Fire, on 07 February 2013 – 05:49 PM, said:
I just heard the radio show where families of people kidnapped or disappeared by the FARC were sending messages to their loved ones .It was pretty sad. If there is another side to this story or something like that, I would like to hear it. Why do they gotta kidnap and sell drugs?
long story short, what they’ve argued is that they’re kidnapping tourists who are generally wealthier and the “only” time that these people are injured is when right-wing paramilitaries (who have been known to murder suspected FARC-sympathisers at the whim of the government) stage rescues. and they assert that cocaine mostly hurts first worlders, and nothing the FARC (roughly 10k people) do in their struggle can be as damaging as the war the government is waging.
for the bits on colombian history for my paper, apologies for any stupid liberalisms: (this is a huge post so sorry for that)
Known as La Violencia, the civil war began when Liberals and Conservatives opened fire on one another after mutual campaigns of political violence and intimidation (LeoGrande 3). The two sides forged a lasting peace in 1958 by forming the National Front government, where the parties would alternate power and hold dummy elections (LeoGrande 3). In the isolated countryside, peasants formed communes for protection against the partisans of both sides and later, dispossessed military thugs (LeoGrande 3). La Violencia claimed two hundred thousand lives; the National Front destroyed any form of democracy in the nation. Guerrilla movements sprang up around the nation, advocating social and economic reforms, trying to combat the inherent corruption in a system with no meaningful elections. It was not until 1974 that the National Front allowed open elections, and since then the presidents have held close ties to the military (LeoGrande 5). The Colombian armed forces, in turn, had heavy connections to the now defunct drug cartels and also the CIA-trained paramilitaries [i should mention here that the cartels were private groups and crime families that were destroyed mostly through the efforts of groups like the FARC, who originally did not sell drugs] (LeoGrande 5). The FARC takes issue with this because it claims to fight against foreign imperialism. The Marxists also believe in social reforms and protecting natural industry from the United States, which the FARC sees as directly tied to the systemic violence in Colombia for the last seventy years (LeoGrande 4). The revolutionaries have good reason for believing this: in 2001 alone, the Clinton Administration pledged $862 million to the Colombian government (LeoGrande 6). The United States makes no secret of their support of the Colombian state; most often, the northern nation argues that defeating the FARC forms the crux of the War on Drugs (Petras 138). Estimates from the CIA and political scientists suggest that FARC earns anywhere from $100 to $500 million a year in “taxes” from narcotics farmers (LeoGrande 4). The commander of the guerrillas claims that cocaine cannot cause social problems any worse than the government corruption. The indigenous people of Colombia claim that the Uribe regime—which was in power from 2006 to 2010—ordered the military to attack natives and undermine support for the FARC. This is important because young natives make up most of the FARC’s fighters; their youngest soldiers are only fifteen. The guerrillas explain that joining the FARC offers them education and healthcare, two things impossible to receive if they stayed in their villages. the FARC has entered into peace talks with the government twice. The first time, in 1984, they formed a party called the Patriotic Union (LeoGrande 4). The military undertook a miniature dirty war in which three thousand politicians with suspected ties to the Marxists or other socialist groups disappeared (LeoGrande 4). The second, in 1998, ended when the Colombian military threatened to depose the civilian government over their soft approach to the conflict (LeoGrande 6). The government claimed the FARC had honored neither peace, continuing their illegal activities. The FARC, in turn, now have justification for their brutal tactics—the government has shown itself to be untrustworthy and corruptible. Throughout the conflict, Colombia has attempted a number of different approaches for resolution. However, the military has deliberately obstructed peace in the past. The armed forces of Colombia are only technically under the command of the civilian government: “[they] exercised near autonomy on issues of national security and enjoyed impunity” (LeoGrande 3). During one of the cease fires, they continued to attack the FARC (LeoGrande 4). The government itself has a shaky record of pursuing legitimate negotiations: they offer only amnesty for any guerrillas who demilitarize—the adage “never negotiate with terrorists” finds many supporters here. They refuse to discuss any sort of social reforms or address any of the sometimes legitimate complaints of the guerrillas. While a criminal syndicate may settle for a pardon instead of death, revolutionaries chose violence to begin with—they have stated they are willing to die for their cause. Furthermore, the FARC has local support and plentiful funds through their illegal trades and seem perfectly self-sufficient in their mountain bases. The military has never completely ceased action against the FARC, and while they have scored victories, they are still unable to destroy the FARC or even cripple their operations (LeoGrande 4). Military action has accomplished what it can in the Colombian state; they may keep the FARC pinned but cannot possibly win a direct conflict. Colombia benefits more than any other nation from the American War on Drugs as far as monetary aid. Despite the billions of dollars given over the past several years, Colombia has not been able to change the military situation against the Marxists.
the FARC isn’t just another cartel. In the words of one political scientist, “what is surprising is not how much the FARC has degenerated into a criminal syndicate…but that despite their obvious involvement with the lower ends of the drug trade, they have maintained their political character” (Howe 100). In other words, the FARC cannot be targeted like criminals—they have the support of the local people.
The government of the United States has stood strongly against negotiation with the FARC and instead favors military responses to the guerrillas. The past three administrations in particular have not challenged the military-only tactics meant to end the Colombian conflict. The CIA advises both the United States and the Colombian forces to keep military pressure on the FARC and seek annihilation of the drug trade and the terrorists—they paint the two conflicts as one indivisible struggle against narco-terrorism. In fact, the CIA’s world factbook makes no mention of FARC except under blanket statements about cocaine distribution (CIA World Factbook). In recent months, retired US military personnel and FBI members have advocated branding Mexican cartels terrorists due both to their tactics and to their connections to the Marxists in Colombia; they have won support from several members in Congress such as Representative Michael McCaul (Aguilar). President Obama spoke in New York City with President Santos, congratulating the Colombian military on the deaths of several highly ranked FARC officers: “Yesterday [September 23, 2010] was a big day for the people of Colombia…because of outstanding work by Colombian security forces, they were able to embark on a mission that resulted in the death of the leader of the FARC” (Obama 1). The American president seemingly omits negotiations as an option; he also glosses over the horrific track record of the Colombian government when he mentions “continued stability.” The president goes on to say that “we now have the chance to see continued stability in Colombia”(Obama 1). Regardless of his views on other issues, President Obama takes a decidedly traditionalist approach to the Colombian political crisis, and also paints the FARC as a new wave of cartel—he referred to the US role against the FARC as “drug interdiction” (Obama 1).
Like the FARC soldiers themselves, political scientists in the United States largely disagree with this singular approach, however. The vast majority of sources consulted for this work unequivocally called the FARC a political movement as opposed to a drug-motivated one. They point out the systemic corruption of the Colombian state and the deplorable human rights record of the military and state-sponsored paramilitary groups (Petras 142). Typically, left-wing statesmen, Colombian refugees, and historians argue that the military-only tactic leaves no room for negotiation and has in the past only worsened the ideological divide between government and guerrilla (LeoGrande 10; Howe 100). The FARC can afford much more than other guerrillas to fight a long, slow war due to their steady recruitment and the incredibly lucrative narcotics trade (BusinessWeek 2). However, the American mainstream tends to disagree. In USA Today, as recently as 2008, a reporter called the militant Plan Colombia “the most successful bipartisan foreign policy initiative…in…recent history” (Hawley 2). Typically, military and intelligence personnel as well as politicians advocate powerful and deadly responses to the FARC. They, along with conservative [lol, meaning liberal] writers and some political scientists, argue that only through inflicting crippling violent defeats on the enemy can they break the Marxists (Hawley 2; The Economist 2).
Considering the complex moral issues at stake and the obvious flaws with both sides of the Colombian crisis, I was relatively certain I would write this paragraph condemning the FARC and agreeing that they should be fought without mercy. After all, “we don’t negotiate with terrorists.” However, the world cannot be—and should not be—painted in black and white. The FARC brutally injure and murder people in the drug trade. They extort taxes from peasants who cannot afford doctors or any other social service. They kidnap Colombians and foreigners with no ties to the struggle. The Marxists use child soldiers in a war that has already claimed several times the death toll of La Violencia; they have avenged their dead and continue to fight. They protect and support the coca drug trade which claims thousands if not millions of lives through gang and cartel violence all over the world. However, sometimes prudence and international stability demands that we as a global society exercise more than retribution. The guerrillas advocate needed social and political reforms to the Colombian system. The FARC opposes the coca trade verbally, and has made noticeable efforts to develop economic reform in their territories to have peasants grow healthier, legal crops. They educate and protect interests groups that the government has only ever abused. The FARC has willingly entered into peace talks with the Colombian state when offered better than complete surrender. They have made efforts to appeal to international agencies like the UN. The FARC commits war crimes—but so does the Colombian state, despite international funding and the moral onus as a legitimate government to protect their people. The armed forces of Colombia ally themselves with paramilitary groups just as brutal as the FARC—sometimes arresting family members of guerrillas and handing them over to the paramilitaries (Petras 135).
[final aside: i put a lot of the blame for the narco trade on the FARC, but i’m not sure that’s fair. i don’t know enough to place blame anywhere in the drug trade, but i feel like it’s not at all fair of the younger me to put the responsibility solely on the supplier]
Aguilar, Julian. “Bill Seeks to Designate Drug Cartels as Terrorists.” New York Times
“The Beginning of the End.” The Economist 2 Oct. 2010
Bloomberg News. “Marxists with a Better Business Plan.” BusinessWeek
Colombian Rebels FARC after Their Chief ‘Mono Jojoy’ Got Killed. YouTube. France24English,
Hawley, Chris. “In Colombia, War against Rebels Easing.” USA Today 30 June 2008
Howe, Benjamin R. “Revolutionaries or Crooks?” Foreign Policy
LeoGrande, William M., and Kenneth E. Sharpe. “Two Wars or One? Drugs, Guerrillas, and Colombia’s New “Violencia”” World Policy Journal Fall 2000
Obama, Barack, and Juan M. Santos. “Remarks Prior to a Meeting with President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon of Colombia in New York City.” Speech. Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City
Petras, James, and Michael M. Brescia. “The FARC Faces the Empire.” Latin American Perspectives
Colombia. Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA World Factbook 2011.