. “Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Colombia.” February 28, 2005. Available online Accessed September 1, 2006.
  112. ^ Human Rights Watch. “Colombia: Armed Groups Send Children to War.” February 22, 2005. Available online. Accessed September 1, 2006.
  113. ^ a b Human Rights Watch. “'You'll Learn Not to Cry: Child Combatants in Colombia.” September 2003. ISBN 1564322882. Available online. Accessed September 1, 2006.
  114. ^ a b Human Rights Watch. “More FARC Killings with Gas Cylinder Bombs: Atrocities Target Indigenous Group “ April 25, 2005. Available online. Accessed September 1, 2006.
  115. ^ Forero, Juan (2007-07-26). "Report Cites Rebels' Wide Use of Mines In Colombia". Washington Post: A16. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/25/AR2007072501093.html?nav=rss_world/southamerica. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  116. ^ http://www.reuters.com/article/reutersComService4/idUSDIS95174420080909
  117. ^ Robert C. Neville (2001). The Human Condition. SUNY Press. pp. 77-78. ISBN 9780791447796. http://books.google.com/books?id=7KLx_Po4LUMC&pg=PA77&dq=farc+tax&ei=kgOOS-KpC52glQSpzNngDQ&cd=4#v=onepage&q=farc%20tax&f=false. 
  118. ^ Angel Rabasa, Peter Chalk (2001). "3". Colombian Labyrinth: The Synergy of Drugs and Insurgency and Its Implications for Regional Stability. RAND Corporation. ISBN 0-8330-2994-0. http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1339/MR1339.ch3.pdf. 
  119. ^ Guodong, Du (2008-01-16). "FARC repeats demand for hostage-prisoner exchange". Xinhua News Agency. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-01/16/content_7430938.htm. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  120. ^ Agencia Prensa Rural: 'El baile rojo' by Yezid Campos Zornosa, report by Constanza Vieira on the Colombian documentary film. Google video: 'The Red Dance' Accessed February 15, 2008; Corporación Reiniciar: 'Who are we?' Accessed February 20, 2008

Further resources

Books

  • Jacobo Arenas (1972) (in Spanish). Diario de la resistencia de Marquetalia. Ediciones Abejón Mono. 
  • James J. Brittain (February 2, 2010). Revolutionary Social Change in Colombia: The Origin and Direction of the FARC-EP. Pluto Press. ISBN 978-0745328751. 
  • David Bushnell (1993). The Making of Modern Colombia, a Nation in spite of itself. University of California Press. ISBN 0520082893. 
  • Aviva Chomsky and Francisco Ramírez Cuellar (2005). The Profits of Extermination: How U.S. Corporate Power is Destroying Colombia. Common Courage Press. ISBN 1-56751-322-0. 
  • Steven Dudley (January 2004). Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerrilla Politics in Colombia. Routledge. ISBN 041593303X. 
  • Robin Kirk (January, 2003). More Terrible than Death: Massacres, Drugs, and America's War in Colombia. PublicAffairs. ISBN 1-58648-104-5. 
  • Russ Kick, ed (2009). You are still being lied to: the remixed disinformation guide to media distortion, historical whitewashes and cultural myths. Constellation. pp. 160-163. ISBN 9781934708071. http://books.google.com/books?id=pkUl8QASqHMC&pg=PA160&dq=farc+paramilitaries&lr=&ei=vdyJS6WUB6qykASzvuC9DQ&cd=14#v=onepage&q=farc%20paramilitaries&f=false. 
  • Kline, H. F., Colombia: Democracy Under Assault, Harper Collins, 1995, ISBN 0813310717
  • Garry M. Leech (2002). Killing Peace: Colombia’s Conflict and the Failure of U.S. Intervention. Information Network of the Americas (INOTA). ISBN 0-9720384-0. 
  • Maullin, Richard L., The Fall of Dumar Aljure, a Colombian Guerrilla and Bandit. The Rand Corporation, 1968
  • Osterling, Jorge P., Democracy in Colombia: Clientelist Politics and Guerrilla Warfare, Transaction Publishers, 1989, ISBN 0887382290
  • Bert Ruiz (October 1, 2001). The Colombian Civil War. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-1084-1. 
  • Frank Safford and Marco Palacios (July 1, 2001). Colombia: Fragmented Land, Divided Society. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504617-X. 
  • Schmid, Alex Peter, and Crelinsten, Ronald D., Western Responses to Terrorism. Routledge, 1993, ISBN 0714640905
  • The Suicide of Colombia, Foreign Policy Research Institute, September 7, 1998
  • Rebeca Toledo, Teresa Gutierrez, Sara Flounders and Andy McInerney, ed (2003). War in Colombia: Made in U.S.A.. ISBN 0-9656916-9-1. 

Websites

News/Periodicals

Government/NGO reports

Video

  • "50 years of Guerrilla" 1999 52' Documentary by Pablo Alejandro & Yves Billon. Production "Zarafa Films"







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