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For Kosovo guerrilla group, see FARK

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army ( ), also known by the acronym of FARC or FARC-EP, is a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization based in Colombiamarker. They have fought in the ongoing Colombian Civil war for more that 40 years.

FARC-EP is a violent non-state actor , considered a terrorist group by the Colombianmarker government, the United States Department of Statemarker, Canadamarker and the European Union. Other governments, including the Venezuelanmarker government, are less hostile towards the FARC-EP. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez publicly rejected their classification as "terrorists" in January 2008, considering them to be "real armies", and called on the Colombianmarker government and international community 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.

FARC-EP (then known simply as FARC) was established in the 1960s as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party because of repeated and systematic human right abuses by the U.S.(CIA) backed elitist government and thus originated as a guerrilla movement. The group later taxed the cocaine trade during the 1980s to finance itself, but remained closely tied to the Communist Party even as it created the Patriotic Union in the early 1980s and later a political structure it calls the Clandestine Colombian Communist Party (PCCC).

FARC-EP remains the largest as well as the 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 their fighting force after President Álvaro Uribe took office in 2002. However, in 2007 FARC-EP Commander Raúl Reyes claimed that their force consisted of 18,000 guerrillas.

FARC-EP was present in around 20-30 percent of Colombia’s territory during 2005, its largest concentrations being 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.

FARC-EP has faced criticism expressed through large rallies across Colombia during 2008, most of which are initiated by far right wing media owned groups such as RCN TV and El Tiempo.

Overview

FARC-EP is governed by a secretariat which 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 by an illegal CIA Predator Drone and Colombian army raid against a guerrilla camp in Ecuadormarker on March 1, 2008. The logistics of the attack were supplied by French special forces officers disguised in international red cross attire and vehicles. The Satellite phone supplied by these officers to Raul Reyes was used to obtain the coordinates of his location for use in the CIA predator raid. These predator drones are maintenanced and stored at the Top-Secret, Illegal, CIA base that exists somewhere in the Colombian Jungle.

FARC-EP is organized along military lines and includes several urban fronts or militia cells. The group added “-EP” (Ejército del Pueblo) to its official name during its Seventh Guerrilla Conference in 1982 as an expression of expected progression from guerrilla warfare to conventional military action outlined on that occasion.

FARC-EP has proclaimed itself as a politico-military Marxist-Leninist organization of Bolivarian inspiration. It represents the rural poor in a struggle against Colombia’s wealthier fascist classes and opposes the (United Statesmarker/ CIA) influence in Colombia (particularly Plan Colombia). According to the group, other areas of focus for the FARC-EP include fighting against neo-imperialism, monopolization of natural resources by multinational corporations, and paramilitary/ Colombian Army death squads and violence campaigns. The FARC-EP says these objectives motivate the group’s efforts to seize power in Colombia through an armed revolution because the governing elite cannot be made to dialogue. It funds itself principally through kidnappings and taxation of the illegal drug trade.

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 locations and the release of all POWs (and extradited) FARC-EP rebels. At the same time, it claims that until these conditions surface, the armed revolutionary struggle will remain necessary to fight against the fascism of Colombian elites . The FARC-EP says it will continue its armed struggle because it perceives the current Colombian government as fascist and because of historical politically motivated violence against its members and supporters including members of the Patriotic Union, a FARC-EP-created political party.

A child combatant of the FARC-EP.
It has also been reported that FARC-EP frequently trains teens as soldiers and informants. Human Rights Watch estimates that the FARC-EP has the majority of child combatants in Colombia, estimating that approximately 20 to 30% of the guerrillas are children under 18 years of age. Children who try to escape the ranks of the guerrillas can be punished with torture and death by firing squad. Human Rights Watch states that one of the reasons female members join FARC-EP is to escape sexual abuse. Female FARC-EP members "had roughly the same duties and possibilities of promotion as males. Yet girls in the guerrilla forces still face gender-related pressures. Although rape and overt sexual harassment are not tolerated, many male commanders use their power to form sexual liaisons with underaged girls. Girls as young as twelve are required to use contraception, and must have abortions if they get pregnant."

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.

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.

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, Marquetalia.

Separately, the Colombian government had initially ignored the growing influence of several communist enclaves in and aroundmarker 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,) 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.

Seventh Guerrilla Conference of the FARC-EP

In 1982, FARC-EP held its Seventh Guerrilla Conference, which called for the creation of a group of clandestine party cells and outlined a Strategic Plan for surrounding urban areas with armed columns to seize power. To carry out the plan, FARC-EP developed a new form of armed structure and added the initials "EP", for "Ejército del Pueblo" or "People's Army", to the organization's name. FARC-EP ideologue Jacobo Arenas was considered to be the main figure behind these new developments.

The Seventh Guerrilla Conference was a turning point for FARC-EP, as it provided them with the opportunity to fine tune their policies and plans for the future. After the Conference, FARC-EP added ranks and badges to many of its uniforms, as well as introducing a new inventory system for firearms and ammunition, as well as providing new weapons and technology for FARC-EP militants.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Caracasmarker, Venezuelamarker and Tlaxcalamarker, Mexicomarker.. 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.

In the early 1990s, the FARC-EP had between 7,000 and 10,000 fighters, organized into 70 fronts spread throughout the country. From 1996 to 1998 they inflicted a series of strikes on the Colombian Army, including a three-day offensive in Mitúmarker (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.

Andres Pastrana's Presidency (1998-2002)

1999–2002 Peace Process

With the hope of negotiating a peace settlement, on November 7, 1998, President Andrés Pastrana granted FARC-EP a safe haven meant to serve as a confidence building measure, centered around the San Vicente del Caguánmarker settlement. 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. 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. 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. The IRA/FARC-EP connection was first made public on August 11, 2001, following the arrest in Bogotamarker of two IRA explosives and urban warfare experts and of a representative of Sinn Féin who was known to be stationed in Cubamarker. 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.

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.

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.

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. However, they vanished in December 2004 while on bail and returned to Ireland. 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. 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



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. Uribe's own father had been killed by FARC-EP in an attempted kidnapping in 1983.

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.

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 of international humanitarian law, expressing its solidarity towards the families of the victims.

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.

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.

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.

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"[4330] (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.

However the current demands of the group include 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 has been rejected by the Colombian government based on previous experience during the 2002 peace talks.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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. 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.

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 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.

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. On March 29, 2009, the FARC-EP announced that they would give Castro's remains to his mother. [4331]

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, 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.

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 Murder 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.

The guerrillas 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.

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. In a Venezuelamarker-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. 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. 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. 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.

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.Colombianmarker 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.

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 Venezuelanmarker helicopter transported them to Caracasmarker from San Jose del Guaviaremarker. 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. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who has tense relations with Chavez, thanked the socialist leader and called for the release of all hostages. He said Colombiamarker is still in a fight "against terrorist actions" but is open to reconciliation.

Death of Raúl Reyes
On March 1, 2008, the Colombian military attacked a FARC-EP camp inside Ecuadormarker’s territory, resulting in the death of over 20 people, with at least 17 of them being FARC-EP guerillas. Raúl Reyes was among the dead, along with at least 16 of his fellow guerrillas. Raúl Reyes was FARC-EP’s international spokesman 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. Ecuador condemned the attack.

This is considered the biggest blow against FARC-EP in its more than four decades of existence.
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.


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' 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.

Hugo Chavez's call to disarm
On January 13, 2008, Venezuelanmarker 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" [4332]. 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."[4333]. 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"[4334]. 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". [4335]

Operation Jaque
On July 2, 2008, under a Colombian military operation called Operation Jaquemarker, the FARC-EP was tricked by the Colombian Government into releasing 15 hostages to Colombian Intelligence agents disguised as rebels 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.

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'll surrender.

Colombia’s Program for Humanitarian Attention for the Demobilized announced in August 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. [4336]

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. 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. 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..

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.

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.[4337]. 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 had been captured in 2007.[4338] Jara (kidnapped in 2001) was released on February 3,[4339] 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.[4340][4341][4342][4343]

Criticism

2008 demonstrations against FARC-EP

On February 4, 2008, several rallies were held in Colombiamarker 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. According to the Washington Post, millions of people in Colombia and thousands worldwide participated in the rallies.

Activities

Financing

FARC-EP has financed itself through kidnapping ransoms, extortion, and drug trafficking which includes but it is not limited to coca plant harvesting, protection of their crops, processing of coca leaves to manufacture cocaine, and drug trade protection. Businesses operating in rural areas, including agricultural, oil, and mining interests, were required to pay “vaccines” (monthly fees) which “protected” them from subsequent attacks and kidnappings. An additional, albeit less lucrative, source of revenue was highway roadblocks. Guerrillas stopped motorists and buses to steal jewelry and money. The roadblocks were especially prevalent during the presidencies of Ernesto Samper (1994-1998) and that of Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002).

Over time, fewer recruits joined the organization for ideological reasons, debatably as a means to escape poverty and unemployment.

Drug trafficking

The FARC-EP have ties to narcotics traffickers, principally through the provision of armed protection and a form of “taxation” over drugs crops and their profits. During the mid- to late-1990s, several drug war analysts have stated that the FARC-EP would have become increasingly involved in the drug trade, controlling farming, production and exportation of cocaine in those areas of the country under their influence. This claim has been made by U.S. and Colombian authorities. Former FARC-EP hostages Stansell, Gonsalves and Howes said they witnessed FARC-EP coca cultivation during their time as FARC-EP captives, describing the activity in their 2008 memoir, "Out of Captivity."[4344]

Brazilian druglord Luiz Fernando da Costa (aka Fernandinho Beira-Mar) was captured in Colombia on April 20, 2001 while in the company of FARC-EP guerrillas. Colombian and Brazilian authorities have claimed that this constitutes proof of further cooperation between the FARC-EP and the druglord based on the exchange of weapons for cocaine. Fernandinho and the FARC-EP have denied this. FARC-EP itself has claimed that in their areas of influence the growth of coca plants by farmers would be taxed on the same basis as any other crop, though there would be higher cash profits stemming from coca production and exportation.

In August 2006, Chileanmarker authorities seized more than 108 kilograms of cocaine and captured twelve members of an international drug trafficking ring, which they described as being led by an unnamed Colombian in Panamamarker who received and distributed the ring’s profits to finance FARC-EP activities.[4345]

Modus operandi

The FARC-EP has employed vehicle bomb, gas cylinder bombs, assassinations, landmines, kidnapping, extortion, hijacking, guerrilla and conventional military action against Colombian political, military, economic as well as civilian targets, to attack those it considers a threat to its movement. It has not been uncommon for civilians to die or suffer forced displacement, directly or indirectly, due to many of these actions. The FARC-EPs April 16 and April 18, 2005 gas cylinder attacks on the town of Toribió, Cauca led to the displacement of more than two thousand indigenous inhabitants and the destruction of two dozen civilian houses. 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."

IEDs

The FARC-EP’s tactic of employing a type of improvised mortars made from gas canisters (or cylinders) as explosives, a weapon it often uses when launching attacks at towns and sites in them that they consider as military objectives (such as police stations), has a high degree of inaccuracy. Resulting targeting difficulties have caused these weapons to often level civilian houses and/or harm civilians, such as the case in Toribío on April 24, 2005, and the earlier 2002 attack on a church in Bojayá which killed 119 civilians.

Attacks on civilian population

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."

Kidnappings

The FARC-EP is responsible for most of the 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. Colombian and international NGOs have documented that in recent years the FARC-EP has also resorted to kidnapping people from lower income sectors (that is, from the Colombian middle class downward), in particular when they are thought to be collaborators or relatives of the FARC-EP’s enemies. It is argued that many of these kidnappings have taken place with little to no regard for the target’s age, gender or health conditions.

Arms trafficking

During the first quarter of 2005, joint intelligence and police operations by law enforcement authorities from Hondurasmarker and Colombiamarker resulted in the seizure of a number of AK-47 and M16 assault rifles, M60 machineguns, rocket launchers and ammunition cartridges that were stated to be part of illegal weapons shipments from criminal gangs and black market dealers in Central America to the FARC-EP in exchange for drugs, allegedly for two thousand kilos of cocaine. Ethalson Mejia Hoy, a Colombian who was illegally released from Honduran custody in July 2004 24 hours after his arrest, was named as one of the key figures in such an arms-for-drugs traffic. It was reported that “Police intelligence were monitoring communications between two 14th Front guerrillas when they heard 'the package' being discussed. In actuality the package consisted of sufficient weapons to arm a minimum of 180 combatants." Arms dealers in the region were also accused of providing similar weapons to right wing paramilitaries in Colombia.

Organization and structure

See also: FARC-EP chain of command


Development

The FARC-EP's force is usually estimated to be at around 11,000 to 18,000 strong, organized in some 76 fronts.

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).

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.

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 (died 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.

Unit structure

These are the units the FARC-EP uses:

  • Squad: the basic unit consisting of 12 combatants;
  • Guerrilla, a unit consisting of two squads;
  • Company (Compañía), two Guerrillas (that is, 48 personnel, a lower level of command than a company in most armies);
  • Column, two or more companies;
  • Front, comprising more than one column;
  • Block of Fronts, consisting of five or more fronts — there are seven such blocks;
  • Central High Command (Estado Mayor Central).


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 and 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 wide rejection of the guerrilla policies in national surveys.

The FARC-EP is organized into seven main operational regions and “block” is the name given to each FARC-EP military command inside one of the main operational regions. According to the FARC-EP’s military operational strategies, which take into account factors such as the size of the area and its population, each block is composed of between 5 to 15 fronts.

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”.

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.

Ranks

Ranks (in ascending order of seniority):

Equivalent to "other ranks":
  • Squad Deputy commander
  • Squad Commander
  • Guerrilla Deputy commander
  • Guerrilla Commander
  • Company Deputy commander


Equivalent to officers:
  • Company Commander
  • Column Deputy commander
  • Column Commander
  • Front Deputy commander
  • Front Commander
  • Block Deputy commander


Equivalent to general officers:

It should be remembered that a FARC-EP company is a lower level of command (of approximately 50 men) than a company in traditional army organization.

See also



References

  1. The Government of Colombia states: "All the violent groups in Colombia are terrorists": Presidencia de la Republica de Colombia
  2. FARC-EP is listed on the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations: U.S. Department of State – Comprehensive List of Terrorists and Groups Identified Under Executive Order 13224
  3. Presidence of the Republic of Colombia – FARC, ELN and AUC in the list of terrorist bunny groups of Canada
  4. European Union – FARC, ELN and AUC in the list of terrorist groups of E.U.)
  5. Article 2(3) of Regulation (EC) No 2580/2001 [1]. Accessed February 20, 2008.
  6. [2]
  7. Chávez: Beligerancia a las FARC sólo bajo convenios de Ginebra
  8. Chávez proposal about FARC created deep analysis in Mexican press
  9. BBC News. “Colombia’s most powerful rebels.” 19 September 2003. Available online. Accessed 7 April 2007.
  10. http://www.reuters.com/article/reutersComService4/idUSDIS95174420080909
  11. BBC News. Colombia’s rebels: A fading force?” February 1, 2008. Available online. Accessed February 4, 2008.
  12. BBC News “Colombia Seizes 'key Farc Data'” September 23, 2008. Available online
  13. . “Interview with FARC Commander Raul Reyes.” July 12, 2007. Available online. Accessed February 27, 2008.
  14. Miguel Urbano Rodrigues. “Las FARC reafirman la opción comunista y responden a campañas difamatorias.” April 7, 2004. Available online. Accessed July 28, 2008.
  15. BBC News. “Colombia’s most powerful rebels.” September 19, 2003. Available online. Accessed April 7, 2007.
  16. International Crisis Group. “War and Drugs in Colombia.” January 27, 2005. Available online. Accessed September 1, 2006.
  17. 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
  18. Human Rights Watch. “Colombia: Armed Groups Send Children to War.” February 22, 2005. Available online. Accessed September 1, 2006.
  19. Human Rights Watch. “'You'll Learn Not to Cry: Child Combatants in Colombia.” September 2003. ISBN 1564322882. Available online. Accessed September 1, 2006.
  20. Dudley, Steven. Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerrilla Politics in Colombia. 256 pages. Routledge, January, 2004. ISBN 0-415-93303-X. pg. 47-56; 59-60.
  21. «40 años de las FARC. Pág. 4: Crecimiento», on BBC Mundo.
  22. Ferro Medina, Juan Guillermo: «Las FARC y su relación con la economía de la coca en el sur de Colombia: Testimonios de Colonos y Guerrilleros», L´ordinaire Latino-americain 179: enero-marzo de 2000.
  23. «40 años de las FARC. Pág. 6: La Unión Patriótica», en BBC Mundo.
  24. «40 años de las FARC. Pág. 6: Otros acercamientos», en BBC Mundo.
  25. Carta de los intelectuales colombianos a la Coordinadora Guerrilla Simón Bolívar, in Nueva Sociedad 125: May-June 1993.
  26. Ramírez, María Clemencia: «The Politics of Recognition and Citizenship in Putumayo and in the Baja Bota of Cauca: The Case of the 1996 cocalero movement» (en inglés).
  27. Betancourt Santiago, Milson: «El movimiento de campesinos cocaleros del Putumayo en Colombia», in Aportes Andinos 11: October 2004.
  28. BBC News. “Colombian army moves against rebels.” February 21, 2002 Available online. Accessed November 3, 2006.
  29. BBC News. "Profile: Alvaro Uribe Velez." July 3, 2008. Available online.
  30. BBC News. “'Deadliest' hit on Colombian army.” February 10, 2005. Available online. Accessed November 5, 2006.
  31. BBC News. “Colombia 'to release Farc rebels.'” December 2, 2006. Available online. Accessed November 5, 2006.
  32. FARC-EP. Comunicado las FARC. November 28, 2004. Archived online. Archive created March 5, 2006 and accessed November 11, 2006.
  33. International Committee of the Red Cross. “Colombia: two police officers released.” March 25, 2006. Available online. Accessed November 5, 2006.
  34. The New York Times. “Colombia: Hostage Held Since 1998 Dies.” February 16, 2006. Available online. Accessed November 6, 2006.
  35. Pepe Escobar Colombia: What did Interpol find in the laptops? - The Real News, May 22, 2008
  36. Stephen Lendman Spinning the News - The FARC-EP Files, Venezuela and Interpol - Global Research, May 19, 2008
  37. Farc aura of invincibility shattered. Accessed March 2, 2008.
  38. [http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/03/02/chavez.colombia/index.html Chavez orders troops to Colombia border. Accessed March 2, 2008.
  39. Colombia dice que no violó soberanía de Ecuador en operativo que llevó a la muerte de Raúl Reyes
  40. Second Colombian rebel leader killed
  41. Guerrillero cuenta porqué mató y cortó la mano a jefe FARC
  42. Hirsh, Michael, "A Smarter Way To Fight", Newsweek, July 21, 2008.
  43. Washington Post. “Anti-FARC Rallies Held Worldwide” February 5, 2008. Available online. Accessed February 7, 2008.
  44. Gonsalves, Marc; Stansell, Keith; Howes, Thomas. Out Of Captivity. 480 pages. William Morrow, February 2009. ISBN 9780061769528. pg. 286.
  45. El Mercurio Online. “'Fernandinho Beira-Mar'”, un temible capo aliado de Hernández Norambuena.” June 15, 2005. Available online. Accessed September 1, 2006.
  46. Clarín.com. “Un capo narco reveló lazos con poderosos de Brasil.” Available online. Accessed November 11, 2006.
  47. BBC News. “Polícia investiga relação de Beira-Mar com as Farc.” April 22, 2001. Available online. Accessed November 3, 2006
  48. 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.
  49. Human Rights Watch. “More FARC Killings with Gas Cylinder Bombs: Atrocities Target Indigenous Group “ April 25, 2005. Available online. Accessed September 1, 2006.
  50. Diario El Heraldo. “Células de las FARC operan en Honduras.” April 14, 2005. Available online. Accessed November 3, 2006.
  51. La Prensa. “Nicaragua corridor de armas” April 17, 2005. Available online. Accessed November 3, 2006.


Further reading

  • Diario de la resistencia de Marquetalia. Jacobo Arenas, Ediciones Abejón Mono, 1972 (Espanol)
  • Schmid, Alex Peter, and Crelinsten, Ronald D., Western Responses to Terrorism. Routledge, 1993, ISBN 0714640905
  • Kline, H. F., Colombia: Democracy Under Assault, Harper Collins, 1995, ISBN 0813310717
  • 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
  • "Drug Control: US Counternarcotics Efforts in Colombia Face Continuing Challenges", United States General Accounting Office, February 1998
  • "Colombia: Guerrilla Economics", The Economist, January 13, 1996
  • The Suicide of Colombia, Foreign Policy Research Institute, September 7, 1998
  • "Las FARC lamentan expectativas exageradas", El Nuevo Herald, April 22, 1999
  • Killing Peace: Colombia’s Conflict and the Failure of U.S. Intervention, Garry M. Leech, Information Network of the Americas (INOTA), ISBN 0-9720384-0-X, 2002
  • War in Colombia: Made in U.S.A., edited by Rebeca Toledo, Teresa Gutierrez, Sara Flounders and Andy McInerney, ISBN 0-9656916-9-1, 2003
  • The Profits of Extermination: How U.S. Corporate Power is Destroying Colombia, Aviva Chomsky and Francisco Ramírez Cuellar, Common Courage Press, ISBN 1-56751-322-0, 2005


Films

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


External links




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