FARC: History and Raison D’etre

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FARC: History and Raison D’etre

On December 3, 2018, Posted by , In Colombia,Information Reports,Latin America, With Comments Off on FARC: History and Raison D’etre

Written by Brecken Denler

            The FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) traces its roots back to the 1950’s era struggle called “La Violencia.”[i]  These battles were between conservative and communist factions within the country.  Small communist groups banded together and adopted the FARC name in 1966.  Funded largely by drug enterprises the group grew in strength and numbers throughout the 1970s.[ii]  The heavy hand of FARC administration facilitated rival gangs’ establishment and led in large part to the world’s assessment of the group as a drug cartel.  At its peak some 18,000 members affiliated themselves with the FARC.[iii]  The group therefore wielded a hefty military power.  Politically, despite multiple attempts by the government to reach peace and integrate the FARC into mainstream politics, leadership and members alike breached deals in 1984 and 1990 subverting standard political responses.[iv]   The conflict continued.  Due to a demilitarized zone, part of the 1990s peace process, the FARC were ceded a piece of the country roughly the size of Switzerland, and instead of looking for peaceful administration and joining talks for integration with the government, the rebels took advantage increasing the drug trade and their influence dramatically.[v]  Kidnappings, drug trade, extortion, and murder were common plays by the group that seemed to hoist communism as a justification for a cartel rather than a true philosophical battle.  In 2000 the United States government funded a major counternarcotic program focused on Colombia.  The deal, Plan Colombia, was a behemoth operation with over a half billion-dollar annual budget.  The goals were clear: reduce drug production by 50% in six years and create institutions and regain government control of all territory in Colombia.[vi]  These goals were somewhat achieved as coca production decreased substantially in the first years of the plan’s operation, though the FARC remained in control of significant portions of the country.[vii]  The plan, some contend, was particularly successful in developing Colombian institutions and stabilizing the government.  In part due to the billions of dollars invested, Colombia is now one of the United States’ strongest partners in the region with a stable and democratic government.[viii]  Overall, the FARC lost influence.  The conflict overall cost some 200,000 lives and the displacement of some 7 million inhabitants.[ix]  The FARC is still listed as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” by the U.S. State Department.[x]  A peace deal negotiated by President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leaders in Cuba provides protections for FARC leaders and fighters alike and protects FARC participation in congress.[xi]  Since integration, it appears the insurgent leaders lack a real policymaking agenda.  The battle of identity and reason behind the FARC is fought both in academia and the Colombian jungle.  Communist in history and in manifesto, the FARC is now having to prove itself as a legitimate philosophical revolution or suffer the judgement of history as the stain on society only a drug cartel can be.

[i] “FARC.” 2017. InSight Crime. March 3.

[ii] Cassman, Daniel. 2015. “Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army.” HOPES Huntington’s Disease Information. HOPES Huntington’s Disease Information. August 15.

[iii] Lee, Chris. 2012. “The FARC and the Colombian Left: Time for a Political Solution?” Latin American Perspectives 39, no. 1. 28-42.

[iv]Casey, Nicholas, and Federico Rios Escobar. 2018. “Colombia Struck a Peace Deal With Guerrillas, but Many Return to Arms.” The New York Times. The New York Times. September 18.

[v] Felter, Claire, and Danielle Renwick. 2017. “Colombia’s Civil Conflict.” Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations. January 11.

[vi] Mejía, Daniel. 2016. “Plan Colombia: An Analysis of Effectiveness and Costs.” Brookings. The Brookings Institution.

[vii] Alpert, Megan. 2016. “15 Years and $10 Billion Later, U.S. Efforts to Curb Colombia’s Cocaine Trade Have Failed.” Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy. February 8.

[viii] Miroff, Nick. 2016. “’Plan Colombia’: How Washington Learned to Love Latin American Intervention Again.” The Washington Post. WP Company. September 18.

[ix] Miroff, Nick. 2016. “The Staggering Toll of Colombia’s War with FARC Rebels, Explained in Numbers.” The Washington Post. WP Company. August 24.

[x] “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” 2018. U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State. September 6.

[xi] “Why Colombians Distrust the FARC Peace Deal.” 2018. The Economist. The Economist Newspaper. May 24.

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