The FARC: From the People’s Army to the People’s Party

By: Cristian Salinas

I attended a viewing at Cinemes Girona of a documentary called “To End a War” about the peace process between the FARC and the Colombian government. My knowledge of the process had previously been vague, and the documentary provided a look at the peace process from both the Colombian government’s side and the FARC militia’s side.  With a pushing through of the peace agreement on November 24, 2016 by president Santos, the longest continuous war in the Western Hemisphere came to an end. One of the promises included in that agreement was that the government would allow the FARC militia to become a political party. This was seen as one of the most controversial points of the agreement yet the FARC, one year later, have established themselves as a legal political party, which will be able to participate in this year’s elections. To understand why this has been seen as a contentious issue, the history of the FARC and the people involved need to be understood.

Being born and raised in New Jersey, I only ever knew of the FARC when I visited my family in Colombia. I was told I couldn’t visit my aunt who lived by the Amazon because of the FARC. My uncle, a sergeant in the army, would tell stories about his battles with the FARC in the jungles of Western Colombia. Since I’d only visit for summers, I was naïve to the FARC’s reason for existence and their motives. I was always told they were really a criminal group disguised as a Communist guerilla movement. Yet the FARC have always defended their position by stating that their motives are political and their means necessary.  Nonetheless, the rise of the FARC, the deaths of over 250,000 Colombians, and 50 years of war cannot be ignored.

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Photo credit: kozumel on Visualhunt.com /CC BY-ND

From 1930 – 1946, the liberal party, which was in power at the time, created land reform laws that would redistribute land to peasants and take away land inheritance privileges from wealthy land owners[1]. These land owners, who made up the Conservative party, came to power in 1946 through violent means and regained their lands and political power. After the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitan, a popular liberal leader in 1948, the liberals staged an uprising and engaged in a decade long civil war against the conservatives known as “La Violencia.[2]” From this armed civil war, a liberal peasant named Manuel Marulanda aka TiroFijo (Sure Shot) would eventually rise to create the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in 1964.

The FARC believed in a Marxist – Communist ideology that would serve the rural and peasant population of Colombia, which, the FARC believed, werebeing neglected by the Colombian government. Unfortunately, they engaged in kidnapping for ransom, forced recruitment, as well as the drug trade to fund their ideological battle[3]. Peace talks had begun in 1999 but fell through due to “Plan Colombia”, a joint US-Colombian military program that sought to eradicate the drug trade and guerilla activity[4]. Alvaro Uribe, president from 2002-2010 ran on a platform of total destruction of the group through military means, which reduced the FARC’s strength but did not eliminate it. Finally, President Juan Manuel Santos began peace talks in 2012, which culminated in the drafting of a peace accord on June 23, 2016. The Colombian people would vote to approve the peace accord in a referendum on October 2, 2016, which resulted in a 50.2 % vote against it. Regardless, on November 24, 2016, a new agreement was signed and approved by the Colombian congress[5].

As part of the peace agreement, the FARC were guaranteed five seats within both chambers of the Colombian congress starting 2018. Rodrigo Londono, aka Timochenko, head of the FARC, wishes to “build a new country together where no one is persecuted or killed for thinking differently.[6]”  Ironically, the new party, known as the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force will retain the FARC acronym. Pedro Catatumbo, former military commander for the FARC, is hoping he and other commanders will be elected as political representatives, too[7]. The Party will also try to form a coalition with other parties in the government and will run on a platform of land reform and social justice[8].

 

I asked my immediate family members in Colombia what they thought about the whole situation one year later. My aunt in the Amazon is happy that the threat of being kidnapped isn’t looming over her head anymore. My uncle, now retired, feels justice still hasn’t been served and in his words “they all deserve to be imprisoned or shot.” The scars of war will take time to heal. If you were to ask me, I’m just happy I can visit my aunt and crazy uncle in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

  1. “Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army.” Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation,doi:http://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/89.

 

  1. Molano, Alfredo. “The Evolution of the FARC: A Guerilla Group’s Long History .” NACLA, doi:https://nacla.org/article/evolution-farc-guerrilla-groups-long-history.

 

  1. “Colombia’s FARC Transforms into a Political Party .” Al Jazeera , doi:http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/colombia-farc-transforms-political-party-170902005950448.html.

 

  1. Casey, Nicholas. “Colombia and FARC Sign New Peace Deal, This Time Skipping Voters .” The New York Times , doi:https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/24/world/americas/colombia-juan-manuel-santos-peace-deal-farc.html.

 

  1. Cobb, Julia Symmes, and Nelson Bocanegra. “Colombia’s FARC Political Party Looks to Coalition for 2018 Elections.” Reuters, doi:https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-peace-politics/colombias-farc-political-party-looks-to-coalition-for-2018-elections-idUSKCN1BC62J.

 

 

[1] Molano, Alfredo. “The Evolution of the FARC: A Guerilla Group’s Long History .” NACLA, doi:https://nacla.org/article/evolution-farc-guerrilla-groups-long-history.

[2] Molano, Alfredo. “The Evolution of the FARC: A Guerilla Group’s Long History .” NACLA, doi:https://nacla.org/article/evolution-farc-guerrilla-groups-long-history.

[3] “Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army.” Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation, doi:http://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/89

[4] “Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army.” Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation,doi:http://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/89

[5] Casey, Nicholas. “Colombia and FARC Sign New Peace Deal, This Time Skipping Voters .” The New York Times , doi:https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/24/world/americas/colombia-juan-manuel-santos-peace-deal-farc.html.

[6] “Colombia’s FARC Transforms into a Political Party .” Al Jazeera , doi:http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/colombia-farc-transforms-political-party-170902005950448.html.

[7] “Colombia’s FARC Transforms into a Political Party .” Al Jazeera , doi:http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/colombia-farc-transforms-political-party-170902005950448.html.

[8] Cobb, Julia Symmes, and Nelson Bocanegra. “Colombia’s FARC Political Party Looks to Coalition for 2018 Elections.” Reuters, doi:https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-peace-politics/colombias-farc-political-party-looks-to-coalition-for-2018-elections-idUSKCN1BC62J.

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