POLS 370 FARC Research Paper
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - POLS 370 FARC Research Paper
POLS 370 Research Paper
The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) are a revolutionary
communist guerrilla terrorist organization that resides deep in Colombia’s jungles. The
FARC are best known for drug trafficking cocaine, kidnapping political opponents, and
fighting the Colombian military in what has escalated into a forty year old civil war. The
Colombian government and the FARC have been fighting since the mid 1960’s over a
conflict that involved a peasant community and a military invasion. The FARC emerged
in the early 1960’s as a peasant movement that had fought to establish a rural self-
governing community in the city of Marquetalia.
In the 1960’s Colombia’s government and leadership functioned in an oligarchic
authoritarian two party system, unlike present-day Colombia, which is positively
democratic. Colombia’s military invaded the peasant communities, destroying the
villages and crops, which lead to an uprising and the regrouping of peasants under
Manuel Marulanda, who orchestrated a rebellion against the Colombian government for
the destruction of their community. These events have formed the core of why the FARC
exists today and continue to wage a civil war over the conflict that took place many years
ago. The FARC are fighting to reclaim old territories and establish new ones that the
government has taken away or prevented them from claiming. Even though the incident
occurred under an authoritarian regime, Colombia’s present day democratic government
still resents the FARC and denies them any part in society because of their illegal activity
in which they adopted in order to survive and bring attention to their cause.
The FARC’s main cause is based around the ideology of communism, which is rooted
in the struggle against inequality by a dominant capitalist class over a suppressed peasant
working class. The FARC view the past and present Colombian government as an
oppressor toward the peasant working class, only to favor and cater to capitalist elites for
their own self interests while the working class struggles to earn enough to make a living.
The FARC’s overall objective “is to take power and govern in coalition with other
progressive parties and movements in a multiparty system in which the centerpiece of
socioeconomic policy will be the equitable redistribution of wealth and
resources”(Petras). Colombia’s government has been plagued over the years with
corruption, social inequality, and unequal ownership of land, wealth and privilege
disputes, which the FARC regards as a threat to their cause. The Colombian government
does not tolerate the presence or the participation of any alternative political views that
are responsible for the class conflict. These measures make the FARC’s cause for
fighting seem legitimate in the eyes of the majority because they argue that their
organization is standing up against the inequality of the governing elite that has pushed
back all possible solutions to the secular problems that embrace Colombian society.
The FARC’s activity began to intensify in the 1990’s when the Colombian
government started to involve neo-liberal policies into its political platform. This meant
that the social gains of the working class were eliminated. The labor unions were
weakened by their removal from privatized state companies. Thousands of workers in the
private sector were laid off. In the mist of these measures came protests by the
mobilization of different labor groups that attracted a peasant movement that helped
blocked off national roadways in hopes of gaining the Colombian governments attention
for their disapproval of neo-liberal policies. The peasant movement emerged as a sub-
group that grabbed the attention of the FARC, because the FARC supports peasants and
working class individuals that the government tries to bring injustice to. Some of these
peasant groups are engaged in the coca producing business, which is illegal in Colombia.
Because the production of cocaine is illegal, it requires the protection by the FARC rebels
in order for the peasants to provide a way to make a living. The FARC are not the actual
makers of the production of cocaine, but rather the suppliers of land and communities
were the peasants produce coca for the drug cartels. The FARC view the drug trade as a
legitimate way of producing for the means of the community and a reason to keep
fighting the Colombian government for their unequal treatment of workers and corrupt
policies of neo-liberalism that polarizes certain groups from participating in society.
The FARC have used successful U.S. and Colombian anti-drug policies as strategic
maneuvers as a method of addressing issues on which they are concerned. Some of these
anti-drug policies include the dismantling of the Medellin and Cali drug cartels and the
interception of coca coming into Colombian processing facilities. The U.S. used drug
certification requirements as a way “to pressure the Colombian government to attack drug
cartels and allow aerial fumigation of coca crops”(Duncan). These tactics played right
into the FARC’s hands because the anti-drug successes pushed coca cultivation into
FARC dominated communities, which in return strengthened the FARC’s base and
weakened many of their political and military opponents. The drug cartels are one of the
FARC’s most powerful opponents aside from the Colombian military. The business
relation between the drug cartels and the FARC are that the cartels have to pay taxes in
order to use FARC dominated areas to cultivate and traffic coca. Because of the U.S. and
Colombian anti-drug measures, the shift in production provided the FARC with the
opportunity to tax the drug cartels unprecedentedly. Another strategic measure that
helped strengthened the FARC’s base of support was the U.S./Colombian governments
use of aerial fumigation of coca crops. The coca workers rely on the FARC’s support and
protection because the Colombian government threatens their health and livelihood.
The FARC use the drug trade as a method of strengthening their organization and
expanding its decade long insurgency against the Colombian government. A certain
degree of incidents and political engagements have increased the FARC’s effort in
gaining a monopoly on the drug industry for their own benefit of survival. This was the
case with the Ernesto Samper presidency, in which he was involved in a political scandal
that saw several millions of dollars of drug money invested into his campaign. Domestic
and international pressure compelled the Samper administration to take a hard-line
approach in dismantling the Cali drug cartel. This measure left a vacuum open for the
FARC to come in and extract more resources from the cocaine industry now that the Cali
cartel had been dismantled. With the larger Cali cartel gone, small-scale fragmented
competitors emerged, which made the industry more vulnerable to taxation by the FARC.
Another maneuver that acted in the FARC’s favor to control the drug trade was when
Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori instructed his armed forces to shoot down planes
that were transporting coca from Peruvian fields to Colombian labs. This lead to coca
prices collapsing in Peru, which resulted in the shift of coca cultivation from Peru to
Colombia into longtime FARC, dominated strongholds.
The FARC’s main source of wealth and power that comes from the drug trade is the
ability to tax different groups for land cultivation and protection. Now that the cultivation
of coca has moved to Colombia and into FARC controlled areas, the FARC have
increased their ability to tax the entire drug industry. Peasants have been the FARC’s
main social base in the rural areas of Colombia. The FARC protect these peasants from
the appropriation of their land by large landowners and enforce that the landlords pay
their fair share of wages as well. The FARC also uses its forces to compel drug
traffickers to pay market prices for labor and coca leaves. Without the drug trade the
FARC would not have the means to survive as an organization. The drug trade offers the
FARC a chance at increasing its use of services to the community and a way to make a
profit in return in order to fund its cause with more stability and weapons.
As the FARC build an elaborate drug empire, the Colombian government launched a
series of aerial fumigation attacks in rural coca fields in an attempt to eradicate the
FARC’s operations. These measures antagonize relations with Colombia’s rural peasant
population, which leads to more political ammunition in the FARC’s favor. Until the
attacks, the Colombian coca production had been providing jobs to thousands of peasants.
These attacks on the peasants created an opportunity for the FARC to gather support
among the workers to stage a mass protest against the government’s eradication policies.
This caused the Colombian government to loose its credibility with the rural population.
The peasants turned to the FARC for support and protection from the governments
attempt to destroy their livelihood. “The government’s failure to adequately address illicit
crop cultivation contributes to civilian support of the guerrillas. Settlers in the area view
the guerillas as the only response to the attack on their lives and livelihood”(Vargas).
This affair aids to benefit the FARC’s grievances against the Colombian government in
what the FARC perceive as intolerance towards the peasant working class. Social
inequalities are the main themes that stimulate the FARC’s drive to fight the Colombian
government. The FARC will always find a need to fight against the government as long
as coca cultivation remains illegal and their use of protectionism provides security for
workers and cartels.
The ultimate strategy that the FARC wish to accomplish is to overthrow the existing
Colombian government and replace the governing body with an ideology derived from
Marxism. In 1982 the FARC constructed a strategy with the intensions of seizing power
in Colombian. Their goal was to surround the city of Bogota with sixteen thousand armed
troops. They intended to block the entry of basic supplies and food into Bogota, which
would create conditions for uprisings against the state. When this vision has occurred, the
thousands of troops stationed around Bogota would march into the city and fight a battle
against the Colombian army that lacked popular support. By taking over the area, the
FARC developed a methodical strategy in the larger towns with the objective of having
its fighters take jobs in city hall that would include working as the mayor’s secretary,
assistant to the public works minister, and the town’s dump truck driver. These positions
helped the FARC gather intelligence on the area before they would take it over.
The FARC would eliminate any forms of resistance or authority in the town that could
impose a potential threat to their plan. They would kill the local thieves in order to earn
the respect of the people. The guerrillas also eliminated any person that informed on them
to the local authorities or denied them lunch. During this phase the guerrillas demanded
that the local farm owners pay a financial contribution to the FARC’s revolutionary
cause. After a month later, the squadron is reinforced and the guerrillas began to show
themselves in uniform with guns. The FARC institutes a process of political
indoctrination as the guerrillas seek the support of the community leaders and recruit
young people to fight for their cause. The guerrillas then launch an attack on the town’s
police station. Those who were able to survive are transferred out and the town is turned
over to the FARC. When the FARC is choosing areas to invade they usually select places
where support for their ideology already exists. This was the case in the province of
Cundinamarca, which was home to two Communist Party councilmen. The guerrillas
came into the area dressed as civilians pretending to be laborers, soon revealing their
identity to the local peasants and discussing with them the political and social situations
in Colombia. The guerrillas talked about the local youth and their lack of a future because
of unemployment. Since both groups shared the same hardships it was easy for the FARC
to stir up resentment against the Colombian government with the peasants. After a couple
more visits, the guerrillas brought in more troops and orchestrated an attack on the local
With the elimination of the police, the FARC replaced the state in their own way by
collecting taxes on property and commercial transactions and forcing both landowners
and peasants to pay. These measures influenced the process in which public funds were
spent and which individuals became elected to local government. With the FARC seizing
these key areas, they gradually began to close in with a clear path to Bogota with their
objective of a takeover. At the end of 2000, the FARC had a thousand combatants
stationed in different strategic positions throughout Cundinamarca. The guerillas had the
mayors of the province under their threat and half of the area was under their control. The
FARC had predicted in a couple of years they would surround the city of Bogota.
In the past, the FARC adopted more offensive military tactics than random staged
attacks. This was because the organization was experiencing a threat of infiltration into
their peasant communities, which required offensive measures against the Colombian
military to protect land that the FARC had acquired early into their struggle. It was not
until the 1980’s that the Colombian paramilitary groups became more active in FARC
dominated regions, killing high ranking guerrilla leaders because of U.S. pressure on the
Colombian government to combat drug traffickers and communist insurgents. It was clear
to the FARC that peace negotiations had been sidelined and U.S/Colombian forces
wanted the guerrillas out of the country. The FARC acknowledged “that a revolutionary
situation now existed in Colombia”(Simons). As a way of advancing their revolutionary
cause, the FARC employed an arsenal of tactics that would grab the Colombian
authority’s attention and ignite fear throughout the country because of the government’s
campaign to end years of struggle.
The tactics that the FARC harbor in order to bring meaning or attention to their cause
involves random acts of violence that includes, bombings of infrastructure, murder,
kidnappings, assassinations, extortion, mortar attacks, and hijackings. These acts of
violence are most prevalent when there is guerrilla and conventional military action
against the Colombian army. The activist group Human Rights Watch reported that the
FARC were responsible for a number of attacks targeting civilian factories and trucks,
which claimed the life of innocent men, women, and children. The FARC claimed “that
such attacks destroy the source of the government’s wealth, so that they will be unable to
maintain this war over a long period”(Simons). These attacks occurred in the years of
1996-97 in different Colombian provinces that involved hostage taking, torture, and the
murder of innocent civilians in order to bring attention to the FARC’s cause. In the
province of Finca Osaka, eleven people were kidnapped from a bus and executed beside
the road. In Alto Mulatos and Pueblo Bello, seven civilians were tied up and executed.
On September 8, 1996 in San Jose de Apartado, four local community leaders were
massacred, including one woman who was pregnant. FARC guerrillas detonated a bomb
in El Hobo, Huila that contained nails, staples, screws, and pieces of chain at a bar
entrance, and then opened fire killing nine people. In Milan, Caqueta five Koreguaje
Indians were killed and then seven men were taken away from the rest of the group,
forced to an undisclosed area and executed. The victims of these killings had nothing to
do with the conflict or politics. This was an opportunity for the FARC to impose a since
of fear among the civilian community for the ultimate response from the military in order
to keep their revolutionary cause alive.
The FARC also use the tactic of child recruitment into their organization. Some of the
children have joined the FARC by choice, while others have been recruited by force. The
children are used to collect intelligence, make and place land mines throughout the
countryside, and to carry out attacks on enemy patrols. Aside from murdering local
citizens, the FARC have adopted the tactic of kidnapping to their resume. It is estimated
that the FARC have earned “about $250 million from kidnapping”(Simons). This tactic
has provided the FARC with another way to survive financially in addition with the drug
trade. They receive the money through ransoms in exchange for the safe return of the
victim, which also gives them some attention time to spotlight their cause. Their victims
are usually Colombians that have some kind of an affiliation to capitalism or politics. An
example would be the kidnapping of the owner of a Colombian coalmining company.
Another example is the August 7, 2002 plane hijacking and kidnapping of a Colombian
senator from an aircraft. While local kidnappings pay the bills, foreigners on the other
hand offer the FARC higher ransoms plus the attraction of international media attention
to highlight the group’s message. One of the most high profile cases of guerrilla
kidnappings occurred in February of 2002 when FARC rebels kidnapped three U.S.
contractors along with French politician Ingrid Betancourt. Throughout Colombia the
FARC continue to use hit and run tactics against a much stronger Colombian military.
Instead of hitting the military directly, the FARC will target local police stations were
they are small in numbers and no match to the rebels firepower, which includes, machine
guns, rocket launchers, and mortar rounds. In recent years, a mortar attack occurred on
the presidential palace where then President Alvaro Uribe was being inaugurated. The
stray rounds killed twenty residents from a neighboring community.
After years of failed peace negotiations and escalating rebel-induced violence, the
Colombian government has pressed forward with a U.S. financed counterinsurgency
campaign against the war on terror that targets the FARC as its main adversary. The
Colombian government relies on their military strength as a key component of
eradicating FARC dominated strongholds. The military continues its use of aerial raids
on FARC controlled coca cultivation plantations. Many observers speculate that a brutal
counterinsurgency will only help strengthen the FARC’s social base as a way to continue
their civil war against the Colombian government. “Nevertheless, the war is inflicting
considerable costs on the FARC and reducing its ability to extract resources from the
cocaine industry to sustain its war efforts”(Durnan). The aggressive military strikes on
FARC area communities will ultimately succeed in reducing their power and growth.
Another beneficiary in helping the Colombian government defeat the FARC is the
AUC (United Self-Defense Group of Colombia), which consist of a thousand well-
equipped fighters. The AUC is the fusion of a paramilitary group and a criminal
organization that receives most of its resources from the drug trade. The different
between the FARC and the AUC is that the AUC is a right-wing non-insurgent
organization that has no political agenda of overthrowing the government. In cooperation
with the Colombian armed forces, the U.S. funded AUC has helped in defeating the
FARC by seizing land controlled by the FARC for the production of coca. The AUC’s
territorial expansion of FARC maintained coca plantations in Colombia has dismantled
the FARC’s potential for future growth.
As the FARC’s presence and influence was drawing closer to Bogota, the Colombian
military devised a counter-terror plan called Operation Freedom One. The operations
“aim was to dismantle the FARC’s forces in Cundinamarca by killing or capturing the
leader of each of its fronts”(Leon). To put this operation into action the generals relied on
previously obtained information collected from the region that contained intelligence
about the FARC’s whereabouts and the key leaders they were looking for. The military
would patrol the roads, cutting off the guerrilla’s supplies, and collecting intelligence
from the locals about where the FARC were located. Once the army had earned the
peoples trust, information started to circulate about where the guerrillas were hiding their
supplies and guns. Now that the army had its information, their counter-terrorism plan
was to use full force on the FARC over an extended period of time. The army dispersed
small groups of combat soldiers throughout the region in strategic areas where the
guerrillas were said to be hiding.
The Colombian government also used a counter-terrorism strategy of offering rewards
for information that would lead directly to top FARC leaders. “These bounties forced the
guerrilla commanders to pull back into the region’s most inhospitable and deserted
areas”(Leon). This ultimately lead to their defeat because the guerrillas were not able to
blend into society or use civilians as human shields from continued attack, but instead
they were exposed and forced into areas that made them vulnerable targets for the army.
The Colombian military called their counter-terrorism strategy, “search, contain,
surround, and annihilate”(Leon). This maneuver would push the guerrillas further into the
jungles were they would eventually become backed in a corner with nowhere else to run.
The generals formulated a counter-terrorism operation that worked to their benefit of
dismantling and destroying some of the FARC’s top leadership in the region. The
FARC’s leaders were not able to anticipate the strategy that the army had chosen to
apply. The guerrillas were accustomed to large, single squadrons of troops that they could
stop with the use of snipers and land mines. When the military began their surprise
attack, the guerrillas did not know what to do or how to react.
Today the FARC are in yet another round of peace negotiations with the Colombian
government. It seems that the FARC’s current leader Rodrigo Londono is tired of
fighting a losing battle. Years of tough counter-terrorism campaigns by former
Colombian presidents has left the top FARC leaders defeated with nowhere else to go.
The Colombian government has become too strong for the guerrillas to overthrow and
impose their ideology of a communist Colombian government. It looks as if the FARC
are not wanted to totally dissolve their group or ideology, but instead they are looking to
make a peace deal that will allow them to maybe have their own province or identity in
Colombian society. In the awake of these peace talks, which took place in October 2012
in Oslo, Norway and Havana, Cuba, there has been a series of bombings that have been
advocated by the FARC during this process. These incidents happened at the pretense
that there was no talk of a cease-fire. If the FARC keep using these tactics in the midst of
peace negotiations, then the Colombian government will have no choice, but to go back
to using the same brutal counterinsurgency measures to a stronger degree that brought
them victory in the past with the goal of crushing the FARC once and for all.
Brescia, Michael M. and James Petras. “The FARC Faces the Empire.” Latin American
Perspectives 27 (2000): 134-142. JSTOR. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.
Durnan, Michael and Mark Peceny. “The FARC’s Best Friend: U.S. Anti-drug Policies
And the Deepening of Colombia’s Civil War in the 1990’s.” Latin American
Politics and Society 48 (2006): 95-116. JSTOR. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.
Leon, Juanita. Country of Bullets. Albuquerque: Aguilar, 2009. Print.
“Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia” (FARC) www.globalsecurity.org Web. 16
Simons, Geoff. Colombia: A Brutal History. London: SAQI, 2004. Print.
United States. National Counter-terrorism Center. “Terrorist Groups: Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).” www.nctc.gov. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.