Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
Established in 1964 as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia) is Latin America’s oldest, largest, most capable, and best-equipped insurgency of Marxist origin—although it only nominally fights in support of Marxist goals today. The FARC primarily operates in Colombia, with some activities—including extortion, kidnapping, weapons acquisition, and logistics—occuring in neighboring countries.
FARC tactics include bombings, murder, mortar attacks, kidnapping, extortion, and hijacking, as well as guerrilla and conventional military action against Colombian political, military, and economic targets. The FARC has well-documented ties to a range of drug trafficking activities including taxation, cultivation, and distribution. The group considers US persons to be legitimate military targets due to US support for the Colombian Government. FARC’s most widely known operation was its kidnapping of three US contractors—Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell; together with French politician Ingrid Betancourt—in February 2002. The four were freed by Colombian security forces in July 2008.
The group had a number of setbacks in 2010 highlighted by the September 2010 Colombian military raid that resulted in the death of the FARC’s senior military commander Victor Julio Suarez Rojas, better known as Mono Jojoy. In addition, Bogota frustrated FARC attempts to disrupt the March 2010 congressional and May 2010 presidential elections. However, the group in June 2011 conducted some small-scale attacks and kidnappings to demonstrate its continued relevance.
Juan Manuel Santos, elected as president in May 2010, has continued Bogota’s policy of aggressive military operations—known as Democratic Security—against the FARC as evidenced by the raid that killed Mono Jojoy and continuing government raids targeting FARC Supreme Leader Alfonso Cano. Santos, a former defense minister, has publicly vowed to strengthen Colombia’s military and police forces in order to defeat the FARC and end the conflict, now nearly 50 years long.