The Revolutionary Forces began in the 1960’s

 

            The
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, more commonly known as the FARC, are a communist
guerrilla terrorist organization who claim to be revolutionaries and reside
deep within the jungles of Colombia. Over the past forty years or so, The FARC have
become known throughout the region as, not only drug traffickers of cocaine, but
also for kidnapping any politician that opposes their authority due to their constant
intense fighting with the recognized military of Colombia. The war between the both
the Columbian government and the Revolutionary Forces began in the 1960’s due
to a military occupation of a small rural town. The FARC, as they soon became
known, arose from this military conflict starting as a movement that had fought
against the military to establish itself as a self- governing community in the
city of Marquetalia.

            While
today the Columbian government is ran democratically during the 1960’s,
Colombia’s government was an authoritarian two-party system. Colombia’s
military invaded the rural communities, leading to the destruction of many, an
uprising, and the banding together of the citizens under Manuel Marulanda.  This is the man who orchestrated the initial rebellion
against the Colombian government stemming from the unwarranted destruction of
their communities. These events formed what are now the core principles of why
the FARC exists today and why they continue to wage a civil war over in their
country. The FARC, not unlike many terrorist organizations, fight under the
belief they will reclaim old territories while also establishing new ones as
well from the government that seized them illegally. Although the initial incident
occurred under the previous governing system, the current government still denounces
the FARC and refuses to acknowledge them due to their illegal activity they
conduct to bring attention to their radical ideals.

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            The
FARC’s main mission is loosely based on communism, fighting against inequality
caused by a capitalist class over a suppressed the working class. While times
have drastically changed since the 1960’s The FARC continue to view both the
past and present government as oppressors that will only work for the elites and
personal self-interests. The FARC’s overall mission 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 riddled over the years with corruption, unequal distribution
of land as well as major , social inequalities which the FARC deem threats. The
Colombian government, however, does not tolerate the existence of alternative
political views that create conflict within its borders. These one-sided views of
the Columbian government continue to make the FARC’s cause for fighting appear
legitimate and easier to swallow in the eyes of a majority of citizens because
they argue that their organization is standing up against the inequality the
elite has enjoyed within Colombia.

            The
FARC’s major campaign began to intensify in the mid 1990’s when the Colombian
government started to embrace liberal ideas into its political identity. This
caused the labor unions to weaken as they were ultimately removed from state
run businesses which would become privatized and thousands of workers were laid
off in the process. During the high point of these changes protests by
different labor groups helped blocked off major roadways in hopes of gaining
the government’s attention for their disapproval of the new-found policies. The
movement began to grab the attention of the FARC, as the FARC supported
peasants and working-class individuals that the government attempted to infringe
upon. Some of these groups being targeted by the Columbian government were affiliated
with coca production, which is illegal in Colombia and because the production
of cocaine is considered illegal, FARC rebels would be hired for protection in
order for the peasants to provide a way to make a living. Contrary to popular
belief, the FARC are not the actual producers of cocaine, but rather they
supply the land and protect the communities were the common class produce coca
for drug cartels. The FARC consider the drug trade as a legitimate way of generating
money for the community and a reason to continue the fight against the
Colombian government.

            The
FARC have used successful U.S. and Colombian anti-drug policies as strategic manipulation
as a way of addressing issues which have a direct impact on their operation.
Some of the anti-drug policies include aiding in the dismantling of the
Medellin and Cali drug cartels along with the interception of coca coming into
Colombian processing facilities. The United States used drug certification
requirements as a way “to pressure the Colombian government to attack drug
cartels and allow aerial fumigation of 0ococa crops” (Duncan). These tactics,
however, is what the FARC’s was anticipating as the anti-drug operations
success began to push coca cultivation into FARC controlled areas, which in
return strengthened their base as well as weakening many of their opponents at
the concurrently. The business relation between the drug cartels and the FARC
are complicated to say the least as the cartels are major opponents, aside from
the Columbian government, of the FARC for monetary reasons. Forcing the drugs
out of major areas and into FARC controlled territory enabled the FARC to force
the cartels to pay “taxes” in order to use these lands to cultivate and traffic
their coca. Also as a result of the U.S. and Colombian anti-drug aerial
fumigation measures of crops, coca workers relied heavily on the FARC’s support
and protection because the Colombian government threatens both their health and
livelihood.

            The
FARC began to use the drug trade as a method of strengthening their
organization and expanding its decade long rebellion against the Colombian
government. To a point degree government incidents along with political activity
have continued to increase the FARC’s movement in attempting to gain a monopoly
on the drug industry in Columbia for their own benefit and survival. This was seen
while Ernesto Samper was president of Columbia from 1994 to 1998 where he was implicated
in a scandal that involved millions of dollars in drug money being funneled
into his campaign under the guise of “contributions”.  Both domestic and international pressure
compelled his administration to take a hardline approach in dismantling the
Cali drug cartel. When the Cali Cartel was destroyed, it left an opening for
the FARC to tax the newcomers heavily. As these small-scale competitors began
to emerge, the FARC began with its taxation policies which were given into as
these operations could not afford to be on the opposing side of both the FARC
and the Columbian government. Another instance that would prove to work in
favor of the FARC to control the drug trade was when Peruvian president Alberto
Fujimori ordered his military forces to shoot down any planes that were assumed
to be transporting coca from Peruvian fields to Colombian labs. This lead to
coca prices all but collapsing in Peru, and coca cultivation moving from Peru
to Colombia and right into FARC dominated strongholds.

            The
FARC’s main source of wealth and power is not the actual drug trade itself, but
a by-product of the trade stemming from the ability to tax the different groups
for the use of land as well as for protection. Since the cultivation of coca
has been relocated to Colombia from neighboring nations and into FARC “owned territory,
the FARC have increasingly been able to raise taxes across the entire drug
industry. The FARC also uses its forces to strong-arm drug traffickers into paying
fair market wages for labor and coca leaves from local residents. Essentially,
without the drug trade in Columbia the FARC would not be able to exist as an
organization. The drug trade continues to offer the FARC a chance to offer its protection
services to the community and a way to turn a profit from taxing the lands to
fund its cause with financial stability and weapons.

            As
the FARC build an elaborate drug enterprise, the Colombian government took a
cue from Peru and began launching a series of aerial fumigation attacks on the
rural coca fields in an attempt to exterminate the FARC’s operations. However, these
tactics fell short and ultimately had a negative impact on the relationship between
the Colombia’s rural population and the nation, leading to more political
ammunition in the FARC’s favor. Up until the fumigation attacks, the Colombian
coca production had been providing thousands of necessary jobs to rural peasants.
These “attacks” as the FARC portrayed them to be created an opportunity for the
FARC to garner further support among the workers to orchestrate a mass rally
against the government’s aerial fumigation policies. This resulted in the
Colombian government to lose its credibility within the local populace. In turn,
the locals turned to the FARC for their support and protection to keep the
government from attempting to destroy what they believed to be 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 continues to show that the FARC will always find a reason to revolt
against the Columbian government as long as coca farming remains illegal and
the need for protection requested by the workers and cartels alike.

            The
FARC’s ultimate goal is to see to the overthrow of the existing Colombian government
and replace it with an ideology derived from Marxism. In 1982 the FARC began to
construct a strategy with the intentions of seizing control of the Colombian
government. The plan called for surrounding the city of Bogota with more than sixteen
thousand armed soldiers, blocking all entry of basic supplies and food into
Bogota, creating conditions for rioting to begin against the state. When this rioting
had occurred, the troops stationed around Bogota would then march onto the capital
and begin their assault on the Colombian army would already spread thin and
lack popular support. The strategy included taking high ranking jobs in city
hall to gather intelligence of the area making it that much easier to seize
when the revolution began. The FARC would then eliminate any forms of
resistance, or authority in towns that could impose a potential threat to their
plan as well as killing local thieves earning more respect from the people. The
fighters eliminated any individuals that posed a threat to their cause
including individuals found to be informants for the local authorities. During
this phase, the guerrillas demanded an increased tax from local farmers which
were considered a financial contribution to the revolutionary cause. Mere
months after its planning and taxation the guerrillas began to appear in
uniform with high powered rifles and guns.

            The
FARC utilizes a secondary type of indoctrination to acquire new soldiers as
they begin by seeking support of community leaders and with them on their side
they then attempt to recruit young individuals to fight for their cause. After
enlisting new soldiers the guerrillas then begin to launch an attack on the
town’s local police station. Those who are not killed are turned over to the
FARC leadership where a decision as to what to do with them is made. When selecting
locations to occupy the FARC usually select places close to where support for
their ideology already exists and inception is easiest. An example of this
occurring can be seen in Cundinamarca, which was already the home of two
Communist Party councilmen. The guerrillas came into the without uniforms
pretending to be foreign laborers looking for work, secretly revealing their
identity to few local at a time and discussing with them the political and
social problems in Colombia and how the FARC is attempting to correct this. The
guerrillas would talk about local youth’s lack of a successful future and all
but guaranteed unemployment. Sharing the same thoughts, it appeared it was easy
to excite even more resentment against the government with the local populace.
After just a few visits, the guerrillas then bring in the main force of
soldiers and conduct their attacks against the police to seize the town as
their own.

            With
the eradication of the police force, the FARC place themselves within the city
as enforcers and begin to collect protection taxes on property, any transaction
and forcing both everyone to pay. With the FARC seizing these key areas, they are
able to a set up a clear path to the capital and their main mission of taking
it over. By the end of 2000, it is estimated the FARC had over a thousand soldiers
stationed in various strategic positions throughout Cundinamarca. The FARC had
mayors of the province under their control and with it more than half of the
region. They predicted that, within only a few years’ time, they would be able
to surround the city of Bogota in preparation of their main assault on the
government.

            In
the past, the FARC adopted more of an offensive military tactic than random
staged attacks. This was due to the organization experiencing threats of spies
infiltrating the organization and alerting state officials of the plans before
they can carry them out. This in turn required counter-offensive measures
against the Colombian military to protect territory that they had previously
acquired early on. In the 1980’s Colombia formed paramilitary groups to combat
the FARC in rebel controlled regions effectively killing high ranking rebel
leaders with the assistance of the United States that put pressure on the
Colombian government to enforce drug laws. During this period It became clear
that peaceful negotiations would not be attempted and a coalition of U.S. and Colombian
forces wanted the guerrilla forces not only out of the Columbia, but eliminated
completely. The FARC acknowledged “that a revolutionary situation now existed
in Colombia” (Simons). In an effort to advance their cause, the FARC engaged in
a variety of tactics that would, this time, get not only attention of the
Colombian government but also create a fear throughout the country because of
the government’s inability to annihilate the guerilla forces.

            The
tactics that the FARC utilize as a way to bring attention to their cause include
random acts of violence such as bombings of local and government
infrastructure, murder, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions of both
individuals and businesses. They also conduct mortar attacks on Columbian
government forces and have also been known to take part in hijackings much like
the incident in 2002 where they took control of an Aires flight kidnapping a
senator. These acts of violence frequently occur when activity by the Columbian
Army is stepped up in an attempt to curb the recruitment process.

            The
global activist group Human Rights Watch has reported that the FARC have been responsible
for multiple attacks that have targeted not only military, but civilian
factories and trucks, which have resulted in the deaths of innocent men, women,
and children. This group reports that the FARC have been responsible for other
attacks as well such as the eleven people were kidnapped from a bus in Finca
Osaka and subsequently executed on the side of the road and the 1996 massacre in
San Jose de Apartado where four community leaders were executed, one being a
pregnant female, or lastly, when a bomb in El Hobo, Huila containing a
combination of nails, staples, screws, detonated at a bar entrance, after which
guerillas opened fire killing nine individuals.  In response to these “allegations” the FARC made
a statement “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).
The victims of these killings had nothing to do with the conflict nor politics,
but the intention of these attacks was more of an opportunity for the FARC to
impose fear among the civilian community to ensure they could remain in control
as well as force a strong military response that they could then spin to their
masses as a reason to continue the strikes on the capital.  

            The
FARC have also been known to use the tactic of child recruitment to fulfill
needs of the organization. This includes recruiting volunteers through the use
of the city leadership already in place subjugating others. These children are then
frequently used to collect intelligence, emplace improvised explosive devices, as
well as occasionally carrying out attacks alongside their adult counterparts. An
early estimation by Human Rights Watch is that the FARC have earned “about $250
million from kidnappings” (Simons). This tactic has become the FARC a second
source of income as well as amass more media attention for the radical guerilla
group aside from the principle drug trade. They typically kidnap individuals of
high profile individuals and ransom them for a safe return home. These victims
are typically Colombians that not only are high profile, but they also have
some kind of affiliation politicians, or high-ranking individuals in the state
government. As local kidnappings are a steady form of income, tourists and
other international visitors can fetch higher ransoms as well attracting an international
media spotlight. One of the most high-profile cases of FARC kidnappings
occurred in early of 2002 when the rebels kidnapped three U.S. contractors
along with a French senator Ingrid Betancourt.

            After
years of failed negotiations and escalating violence, the Colombian government
has escalated their tactics by moving forward with a U.S. backed
counterinsurgency campaign against the FARC that mainly targets them. The
Colombian government relies on their military strength and force as a key
component of eradicating FARC dominated strongholds. The only positive aspect
of these raids is that they are successful in reducing recruitment and curbing
their growth rate. Resuming the use of aerial raids on FARC controlled coca
cultivation plantations many onlookers believe that a brutal counterinsurgency
by the federal government will only help strengthen the FARC’s social base as
they will turn it into a reason for others to join them in their attempt to
replace the current government for one they emplace.  “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).

            Another
ally of the Colombian government that also wants to eliminate FARC is the United
Self-Defense Group of Colombia (AUC), which consist of approximately a thousand
well- equipped soldiers. The AUC is primarily formed from a paramilitary group
and a criminal organization that is affiliated with the drug trade. The only
real difference between the FARC and the United Self-Defense Group of Colombia is
that the AUC is a non-insurgent organization that has no political affiliation
or a desire to overthrow the current established government. In cooperation
with the Colombian armed forces, the United States agreed to fund the AUC and
as a result they have been able to reoccupy lands previously controlled by the
FARC effectively stunting their future growth in these areas.

            As
the FARC’s began drawing closer to their ultimate goal in Bogota, the Colombian
military devised a counter-terror plan code named Operation Freedom One. The
operation’s aim was to “dismantle the FARC’s forces in Cundinamarca by killing
or capturing the leader of each of its fronts” (Leon). This operation relied on
previously obtained information collected by informants throughout the region
with the ability to gain information on the locations of key leaders. After
gaining this information from the local populace as well as the intelligence operatives
the military began to deploy small teams of specially trained soldiers
throughout the area where the leaders were reported to be hiding. The Colombian
government also began offering rewards for any information leading directly to
the apprehension of top leaders. “These bounties forced the guerrilla
commanders to pull back into the region’s most inhospitable and deserted areas”
(Leon). Today the FARC and the Columbian government are attempting peace
negotiations. As the FARC’s current leader Rodrigo Londono realizes both sides
are involved in a never ending losing battle.