The differences in ideologies and priorities, perhaps, are just two of the most common reasons why trenches develop between a legitimate government and a revolutionary movement.
Revolutionaries basically are movements which aim for drastic change in the society. They practically aim for the phase out of the status qou. However, several of these revolutionary movements are tagged as “terrorist groups” due to the misconceptions being related with the operations and ideology.
In the case of Colombia, a long-term civil war counted more than 3, 000 deaths which lasted for 38 years. The civil war took place due to the pitting government and revolutionary forces. Both, of course, stood firm in what they claimed were right.
In the history of Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia was considered as the one which lasted for the longest period.
The military wing of the Columbian Communist Party, dubbed as the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia (FARC) or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia was established in 1964 due to the heightening turmoil between the liberal and conservative militias.
FARC was founded by Manuel Marulanda Velez and other members of the central committee of the Communist Party of Colombia where the financial assistance and logistical needs came from.
The historical origin of FARC could be traced back from the period of “La Violencia” of Colombia which described the assassination of Goerge Eliecer Gaitan who was a presidential candidate then who was also a progressive leader advocating the rights of the landless masses of Colombia.
More so, the period of “La Violencia” was described as a long battle between the Liberals and Conservatives who were opposing views with regards to land tenure. The Liberals were advocating the rights of the landless while the Conservatives were assering the rights of the landlords and miners of Colombia. It was recorded that the “La Violencia” period accumulated at least 20, 000 deaths.
Along with their efforts to protect their rights, the landless masses of Colombia decided to have a group that would specialize in self-defense who would fight for the lanless people of their communities branded that time as “Independent Republic.” These communities were usually located on the Southern part of Colombia.
FARC was given birth through the joined forces of these groups. They initially planned to fight against the self-serving interests of the conservative peasants who are tagged as the autodefensas or paramilitaries who were backed by wealthy land owners and were tasked to raid the communities in search of civilians who were committed aristocracies.
“La Violencia” ended in year 1958 after the Liberals and Conservatives had a “power-sharing” agreement. Meanwhile, in 1964, about 16, 0000 government soldiers attacked the “Independent Republics” which pushed the members of the movement to abandonment their camps and take refuge to the mountains of Colombia.
FARC then was formally established with the Marxist ideology as the basis of their decisions and acts.
Also during the period of “La Violencia,” while FARC was formed, there was an aggression of the government towards peasant groups fueled by colonization which particularly urged the peasants to come up with groups able on self-defense.
The aggression towards the peasants also caused violent expulsions of the farmers from where they lived. This also urged the peasants to transform into an armed group for them to defend themselves from the inhumane attacks that were perpetuated by the soldiers of the Colombian government. From then on, the FARC movement was able to manage strategic geographical locations in Colombia.
Also during that period, grass root groups who were engaged in demonstrations against the government were penalized and were tagged as criminals by the government.
The regional guerilla movements in Colombia started through the struggles waged by the peasants during the years of 1920s to 1930s. The peasants, along with the indigenous people, planned to organize a group as a response to the unjust treatment and labor relations that they had been experiencing during that time.
Particularly, these peasants were cringing about the working conditions that were being implemented by the coffee plantation owners and the conflict that had risen with regards with land tenure. The members concentrated in the area of Souther Tolima which happened to be the focal point of Cundinamarca’s coffee zone. The refusal of the authorities to give in to the demands of the peasants gave way to an armed movement which was later tagged as a “terrorist movement.”
The early years since the establishment of FARC, the movement did not really pay attention to the expansion and recruitment of the group.
The movement was also originally Liberal thinkers who later decided to follow the Marxist ideology because of its umbrella organization, the Colombian Communist Party. During the latter part of the 1960s, FARC hardly recruited members and only had a handful as with other guerilla groups like the National Liberation Army, Popular Liberation Army and the M-19.
Meanwhile, in the late 1970s, FARC only had nine organizational fronts, a number that was relatively small given the struggles that they want to wage. After some years, the movement expanded more than the members could ever imagine. The front organizations then were mostly located in the central, southern, and central regions of Colombia.
The peak of the operations of FARC sparked at around 1966 up to 1968 when they were also able to recruit 500 militants and thousands of peasants to join the movement. The activities and operations of the group included the accumulation of weapons, military uniforms and telecommunication equipments, among others.
These were done despite the anti-insurgency campaigns launched by the government and in time when the relations between the Soviet Union and Colombia was strengthened against the organization. It was during the 1970s when FARC faced its dilemma in having sustained operations and recruitment.
However, like any other guerilla organizations which thrived in the country, FARC managed to redeem itself during the late 1970s up to 1980s. For it to have means in financing its operations, FARC resorted to kidnappings for them to have the money that they direly need. This move of the movement, although received several criticisms, served also as a means in conveying the objectives and aspirations of the organization. Also, FARC managed to gain at least five organizational fronts.
There was an overwhelming political and social support to FARC at around 1980s. Later, the movement tagged themselves as the “people’s army.”
Around year 1987, the membership of FARC mounted up to 6, 000 militants who were actively participating in the operations of the movement through the fronts which was tallied to at least twenty-seven. In 1988, a report was released stating that FARC was actually able to maintain at least forty fonts which affirmed support to the objectives and political aspirations of FARC.
In March 1984, the role of FARC in the peace-making process was laid down through an agreement signed by the members of the movement and the representatives of the government through the National Peace Commission.
The agreement, which took in effect in May 1984, was reported as the main reason behind the movement’s alleged abandonment of armed struggle.
While the movement was having its expansion, there was a tension within the group which revolved around the debates on whether the groups should be transformed into a military groups or a political group.
By the dawn of year 1990, the conflict within the organization had later caused drastic changes within the organization brought about by several factors which hounded the movement as a whole. One of the factors was the political impact brought by the drug trade in which they were involved.
Paramilitary forces were hired by the particular drug traffickers to raid the camps of the guerillas in search of drugs while the politicians of all sorts were corrupted by the drug operations. This urged another international intervention through the politicians of Washington as they initiated an effort which was named “war on drugs.” The attacks also involved civilians who were plainly innocent form the drug operations.
The FARC was basically aiming for a pluralist-socialist form of government which was envisioned to represent every sector of the society. They also condemn the presence of American forces in Colombia particularly the Plan Colombia which was a program of the United States to help the Colombian government to eliminate coca plantations. Colombia was considered as one of the countries benefiting financial assistance from the United States which the movement view as a form of indirectly controlling the country, or in essence, this act of the United States was a from of colonialism and imperialism.
In addition, FARC was totally against the privatization and commercialization of the country’s natural resources as much as they condemn the presence of multinational companies and transnational corporations in Colombia. Although these companies were providing temporary employment to the citizens of Colombia, members of the FARC see this as a form of manipulation of the economy of Colombia. Lastly, FARC was aiming to represent the poor people against the tendencies of the rich people to take advantage of the marginalized sectors. These particularly focused on the unequal opportunities in the society due to the social stratification that has been existing. FARC aimed at eradicating the classes of the society and to give equal access to social services that all of the people of Colombia need.
The strategies and struggles of FARC as basically based on socialism and communism. FARC believed that the society must offer equal opportunities and should break away from the current capitalist orientation which served as the basis of all the exploitation on the resources of the country.
While the FARC members are stiff in their demands, peace talks are done occasionally between the FARC and the government but nothing was really resolved since then. The most recent attempt to resolve the conflict between the two opposing parties was from 1997 to 2002.
In year 1998, in part of President Andre Pastrana to have a ceasefire, he gave FARC member a 42, 000-hectare territory aimed to serve as the movement’s “safe haven” known as the despeje or “clearance zone.” But the movement did not agree to use this area for peaceful activities. Rather, the movement became active in kidnappings, drug operations, and recruitment of young members. President Pastrana continued his efforts despite the inhumane activities of the FARC as presented by the media. He still allowed the group to continue utilizing the land he granted.
Further, in year 2002, members of the FARC were reported to hi jack an airplane with Senator Jorge Gechem Turbay on board who was the fifth congressman kidnapped by the movement since year 2001. This event urged President Pastrana to finally take away the granted land from FARC.
While the conflict between the government and FARC seems to be just a domestic issue, the international community had sent their concern over this dispute.
Meanwhile, a lot of foreigners had manifested interest over the drug operations of the FARC as there was a big profit that could be incurred from this. This urged some foreigners to provide combat trainings to FARC members especially on the production of weapons and even explosives. Military reports that that some of the nationalities that were involved in this training are Germans, Venezuelans, Iranians, among others.
Drug Operation Nexus
Among the controversial issue being related with FARC is the issue on illegal drug operations which caused international condemnation aside from the domestic efforts to eradicate this part of the plight.
In during 1950s when peasants decided to “colonize” the Colombian Amazon because of the violent displacement that took place against them. Due to the negligence that the government did to them, these same peasants decided to establish their own agricultural production that would help them to make both ends meet.
Throughout their attempt to maintain this kind of decent living, they soon found out that the place that they were in had coca that they gleaned as profitable and that could help them have a sustainable means of living.
Since then, drug operations became a source of living of these peasants. This, in exchange, had caused environmental degradation and agricultural crisis.
In 1990s, coca plantations in Colombia had an area of 150, 000 in total while there were around 300, 000 residents who became dependent of the coca industry. The guerillas also took part in this industry as they collected taxes from the peasants who decided to make this as a means of earning. The taxes paid by the peasants were largely used for the communication and logistical needs of FARC.
The government army, therefore, saw that the FARC members are directly involved in the drug operations which made them decide to conduct counternarcotics operations against the guerillas involving the peasants. The operations elicited repression against the peasants.
The operations of the military were condemned by some groups as they were grave human rights violations especially on the part of the peasants who were not members of FARC.
The operations of the military had garnered different contentions and had faced massive protests of peasants who are 200, 000 in total. The massive protests were in response to the inhumane treatment of the military to the peasant settlers who gravely violated their human rights.
In 1997, massacres were recorded in the Amazon region in line with the protests that took place in the area. There were recorded violent and brutal deaths of farmer-leaders because of their confrontation with the military forces. As more and more lives suffered in the battle, the armed group FARC asserted more of their demands.
The massacre that happened was a clear manifestation of the failure of the military forces and civilians to hold control over paramilitary activities which had accumulated death tolls. The rates of death tolls further urge the peasants to leave the area which also caused conflict with the government. The economy of Colombia also suffered much from this incident.
The attacks made by paramilitary forces were due to the combine illicit crop cultivation and the financial benefits that could be gleaned from it which caused a civil war.
Even the civilian population served as one the main targets of the military as they were forced to pay tax dues as demanded by those who are into insurgency. The Colombian government failure to see the bigger picture of the problem had cause the further perpetuation of social conflict. The government was also putting the blame to the peasants who were involved in the coca production who were just really victims of the incident.
On the other hand, the response of FARC as a movement with regard to the issue of coca cultivation was very limited as they were not able to present concrete plans for the settlers of the community and what development alternatives could be offered to these peasants.
Meanwhile, the plight on the coca production and the lack opportunities of the peasants to have works had caused for the further expansion of the movement as young boys decided to join the group knowing that no future employment could be provided for them.
FARC actually developed a plan on the recruitment and expansion aspect of the movement targeting mostly young unemployed boys or men to be part of the group.
The counternarcotics operations of the military, indeed, became an advantage for the part of the FARC members. The brutal force employed by the paramilitary and military forces had caused the peasant settlers to give sympathy to the FARC members and some even resort to joining the movement. This gave the FARC members to gain bigger control and to acquire additional territories. The FARC had devised plans on how they would attack the farmers who were attacking then the peasant farmers and their coco plantations. This move of FARC had gained the support of the peasant farmers which really gave them a strong massive support form the peasant settlers.
The participation of the Colombian military in the counternarcotics operations was aimed at penetrating the areas where the coca plantations thrive.
Government military forces particularly targeted the southern regions like Putumayo, Guaviare, and the Macarena mountains all of which are considered territory of the FARC. The government military claimed that the overwhelming control of FARC over these areas was brought about by the coca plantations that could be found within the mentioned areas.
In line with the efforts of the Colombian government to wage war against this plight tapped the Washington government to help them in this campaign. The United States later provided financial and logistical assistance to this campaign against insurgency and drug operations.
But then again, in year 1996, the Colombian military, through the help of the United States had accumulated the highest rates of human right violations due to the approach that these military elements employed.
The support of the United States military increased as the military spending increased tin the succeeding years. From year 1991 to 1996, the expenditures of the United States with regards to security and defense in Colombia had grown up to 14 percent in real terms which was pegged to be the 1.79 of the Gross National Product.
This budget allocation had surpassed the allotted budget for the defense and security aspect of the whole Latin America. While the expenditures and efforts of the military and external forces seemed to increase and improve, the reality was that the number of guerillas being killed and captured has been increasing over the years.
It could be gleaned that the spending of the military tripled in year 1995 as compared with its expenses from year 1992. Meanwhile, during 1996 and 1997, the government military, although with the support of the United States military had incurred a decreasing casualties on the part of the guerillas.
During this period, the military forces had their most evident phase of defeat over the guerillas, particularly from the FARC.
Unlike any revolutionary movement launched in the regions of Central and South America, FARC had maintained on its stance and demands. The movement was able to come up with different approaches on dealing with the anti-insurgency campaigns of the Colombian government and other external forces.
FARC also succeeded in gaining support from peasants. The relationship between the FARC members and peasants remains consistent over the years that had passed.
Today, FARC is active in coming up with activities in the grass roots intended for peasants and even engage some military confrontations. Recently, however, there were social characteristics which affected the structure of the FARC movement due to the actions of the Bush government. This, in essence, is condemned by the FARC movement since it is a clear intervention of the sovereignty of the Colombian government.
Like in the year 2000, when the Clinton administration of the United States intervened in the Colombian state through the Plan Colombia, the FRAC movement was very vocal on how they loath the intervention that has been occasionally committed by the United States.
Today, FARC remains an established guerilla movement waging for their demand for the people despite their some illegal acts. Also, their engagement in the armed struggle are said to be diminished throughout the years.
Currently, law makers are debating on whether they would limit the military premise with regards to counter-insurgency campaigns or not.
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