Peace is the Pathway: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Have Lost Their Ability to Turn Military Action into Political Victory
October 20, 2014
The oldest significant, and likely the best known, guerrilla group in Latin America, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has maintained a constant state of warfare for 50 years. However, they have lost the ability to turn military action into political victory. This failure is due to the fact that, in spite of being an effective guerrilla organization in strictly military terms, the FARC’s use of immoral methods has overshadowed their political objectives. Therefore the peace process currently taking place in Cuba is the best way for the FARC to vindicate their group, and return to Colombian society.
FARC’s grand strategic goal is to change the political, economic and social structure of the Colombian State. It also includes its member’s participation in governmental decision making, and becoming relevant political actors to pursue social justice in the country. Nevertheless, they lack support from the masses which is necessary for a political revolution. On February 4th 2008, more than 14 million people and in more than 193 cities around the world marched “against FARC.” This march is not comparable with any of the protests against violence made in the last 16 years in Colombia, and shows the public’s opinion towards the armed group.
This response against the FARC is based in the rejection of practices which include the use of child soldiers (50 percent of the adult combatants entered when they were still children and 42 percent of FARC are children). Women are forced to have abortions or other members of the group will have to kill newborns. There have been more than 10,200 victims of land mines since 1990, and it is calculated that there are still more than 100,000 mines buried in the land. Cylinder bombs are commonly used in attacking police stations, but civilians are often affected because those weapons lack of precision. One of the most recognized cases is the “Massacre of Bojayá” in 2002 where seventy-nine civilians died.
Besides, the FARC launches terrorist attacks against governmental offices, police stations, and critical infrastructure that include bridges, oil pipes, and electrical structures. As a result, civilians are not only injured or killed, but they end without electricity or supplies for days.
Furthermore, FARC’s financial sustainability is based on drug trafficking, extortions, kidnaping and theft. Yet, they deny their influence in the production and trafficking of illicit narcotic drugs and affirm that they only charge a “tax to cultivation,” some of the members of the secretariat are wanted by the US government for drug trafficking violations. Also, the FARC uses extortion, a method that works by threatening the person about hurting their family members, themselves or their property. Afterwards, they ask the victims for money to avoid the harm. According to Colombian security institutions, FARC is responsible for 31% of these felonies. Another practice is the kidnaping of civilians and military forces. It is estimated that from 2002 to 2011 FARC kidnapped 2,678 people and in March 2012, numbers showed that 405 were still captive.
These practices have subverted the FARC’s ability to achieve its political goals, as they have delegitimized the group in the eyes of the Colombian public. Therefore, the peace process currently taking place in Cuba is the best way for the FARC to obtain their objective of changing the social structure of the state, vindicate their group, and return to Colombian society. In spite that this process has been highly controversial and has generated a lot of discussion and negative propaganda from opposing parties, it is relevant to consider that the FARC is willing to continue in to a political debate instead of perpetuating the conflict. Changing the whole spectrum about Colombia and its neighboring countries that have also seen the negative effects of the war. (To read the whole document click here)