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FARC -- A Profile of the Colombia FARC guerrilla group

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Name:

FARC is an acronym for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia)

Founded in:

1964

Home base:

Colombia

Objectives:

According to FARC, its goals are to represent Colombia's rural poor by seizing power through armed revolution, and establishing government. FARC is a self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist organization, which means it is committed in some fashion to the the redistribution of wealth among the country's population. In keeping with this posiition, it opposes multinational corporations and the privatization of national resources.

FARC's commitment to ideological goals has waned considerably; it often appears largely to be a criminal organization these days. Its supporters tend to join in search of employment, less than to fulfill political goals.

Backing and affiliation:

FARC has supported itself through a number of criminal means, most notably through its participation in the cocaine trade, from harvest to manufacture. It also has functioned, like the mafia, in rural areas of Colombia, requiring businesses to pay for their "protection" against attack.

It has received outside support from Cuba. In early 2008, news surfaced, based on laptops from a FARC camp, that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had forced a strategic alliance with FARC to undermine Colombia's government.

Notable attacks:

  • July 17, 2008: Eight civilians were kidnapped and held for a week before being released. FARC is estimated to be holding about 800 hostages.
  • April 15, 2005: A cylinder gas bomb attack killed a child and injured over twenty civilians in the town of Toribio. The attack was part of FARC's ongoing conflict with the government. FARC has frequently been accused of causing unnecessary civilian deaths.
  • June 3, 2004: 34 coca farmers were found bound and shot. FARC took responsibility, and said they had killed the men for support of right-wing paramilitaries.
FARC was first established as a guerrilla fighting force. It is organized in military fashion, and governed by a secretariat. FARC has employed a vast array of tactics and techniques to achieve military and financial goals including bombings, assassinations, extortion, kidnapping and hijacking. It is estimated to have about 9,000 to 12,000 active members.

Origins and context:

FARC was created in a period of intense class turmoil in Colombia and after many years of severe violence over the distribution of land and wealth in the rural country. In the late 1950s, two warring political forces, Conservative and Liberals, backed by army power, joined to become a National Front and began consolidating their hold over Colombia. However, both were interested in helping large landowners invest in and use peasant land. FARC was created out of guerrilla forces that opposed this consolidation.

The increasing pressure on peasants by the government and property owners in the 1970s helped FARC grow. It became a proper military organization and gained support from peasants, but also students and intellectuals.

In 1980, peace talks between the government and FARC began. The government hoped to transform FARC into a political party. In the meantime, right wing paramilitary groups began to grow, in particular to protect the lucrative coca trade. In the wake of peace talk failures, violence betweeen FARC, the army and the paramilitaries grew in the 1990s.

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