Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
People's Army
Participant in the Colombian conflict
Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (coat of arms).png
FARC–EP coat of arms: shield, flag, and country
Active1964–present (FARC dissidents still active)
Political positionFar-left
  • Casa Verde (1965–1990)
  • Los Pozos[1] (1990–2001)
Area of operationsConcentrated in southern, south-western, north-western and eastern Colombia. Incursions to Peru, Venezuela, Brazil,[2] Panama,[3] and Ecuador. Sporadic presence in other Tropical American countries, predominantly Mexico, Paraguay and Bolivia.
Size7,000–10,000 (2013)[4][5][6][7][8][9]
AlliesArmed groups


Opponent(s)Armed groups


FlagFlag of the FARC-EP.svg

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People's Army (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo, FARC–EP and FARC) is a guerrilla movement[14] involved in the continuing Colombian armed conflict starting in 1964. They are known to employ a variety of military tactics[15] in addition to more unconventional methods, including terrorism.[16][17][18][19] The FARC–EP was formed during the Cold War period as a Marxist–Leninist peasant force promoting a political line of agrarianism and anti-imperialism.

The operations of the FARC–EP were funded by kidnap and ransom, and according to Colombian government, illegal mining;[20][non-primary source needed] extortion or taxation of various forms of economic activity, production and distribution of illegal drugs.[21][22] The United Nations has estimated that 12% of all civilians deaths in the Colombian conflict were committed by FARC and National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas, with 80% committed by right-wing paramilitaries, and the remaining 8% committed by Colombian security forces.[23]

The strength of the FARC–EP forces were high; in 2007, the FARC said they were an armed force of 18,000 men and women; in 2010, the Colombian military calculated that FARC forces consisted of about 13,800 members, 50 percent of whom were armed guerrilla combatants; and, in 2011, the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, said that FARC–EP forces comprised fewer than 10,000 members. By 2013 it was reported that 26,648 FARC and ELN members had decided to demobilize since 2002.[24]

In 2012, the FARC made 239 attacks on the energy infrastructure. However, they showed signs of fatigue. By 2014, the FARC were not seeking to engage in outright combat with the army, instead concentrating on small-scale ambushes against isolated army units. Meanwhile, from 2008 to 2017, the FARC opted to attack police patrols with home-made mortars, sniper rifles, and explosives, as they were not considered strong enough to engage police units directly. This followed the trend of the 1990s during the strengthening of Colombian government forces.[25]

In June 2016, the FARC signed a ceasefire accord with the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos in Havana. This accord was seen as a historic step to ending the war that has gone on for fifty years.[26] On 25 August 2016, the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, announced that four years of negotiation had secured a peace deal with FARC and that a national referendum would take place on 2 October.[27] The referendum failed with 50.24% voting against.[28] The Colombian government and the FARC on 12 November 24 signed a revised peace deal,[29] which the Colombian Congress approved on November 30.[30]

On 27 June 2017, FARC ceased to be an armed group, disarming itself and handing over its weapons to the United Nations. One month later, FARC announced its reformation as a legal political party, the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, in accordance with the terms of the peace deal.[31] However, about 2,000 to 2,500 FARC dissidents still take on FARC's original doctrine and continue with drug trafficking, though far smaller than the group at its peak.[32]

A small faction of FARC leaders announced a return to armed activity on 29 August 2019, stating that the Colombian government did not respect peace agreements, a position Colombian officials disagreed with.[33][12] The Colombian government responded with offensive strikes, killing FARC members destined to lead rearmament activities.[34]


La Violencia and the National Front

"There is more repression of individual freedom here, than in any country we've been to; the police patrol the streets, carrying rifles, and demand your papers every few minutes ... the atmosphere, here, is tense, and it seems a revolution may be brewing. The countryside is in open revolt, and the army is powerless to suppress it."

Diary of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, July 6, 1952[35]

In 1948, in the aftermath of the assassination of the populist politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, there occurred a decade of large-scale political violence throughout Colombia, which was a Conservative – Liberal civil war that killed more than 200,000 people. In Colombian history and culture, the killings are known as La Violencia (The Violence, 1948–58); most of the people killed were peasants and laborers in rural Colombia.[36] In 1957–1958, the political leadership of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party agreed to establish a bipartisan political system known as the National Front (Frente Nacional, 1958–74). The Liberal and the Conservative parties agreed to alternate in the exercise of government power by presenting a joint National Front candidate to each election and restricting the participation of other political movements.

The pact was ratified as a constitutional amendment by a national plebiscite on 1 December 1957 and was supported by the Church as well as Colombia's business leaders. The initial power-sharing agreement was effective until 1974; nonetheless, with modifications, the Liberal–Conservative bipartisan system lasted until 1990.[37][38] The sixteen-year extension of the bipartisan power-sharing agreement permitted the Liberal and Conservative élites to consolidate their socioeconomic control of Colombian society, and to strengthen the military to suppress political reform and radical politics proposing alternative forms of government for Colombia.[39][40][41]

Accelerated Economic Development

During the 1960s, the Colombian government effected a policy of Accelerated Economic Development (AED), the agribusiness plan of Lauchlin Currie, a Canadian-born U.S. economist who owned ranching land in Colombia. The plan promoted industrial farming that would produce great yields of agricultural and animal products for worldwide exportation, while the Colombian government would provide subsidies to large-scale private farms. The AED policy came at the expense of the small-scale family farms that only yielded food supplies for local consumption. Based on a legalistic interpretation of what constituted "efficient use" of the land, thousands of peasants were forcefully evicted from their farms and migrated to the cities, where they became part of the industrial labor pool. In 1961, the dispossession of farmland had produced 40,000 landless families and by 1969 their numbers amounted to 400,000 throughout Colombia.[42][43][44] By 1970, the latifundio type of industrial farm (more than 50 hectares in area) occupied more than 77 per cent of arable land in the country.[45][46] The AED policy increased the concentration of land ownership among cattle ranchers and urban industrialists, whose businesses expanded their profits as a result of reductions in the cost of labor wages after the influx of thousands of displaced peasants into the cities.[47] During this period, most rural workers lacked basic medical care and malnutrition was almost universal, which increased the rates of preventable disease and infant mortality.[48]