The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in English), also known as FARC, is a guerrilla organization fighting against the Colombian government. It is the oldest and largest left-wing rebels organization in Colombia. It first began in 1948 because of the civil war between the Liberal and Conservative parties that lasted until 1958, but Manuel Marulanda declared it as one of the guerrilla bands in 1966. The FARC consists of revolutionaries following the Marxist-Leninist theory of achieving social, political, economic and cultural change for the people. Negotiations between the organization and Colombia are held in Havana, Cuba with the involvement of the UN, US and Cuba.
One of the reasons why there’s conflict between the FARC and the Colombian government is because of the FARC involvement in the illegal drug trade. It is estimated that the FARC that they make between $500 million and $600 million annually. According to a US justice department indictment in 2006, the FARC supplies more than 50% of the world’s cocaine and more than 60% of the cocaine entering the US. The Colombian government of course doesn’t want the FARC being involved in drug trade, which is why they are at war.
Another issue is the FARCs kidnapping of Colombians. One of the most famous kidnappings happened in 2008, when the FARC kidnapped 15 high-profile hostages including Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate. The FARC uses hostages in order to keep negotiations with Colombia. Just last year the FARC kidnapped Rubén Darío Alzate, a Colombian Army General, and when the Colombian government found out they gave the FARC two options, either return the hostage or they would suspend the peace talks. They let him go just two weeks after the kidnapping.
A third issue at hand is the occupation of Colombian land by the FARC. They terrorize the people and demand them to pay taxes towards the FARC for protection and representation; majority of the time is protection from the guerrilla. The FARC represent the interest of the campesinos in Colombia. In 1994 the Colombian government enacted Law 160, which promotes the “regulation, limitation and management of rural property, and the elimination of uncultivated land grabs and concentration to encourage campesino smallholdings and prevent the breakdown of campesino economy.” This sought to defend the campesinos from large landowners. Thus creating Campesino Reserve Zone (ZRC) which was the territory of the campesino. The campesinos felt they were underrepresented in the fight against the large landowners so they turned to the FARC for assistance. In 2011, the two held talks in Havana in regards to the future extent of ZRC areas where there is restricted agriculture for the campesinos leaving them no choice but to turning to mining. What they want is the expansion of such zone covering 23.5 million acres of land and administrative autonomy similar to what the indigenous territories of the country have. This is a bid demand by the ZRC and FARC; one that the government is not inclined to agree to. The Colombian government does not want to give up such a large sum of land or the administrative power it has over them.
The government and the FARC came to an agreement, for the first time in over 30 years of negotiations, on land and rural development on May 26th 2013. The agreement covers the following
- Land access and use. Unproductive lands. Formalization of property. Agricultural frontier and protection of reserve zones.
- Development programs with a territorial focus.
- Infrastructure and land improvements.
- Social development: health, education, housing, eradication of poverty.
- Stimulus for agrarian production and a solidarity-based, cooperative economy. Technical assistance. Subsidies. Credit. Income generation. Labor formalization. Food and nutrition policies.
The accordance was highly praised by the international community. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon sent out a statement congratulating the two sides, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called the agreement “historic” and the US was positive about the cooperation of the Colombian government and the FARC.
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The Current issue at hand is transitional justice as in what to do with the guerrillas. During the 32nd and 33rd rounds of talk they discussed what’s going to happen with the armed conflict’s worst violators of human rights. Ivan Marquez, the lead negotiator for the FARC, said in a statement that they want zero jail time for the guerrillas stating, “No peace process in the world has ended with the insurgency’s leaders behind bars.” But the Colombian commissioner of peace, Sergio Jaramillo, responded by saying the government will not agree to such proposal and there won’t be any peace at all. Former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria and later secretary-general of the OAS issued a proposal to impose that not only guerrillas and soldiers but politicians, businesspeople, landowners and civilian officials who have taken part in human rights abuses during the conflict be held accountable for their actions and face jail time, except non-combats.