Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia


Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(Spanish) "Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia"[1]
Participant in Colombian Armed Conflict
  Logofarc.png
flag and logo of the FARC-EP
Active 1964 – present
Ideology Marxism–Leninism
Bolivarianism
Revolutionary socialism
Leaders Timoleón Jiménez
Pablo Catatumbo
Iván Márquez
Pastor Alape
Joaquín Gómez
Mauricio Jaramillo
Alfonso Cano  
Manuel Marulanda
Jacobo Arenas
Raúl Reyes  
Iván Ríos  
Jorge Briceño  
Area of
operations
Concentrated in southern, south-western and eastern Colombia. Incursions in Peru, Venezuela, Brazil,[2] Panama,[3] and Ecuador. Sporadic presence in other countries of Latin America, predominantly Mexico, Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia.
Strength unknown (est. 8,000 – 18,000)[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]
Allies Coordinadora Continental Bolivariana
Opponents Government of Colombia
Government of Canada
Government of Chile
Government of Peru
Government of the United States
Government of New Zealand
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; FARC-EP, or simply FARC) is a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization based in Colombia which is involved in the ongoing Colombian armed conflict.[12][13][14][15]

FARC-EP is a peasant army which has proclaimed itself to be a revolutionary agrarian, anti-imperialist Marxist-Leninist organization of Bolivarian inspiration.[12][16][17][18] 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 or government violence. It funds itself principally through ransom kidnappings, gold mining[19] and production and distribution of illegal drugs.[20][21]

There are different estimates for the organization's membership. According to Colombian Armed Forces Commander Admiral Édgar Cely, FARC-EP had a total of 18,000 members in 2010, with an estimated 9,000 of those being armed combatants and the remaining 9,000 made up of plainclothes militia who provide intelligence or logistical support, adding that they have been weakened and retreated to mountainous regions since President Álvaro Uribe took office in 2002.[22][23][24] Other sources and analysts have reported that FARC-EP's fighting force is currently estimated to have around 9,000 to 11,200 guerrillas.[5][7][10][11][25] In 2011, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos claimed FARC-EP may have fewer than 8,000 members.[26] In 2007 FARC-EP Commander Raúl Reyes claimed that their force consisted of 18,000 guerrillas.[6]

From 1999 to 2008 the FARC-EP, together with the ELN guerrilla group, was estimated to control between 30 and 40% of the territory in Colombia.[27][28][29][30][31][32][33] The largest concentrations of FARC-EP guerrillas are believed to be located throughout the southeastern parts of Colombia's 500,000 square kilometers (190,000 sq mi) of jungle and in the plains at the base of the Andean mountains.[34][35]

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.[16][31]

FARC-EP is a violent non-state actor (VNSA), described as a terrorist group by the Colombian government,[36] the United States Department of State,[37] the Canadian government,[38] the Chilean government,[39] the New Zealand Government,[40] and the European Union.[41][42] The Venezuelan government and others, such as the governments of Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Nicaragua, do not classify the FARC-EP as a "terrorist organization".[43][44][45][46][47] 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.[48][49][50]

Contents

History

La Violencia

The flag of FARC

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 terrorists 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,[51]) 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.[52][53]

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 May 4 to 14, 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.[54]

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. Levies on drug producers and traffickers were introduced as a source of funding, in the form of the compulsory so-called "gramaje" tax.[55]

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 Betancur ("Cease-Fire, Truce, and Peace Agreements", also known as the "La Uribe Agreements")[citation needed].

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.[citation needed]

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.[56]

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 June 3, 1991, dialogue resumed between the Coordinating Board and the government on neutral territory in Caracas, Venezuela and Tlaxcala, Mexico.[57] 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.[58]

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.[59][60]

Andrés Pastrana's presidency (1998–2002)

In March 1999 members of a local FARC contingent killed 3 USA-based 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 questioned by many and condemned by many others, and led the United States to increase pressure on the Pastrana administration to crack down on FARC guerillas.[61]

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].

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.[62] Shortly after the end of talks, the FARC-EP kidnapped Oxygen Green Party presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was traveling in Colombian 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 U.S. 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.[63] The IRA/FARC-EP connection was first made public on August 11, 2001, following the arrest in Bogotá 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.[64]

On February 15, 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.[65]

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.[66] However, they vanished in December 2004 while on bail and returned to Ireland.[66] 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.[66] Colombian vice-president Francisco Santos Calderón did not rule out allowing them to serve their sentences in Ireland.

Álvaro Uribe's Presidency (2002–2010)

2002–2005 period

Former President Álvaro Uribe 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.[67]

In 2002 and 2003, FARC broke up ten large ranches in Meta, an eastern Colombian province, and distributed the land to local subsistence farmers.[68]

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 May 5, 2003, the FARC assassinated the governor of Antioquia, Guillermo Gaviria Correa, his advisor for peace, former defense minister Gilberto Echeverri Mejía, and 8 soldiers. The FARC had kidnapped Mr. Gaviria and Mr. Echeverri a year earlier, when the 2 men were leading a march for peace from Medellín to Caicedo in Antioquia.[69]

On July 13, 2004, the office of the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights publicly condemned the group, proving that FARC-EP violated 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.[70]

In early February 2005, a series of small scale terrorist 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.[71]

Possibility of prisoner exchange with the government

The FARC-EP have said that they will only release the police and military members they hold captive (whom they consider to be prisoners of war) through exchanges with the government for imprisoned FARC-EP members.[72] During the duration of the DMZ negotiations, a small humanitarian exchange took place.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] 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 prisoners to be released were all of low rank and had promised not to rejoin the armed struggle. In November 2004, the FARC-EP had rejected a proposal to hand over 59 of its captives in exchange for 50 guerrillas imprisoned by the government.[73]

In a communique dated November 28 but released publicly on December 3, the FARC-EP declared that they were 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.[74] 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 requested 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.[75] 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 kidnapped 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.[76]

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.[77][78] On March 29, 2009, the FARC-EP announced that they would give Guevara's remains to his mother. The FARC handed over Guevara's remains on April 1, 2010.[79][80]

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.[81]

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 deputies

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 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.[citation needed] According to the government, the guerrillas delayed turning over the corpses to let decomposition hide evidence of how they died.[citation needed] The Red Cross reported that the corpses had been washed and their clothing changed before burial, hiding evidence of how they were killed.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed][82]

In February 2009, Sigifredo López, the only deputy who survived and was later released by FARC, accused the terrorist 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.[83]

Major developments during 2008

Clara Rojas and Consuelo González liberation

On January 10, 2008, former vice presidential candidate Clara Rojas and former congresswoman Consuelo González were freed after nearly six years in captivity.[84] 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.[85] 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 800 people who are still being held.[85] In a televised speech, Colombia's U.S.-allied president, Álvaro Uribe, thanked Chavez for his efforts.

During the period she was held kidnapped 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 December 31, when she heard Colombian President Álvaro 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 Bogotá foster home for more than two years under a different name, was hers. She reclaimed her son.[86] 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.[86]

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 Chávez 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.[87] The FARC-EP had called its planned release of the hostages a gesture of recognition for the mediation efforts of Chávez, who had called on the international community to recognize the rebels as belligerents a month prior.[88] Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who had tense relations with Chavez, thanked the socialist leader and called for the release of all hostages. He said Colombia was still in a fight "against terrorist actions" but was 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.[89][90][91][92][93]

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."[31] 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.[94]

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.[95][96]

Death of Raúl Reyes

On March 1, 2008, the Colombian military attacked a FARC-EP camp inside Ecuador's territory as part of a targeted killing directed at Raúl Reyes. The attack untarget killed over 20 people, about 17 of whom were members of the FARC-EP.[97][98] Reyes, found among the dead along with at least 16 of his fellow guerrillas, was known as FARC-EP's international spokesman and hostage release negotiator. He was considered to be FARC-EP's second-in-command.[99]

This incident led to a breakdown in diplomatic relations between Ecuador and Colombia, and between Venezuela and Colombia.[100][101] Ecuador condemned the attack.[citation needed].

It has been considered the biggest blow against FARC-EP in its more than four decades of existence.[100][102] 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.[103][104]

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'[105] 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 communiqué emphasizing the death of their founder would not change their approach towards the hostages or the humanitarian agreement.[106][107]

Hugo Chávez's call to disarm

On January 13, 2008, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez 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".[108] President Hugo Chávez 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.".[109] 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".[110] 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".[111]

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.[112] On July 4, some observers questioned whether or not this was an intercepted hostage release made to look like a rescue.[113]

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.[114]

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.[115]

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.[116]

Óscar Tulio Lizcano liberation

Lizcano, a Colombian Conservative Party congressman, was kidnapped August 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]

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.[117] 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.[117]

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 (190,000 sq mi) of jungle in Colombia makes it hard to track them down to fight.[35]

February 2009 liberations

On December 21, 2008, The FARC-EP announced that they would release civilian hostages Alan Jara, Sigifredo López, three low-ranking police officers and a low-ranking soldier to Senator Piedad Córdoba as a humanitarian gesture.[118] 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 Giovanni 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 Córdoba. 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. Larsson suffered a stroke while in captivity. The FARC-EP had sought a $5 million ransom. One of Larsson's sons said that the ransom was not paid.[119]

December 2009 hostage killing

On December 22, 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.[120][121]

March 2010 liberations

On April 16, 2009, The FARC-EP announced that they would release Corporal Second Class Pablo Emilio Moncayo Cabrera to Piedad Córdoba as a humanitarian gesture. Moncayo was captured on December 21, 1997. On June 28, 2009, The FARC announced that they would release Professional Soldier Josue Daniel Calvo Sanchez. Calvo was captured on April 20, 2009. Calvo was released on March 28, 2010. Moncayo was released on March 30, 2010.

Operation Chameleon

On June 13, 2010, Colombian troops rescued Police Colonel Luis Herlindo Mendieta Ovalle, Police Captain Enrique Murillo Sanchez and Army Staff Sergeant Arbey Delgado Argote, after twelve years of captivity. Argote was captured on August 3, 1998. Ovalle and Sanchez were captured on November 1, 1998. On June 14, Police Lieutenant William Donato Gomez was also rescued. He was also captured on August 3, 1998.[122]

Juan Manuel Santos's Presidency (2010–present)

President Juan Manuel Santos began his term with a suspected FARC bomb-blast in Bogotá.[123] This followed the resolution of the 2010 Colombia–Venezuela diplomatic crisis which erupted over outgoing President Álvaro Uribe's allegations of active Venezuelan support for FARC.

In early September 2010, FARC-EP attacks in the southern departments of Nariño and Putumayo killed some fifty policemen and soldiers in hit-and-run assaults.[124]

According to a December report by the Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris NGO, 473 FARC-EP guerrillas and 357 members of the Colombian security forces died in combat between January and September 2010. An additional 1,382 government soldiers or policemen were wounded during the same period, with the report estimating that the total number of casualties could reach 2,500 by the end of the year.[125] Nuevo Arco Iris head León Valencia considered that FARC guerrillas have reacted to a series of successful military blows against them by splitting up their forces into smaller groups and intensifying the offensive use of anti-personnel land mines, leading to what he called a further "degradation" of the conflict. Valencia also added that both coca crops and the drug trade have "doubled" in areas with FARC-EP presence. Researcher Claudia López considered that the Colombian government is winning the strategic and aerial side of the war but not the infantry front, where both the FARC-EP and ELN continue to maintain an offensive capacity.[126]

September 23, 2010. Death of Jorge Briceño, AKA "Mono Jojoy"

Colombian authorities announced the death of Mono Jojoy on September 23, 2010. According to President Juan Manuel Santos, the FARC commander was killed in an operation that began in the early hours of September 21 in the department of Meta, 200 miles (320 km) south of the capital Bogotá.[127] According to Santos, he was "the impersonation of terror and a symbol of violence, the kids of 12, 14 in war, was an idea of Mono Jojoy".[128] The military operation with police intelligence's help, took place in La Macarena (Meta) and San Vicente del Caguán.

2011

For a list of FARC attacks in 2011,

In January 2011 Juan Manuel Santos admitted that FARC-EP had killed 460 government soldiers and wounded over 2,000 in 2010.[129] In April of 2011 the Colombian congress issued a statement saying that FARC has a 'strong presence' in roughly one third of Colombia, while their attacks against security forces have increased.[130] FARC attacks against security forces have increased every year since 2005.[131] In the first 6 months of 2011 the FARC launched an estimated 1,115 attacks against the army and police, which constitutes a 10% increase over the same period in 2010.[132] By early 2011 Colombian authorities and news media reported that the FARC and the clandestine sister groups have partly shifted strategy from guerrilla warfare to 'a war of militias', meaning that they are increasingly operating in civilian clothes while hiding amongst symphathizers in the civilian population.[133] In early January of 2011 the Colombian army said that the FARC has some 18,000 members, with 9,000 of those forming part of the militias.[134] The army says it has 'identified' at least 1,400 such militia members in the FARC-strongholds of Valle del Cauca and Cauca in 2011.[135] In June 2011 Colombian chief of staff Edgar Cely claimed that the FARC wants to 'urbanize their actions',[136] which could partly explain the increased guerrilla activity in Medellín and particularly Cali.[137][138][139][140][141] Jeremy McDermott, co-director of Insight Crime, estimates that FARC may have some 30,000 'part-time fighters' in 2011, consisting of armed,[133] civilian supporters making up the rebel militia network instead of full-time fighters wearing uniforms.[142]

The government claims that FARC-EP killed 167 soldiers between January and early May 2011.[143]

Death of Alfonso Cano

Colombian troops killed FARC leader Alfonso Cano in a firefight on November 4, 2011.[144] The 6th Front of the FARC, which was in charge of Cano's security at the time of his death, retaliated by killing two policemen in Suarez and Jambaló some 24 hours after the death of Cano.[145]

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.[53][146]

Drug trade

That they try to present me as an associate of the guerrilla ... hurts my personal dignity ... I am a man of investments and therefore I cannot sympathize with the guerrillas who fight against property.

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.[55][148][149] During the 1990s, FARC expanded its operations, in some areas, to include trafficking and production, which has provided a significant portion of its funding.[150] Right-wing paramilitary groups also receive a large portion of their income from drug trafficking and production operations.[150]

A 1992 Central Intelligence Agency report "acknowledged that the FARC had become increasingly involved in drugs through their 'taxing' of the trade in areas under their geographical control and that in some cases the insurgents protected trafficking infrastructure to further fund their insurgency,"[151] but also described the relationship between the FARC and the drug traffickers as one "characterized by both cooperation and friction" and concluded that "we do not believe that the drug industry [in Colombia] would be substantially disrupted in the short term by attacks against guerrillas. Indeed, many traffickers would probably welcome, and even assist, increased operations against insurgents."[152]

In 1994, the DEA came to three similar conclusions. First, that any connections between drug trafficking organizations and Colombian insurgents were "ad hoc 'alliances of convenience'".[153] Second, that "the independent involvement of insurgents in Colombia's domestic drug productions, transportation, and distribution is limited…there is no evidence that the national leadership of either the FARC or the ELN has directed, as a matter of policy, that their respective organizations directly engage in independent illicit drug production, transportation, or distribution."[153] Third, the report determined that the DEA "has no evidence that the FARC or ELN have been involved in the transportation, distribution, or marketing of illegal drugs in the United States. Furthermore it is doubtful that either insurgent group could develop the international transportation and logistics infrastructure necessary to establish independent drug distribution in the United States or Europe… DEA believes that the insurgents never will be major players in Colombia's drug trade."[153]

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.[148][149][154][155]

In those FARC-EP controlled territories that do produce coca, it is generally grown by peasants on small plots; in paramilitary or government controlled areas, coca is generally grown on large plantations.[156] The FARC-EP generally makes sure that peasant coca growers receive a much larger share of profits than the paramilitaries would give them,[146][149][157] and demands that traffickers pay a decent wage to their workers.[146] 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.[157] 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.[157]

In November 2000, FARC Spokesman Simon Trinidad, when asked how important the income raised from taxing 'drugs laboratories' was to FARC, stated:[158]

It does represent a part of our financing of the struggle but it’s not all of it. There is a lot of false morality in here. The banker receives the dealer’s deposits; the industrialist sells shares in his companies to the dealer; and the businessman sells everything to the dealer that he will need. Isn’t all this money a product of trafficking, too? Colombia became a producer of coca and the authorities realised this. But where did the chemicals come from? They come through the ports, the airports, the roads. And how does the product leave the country? The same way. This all benefits the authorities, the police. Drug trafficking finances political campaigns here. In the last thirty years presidents, congressmen, governors, mayors, political parties – all of them have taken money from traffickers. That’s why Colombia has become such a major drug producer.

After the April 21, 2001 capture of Brazilian drug lord 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.[159][160][161]

Kidnappings

The FARC-EP has carried out both ransom and politically-motivated kidnappings in Colombia.[162][163][164][165][166][167][168][169][170]

FARC-EP guerrillas are responsible for the majority of conflict-related kidnappings in Colombia.[168][169][171][172] The group takes politicians or government officials hostage for political reasons and captures soldiers or policemen in order to pressure the Colombian state into negotiating a prisoner exchange.[163][172][173][174][175]

The FARC-EP also takes civilians hostage in exchange for ransom payments. The guerrillas initially targeted the families of drug traffickers, the wealthy upper-class and foreigners but the group later expanded its kidnapping and extortion operations to include the middle-class.[162][166][163][167][170][176]

During the 1984 peace negotiations, FARC pledged to stop kidnapping and condemned the practice.[177] However, hostage-taking by FARC did not cease and actually increased in the years following this declaration.[177] In a 1997 interview, FARC-EP Commander Alfonso Cano argued that some guerrilla units continued to do so for "political and economic reasons" in spite of the prohibition issued by the leadership.[177]

In 2000, the FARC-EP issued a directive called "Law 002" which demanded a "tax" from all individuals and corporations with assets worth at least $1 million USD, warning that those who failed to pay would be detained by the group.[166][176] In 2001, FARC Commander Simón Trinidad claimed that the FARC-EP does not engage in kidnapping but instead "retains [individuals] in order to obtain resources needed for our struggle." Commander Trinidad said he did not know how many people had been taken by FARC or how much money was collected by the organization in exchange for their freedom.[166] In addition, FARC spokesperson Joaquín Gómez stated:

We will stop the kidnappings when the armed conflict ends in Colombia. There are many people who are already paying, that is, they are paying their tax voluntarily. However, there are others who are not paying. Hence, we kidnap those who are not paying to ensure that they pay. This is a tax. Those who have the resources must pay their share.[170]

In 2002, Amnesty International sent a letter to FARC-EP Commander Manuel Marulanda condemning kidnapping and hostage-taking as well as rejecting the threats directed at municipal or judicial officials and their families, arguing that they are civilians who are protected by international humanitarian law as long as they do not participate in hostilities.[178]

According to Amnesty International, the number of kidnappings has decreased in recent years but the human rights organization estimates that FARC and ELN guerrillas continue to be behind hundreds of cases.[168][169][171] In 2008, press reports estimated that about 700 hostages continued to be held captive by FARC.[179][180][181] According to the Fundación País Libre anti-kidnapping NGO, an estimated total of 6,778 people were kidnapped by FARC between 1997 and 2007.[164] In 2009, the state's anti-kidnapping agency Fondelibertad reviewed 3,307 officially unsettled cases and removed those that had already been resolved or for which there was insufficient information. The agency concluded that 125 hostages were confirmed to remain in captivity nationwide and 66 individuals were specifically being held by the FARC-EP.[182] The government's revised figures were considered "absurdly low" by Fundación País Libre, which has argued that its own archives suggest an estimated 1,617 people taken hostage between 2000 and 2008 remain in the hands of their captors, including hundreds seized by FARC.[182] In a contemporary statement from FARC, the group claimed that it was holding nine people for ransom in addition to those hostages kept for a prisoner exchange.[182]

In 2008, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez expressed his disagreement with FARC-EP's resorting to kidnappings.[183][184] Former President Fidel Castro of Cuba also criticized the use of hostage-taking by the guerrillas as "objectively cruel" and suggested that the group free all of its prisoners and hostages.[185]

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."[186]

Child soldiers

File photo of FARC-EP soldiers in Valle del Cauca, some of whom are under 18, on march.

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.[172][187] Forcible recruitment of children, by either side, is rare in Colombia; most of the children join of their own accord 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.[172] Human Rights Watch has noted, however, that "once integrated into the FARC-EP, children are typically barred from leaving."[188]

FARC-EP Commander Simón Trinidad has stated that FARC does not allow the enlistment of people under 15 years of age, arguing that this would be in accordance with Article 38 of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child,[189] adding that:

In our statutes we have decided that we can recruit 15 year-olds and up. In some fronts there may have been some younger, but a short time ago we decided to send them back home. But what is the cost? In the last year a girl arrived at the office in San Vicente, 14 years-old and wanting to join the guerrillas. When the mother found out that she had joined she contacted the guerrillas and cried and said her daughter is only 14 years-old. In March she was sent back home because the FARC’s Central Command said they would return to their parents all those younger than fifteen. Two weeks ago I met this girl and asked her what she was doing. She said she was working in a bar from 6 pm until sunrise. I asked what she was doing in this bar and she said, ‘I attend to the customers.’ When I asked in what way does she attend to the customers, she lowered her head and started to cry. She is a whore. She is 14 years old. A child prostitute. She was better in the guerrillas. In the guerrillas we have dignity, respect and we provide them with clothes, food and education.
And there are millions of others like this girl in Colombia that are exploited in the coal mines, the gold mines, the emerald mines, in the coca and poppy fields. They prefer that children work in the coca and poppy fields because they pay them less and they work more. It sounds beautiful when you say that children shouldn’t be guerrillas, but the children are in the streets of the cities doing drugs, inhaling gasoline and glue. They are highly exploited ... These children meet the guerrillas and they don’t have parents because the military or the paramilitaries killed them and they ask the guerrillas to let them join.[189][190]

In November 2002, Amnesty International criticized Commander Trinidad's position and referred to the United Nations' Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict:

In an interview published in the magazine NACLA (Vol. XXXIV, No. September 2/October 2000), Commander Simón Trinidad justified the recruitment of minors by saying that it was better for minors to be with the guerrillas than be exploited in the mines or the coca plantations. This declaration cannot be used as an excuse to justify the irreparable damage done to the future generations of Colombia.
The UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, spells out its concern for the general and pernicious effects that armed conflicts have on children. With the objective of achieving full protection of children, the Optional Protocol calls on governments and armed opposition groups to ensure that under 18s do not participate in hostilities.[178]

In June 2000, FARC-EP Commander Carlos Antonio Lozada told Human Rights Watch that the minimum recruitment age of fifteen years was set in 1996 but admitted that "this norm was not enforced" until recently. Lozada said, however, that it had become an obligatory standard after Commander Jorge Briceño's statements on the matter in April 2000.[191] A 2001 Human Rights Watch report considered FARC-EP's refusal to admit children under fifteen years old into their forces to be "encouraging" but added that there is "little evidence that this rule is being strictly applied" and called on the group to demobilize all existing child soldiers and cease this practice in the future.[188]

In 2003, Human Rights Watch reported that FARC-EP shows no leniency to children because of their age, assigning minors the same duties as adults.[172] In addition:

Children who desert are often shot, especially if they take their weapons with them. The same fate awaits suspected informers, infiltrators, or children who fall asleep on guard duty. The commander handpicks a group to carry out the sentence. The child, hands tied by nylon cord, is taken beyond the camp's perimeter and made to wait while the squad digs a grave. Several children told Human Rights Watch that they had been ordered to carry out an execution of another child. Some said they had been selected deliberately because the victim was a friend. After the execution, usually by revolver shot, the body may be gutted before it is buried. The dead child's family is rarely, if ever, notified.
Children are also called upon to execute captured enemies. Several former FARC-EP child combatants described in detail to Human Rights Watch how guerrillas tortured captive paramilitaries by pushing needles under their nails, severing fingers and arms, and cutting their faces. Several children told us that their commanders made them watch these gruesome spectacles.[172]

Extrajudicial executions

In 2001, Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced that the FARC-EP had abducted and executed civilians accused of supporting paramilitary groups in the demilitarized zone and elsewhere, without providing any legal defense mechanisms to the suspects and generally refusing to give any information to relatives of the victims. The human rights NGO directly investigated three such cases and received additional information about over twenty possible executions during a visit to the zone.[192]

According to HRW, those extrajudicial executions would qualify as forced disappearances if they had been carried out by agents of the government or on its behalf, but nevertheless remained "blatant violations of the FARC-EP's obligations under international humanitarian law and in particular key provisions of article 4 of Protocol II, which protects against violence to the life, physical, and mental well-being of persons, torture, and ill-treatment."[192]

The Colombian human rights organization CINEP reported that FARC-EP killed an estimated total of 496 civilians during 2000.[192]

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[193] and its use of landmines.[194]

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."[193]

According to the ICBL Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor, "FARC is probably the most prolific current user of antipersonnel mines among rebel groups anywhere in the world." Furthermore, FARC use child soldiers to carry and deploy antipersonnel mines.[195]

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.[61] In March 1999 members of a local FARC contingent 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.[61]

Organization and structure

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.[23][24] 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.[5] In 2007 FARC-EP Commander Raúl Reyes claimed that their force consisted of 18,000 guerrillas.[6]

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.[27][28][29][30][31][32][33] The largest concentrations of FARC-EP guerrillas are located throughout the southeastern parts of Colombia's 500,000 square kilometers (190,000 sq mi) of jungle and in the plains at the base of the Andean mountains.[34][35]

FARC's organized hierarchically into military units as follows:[196][197]

Alfonso Cano, former FARC Commander-in-Chief, was killed by Colombian military forces on November 4, 2011
  • Central High Command – composed of a Secretariat, containing five permanent members, one of which holds the title of Commander-in-Chief, and two "supplements". Coordinates the activities of the individual blocks, and determines overall strategy of FARC-EP.[196]
  • Estado Mayor Central – 25 members, who also coordinate activities of blocks[198]
  • Block – 5+ Fronts, with each block corresponding to one of Colombia's geographical regions: south, central, east, west, Middle Magdalena, Caribbean, and Cesar.[198]
  • Front – 1+ Columns. Within each Front, there are combat, support, and infrastructure elements.
  • Column – 2+ Companies
  • Company – 2+ Guerrillas
  • Guerrilla – 2 Squads
  • Squad – +/- 12 combatants

The FARC-EP secretariat was 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.[100] Cano was killed in a military operation on November 4, 2011.[199]

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, cessation of paramilitary and government violence against rural peasants, social reforms to reduce poverty and inequality, and the release of all jailed (and extradited) FARC-EP rebels.[173] 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 including members of the Patriotic Union, a FARC-EP-created political party.[200]

See also


References

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Further reading

Books

English

  • 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/?id=pkUl8QASqHMC&pg=PA160&dq=farc+paramilitaries&cd=14#v=onepage&q=farc%20paramilitaries. 
  • 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. 
  • Dominic Streatfeild (2002). Cocaine: An Unauthorised Biography. Virgin Books. ISBN 9780753506271. 

Spanish

  • Jacobo Arenas (1972) (in Spanish). Diario de la resistencia de Marquetalia. Ediciones Abejón Mono. 

Journal articles

  • Petras, James (December 30, 2000 – January 5, 2001). "Geopolitics of Plan Colombia". Economic and Political Weekly 35 (52/53): 4617–4623. JSTOR 4410105. 

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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