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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Colombia 2008: Has FARC Demise Been Greatly Exaggerated?

By Hudes DesrameauxCSMS Magazine Staff WriterColombians across the world celebrated the independence of their country last July 20 in a context of great incertitude among the FARC leadership and tempered confidence within the Colombian army, arguably the most repressive security force in the region.The 44 year-old civil conflict that no one thought could have a clear winner may finally have one. So may think a huge swath of Colombian society after the largest guerilla organization in Latin America – Fuerzas Armadas de la Revolution Columbiana, a k a FARC – has this year suffered numerous fatal blows that have left this organization seriously weakened.See for yourself: From a high 19,000 in the 90’s and ready to seize power to a low 9,000 combatants today, half of FARC leadership has met their death. Manuel Marulanda died of a heart attack earlier this year, and Raul Reyes lost his life in combat while Ivan Rios, the youngest FARC leader has been assassinated by none other than his bodyguard, hoping to cash in on the bounty placed on the heads of the FARC leadership by the Colombian army.A new leader has emerged, 60 year-old Alfonso Cano (Above in the picture), but the key question is this: has FARC death been greatly exaggerated? Is there enough left that would allow this organization to, first, survive the loss of so many leaders and, then, regroup to face a more confident Colombian army that has also the support of the United States in the form of a $1b, excluding the vital, difference-making training the former has been receiving under Plan Colombia, this so-called initiative to eradicate the coca industry but really to combat the insurgency.While many have rightly fingered the decimated leadership as the probable turning point in this civil war, it makes sense to suggest that FARC, by continuously losing the battle of public opinion, may have a harder time convincing Colombia and the world that it’s worth continuing the fight against the Colombian army. Even harder is the possibility of replenishing its dwindling troops.While FARC has been a “small” player in the coca industry compared to the huge role that the paramilitary groups and the drug dealers (and certainly parts of the Colombian army) have historically played, this policy of having some control in this industry may have tarnished the FARC image in both Colombia and across the world.However, the most damaging mistake has been, and still is, the wave of kidnappings this organization has pursued for more than a decade.It may have made sense, as a way to finance the war, to kidnap rich drug dealers and paramilitary leaders who have been in cahoots with the Colombian army to wage deadly attacks on the insurgency.Further, it may have made sense politically since both the paramilitary groups and the drug dealers have systematically expropriated from their lands poor peasants, some of whom sympathetic to the FARC cause. However, when civilians have also become the target, then the demarcation line, regardless of the ideological differences, between FARC and the paramilitary, became somewhat blurry.When early this year millions of Colombians took to the streets to demand the release of all hostages held by FARC, the latter lost some key political support – not to mention the moral high ground. With FARC seemingly on the run and the Colombian army resolutely in pursuit, a great danger looms within Colombian society. It’s the belief that FARC, if not already defeated, is on its deathbed. FARC can potentially open a few urban fronts in the major cities and force the security forces to turn their fire away from the jungles, thereby earning the guerilla some breathing space.It’s a doubtful tactic, though.Colombia is surely one of the three richest countries in Latin America, but arguably the country where class warfare may be the most brutal. An elite that refuses to distribute the country’s riches and has for more than a century protected its ill-gains with both legal and illegal violence against poor peasants thirsty for land and justice.Saying that the Colombian army may have won this war in no way means that this decades-long conflict may not last a few more years, considering that FARC is a seasoned, veteran military organization that’s battle-tested and able to retreat deep in the Colombian jungles or in Ecuador without firing a single bullet.This is where Colombian society comes in. It must surely ask for the release of all hostages, but it must ask for more if it wants a better and peaceful society. It must ask for a just cease-fire, a release of all the political prisoners, protection for FARC if it decides to demobilize and a massive re-distribution of the country’s riches.Again, that’s doubtful as Miami Herald showed Francisco Estrada, marching on the streets of Miami last July 20 and wearing a protest sign saying: “no more lies, no more kidnappings, no more FARC.” Mr. Estrada, what about more justice, exactly what the political doctor must have ordered for your beloved country.60 years ago, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, Liberal presidential candidate, was murdered in the streets of Bogota, spawning what it’s called in Colombia’s history La Violencia, a 10- year war by the Colombian elites that claimed the lives of 200,000 Colombians, mostly peasants.The fundamental problem in Colombia isn’t FARC but an elite that thrives on building socio-economic structures that breed violence, poverty, expropriation and, 44 years ago, Las Fuerzas Armadas de la Revolution Colombiana.Also see New revelations over the Ingrid Betancourt’s Release last week in ColombiaIngrid Betancourt’s release, the return of the U. S. Fourth Fleet and John McCain Latin America tour Can the death of Marulanda finally bring peace to Colombia?Colombia’s cross-border military incursion into Ecuador could spark regional conflagration

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