The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People’s Army (FARC) emerged in the 1960s with the objective of seizing power in Colombia and implanting a communist regime there.
The FARC originated in the same breeding ground in which the armed left organizations that spread throughout Latin America, including Brazil, multiplied. But the FARC reached superlative dimensions. Capitalized on control of the cocaine trade, kidnappings and extortion, the organization took on the dimensions of an army and went to war.
The organization came to control around 40% of the Colombian territory and its acts of terrorism and conflicts left a balance of more than 260,000 deaths. In 2016, the group signed a peace agreement and in the following months began a demobilization process. He handed over his weapons, changed his name to the Alternative Revolutionary Force of the Common, thus keeping the same FARC acronym. Former President Juan Manuel Santos won a Nobel Peace Prize.
This week, the American press posted reports from US Congressional sources that the White House had sent a request to the Senate that the FARC be removed from the list of terrorist organizations. Something that has yet to be confirmed, but it makes perfect sense within the Biden administration’s policy of efforts to turn the pages. Take the case of Afghanistan, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Biden chose another ephemeris: the fifth year of signing the peace accords in Colombia. Which in theory makes perfect sense. If the FARC handed over their weapons and are now a formal party in Colombia, there is no point in having their name on the list. But does reality coincide with will?
But did the FARC cease to exist? The answer shows the mismatch between intelligence and politics. Something that has proven to be chronic in the world and potentially explosive, as proved by the tragic departure of the United States from Afghanistan.
The FARC never ceased to exist. They evolved to a much more efficient level of fighting. After half a century of trying to seize power through force, they found themselves facing a real threat to their existence. They were about to lose militarily. By 2012, the coca-growing area under FARC control had been halved from what was measured 12 years earlier and cocaine production had dropped 75%, despite all the support the then Venezuelan president had given to retool and help to distribute the Colombian drug around the world.
Anticipating failure, the FARC threw themselves into a peace deal in which they dealt the cards. The main one was to demand from the Santos government the end of the forced eradication of coca crops and the spraying of defoliants, under the argument that the chemical pollutes rivers and the soil. The Colombian government took the bait. In 2016, when peace was sealed, just four years later, areas with coca plantations had grown by 141%.
The FARC formally went into politics, occupying seats in parliament and even running for president, leaving the wheels of the business oiled. Running perfectly in the hands of what are conveniently called “dissents” by all parties involved in the peace plan.
Without firing a shot, the FARC went into formal politics and kept the deal – in theory in the hands of radicals who did not accept peace.
The removal of the name of the FARC from the list of terrorist organizations has a symbolic effect. The United States, Colombia’s main allies, would finally be witnessing the end of the organization. Something important, but with the potential to give the new FARC, those that present themselves as a party, more instruments to operate ostensibly in their plans that have never been abandoned, which are to conquer power and lead Colombia to communism.
And forget about the paranoia blah blah blah. The FARC are what they are and define themselves that way. Like it or not.
They own a real fortune, which has never returned to the Colombian public coffers or been returned to the victims of the group’s looting. 2013 estimates indicated more than $10 billion. Without the legal restrictions that come with being designated as a terrorist organization, the FARC will have infinite scope to operate with impact not just in Colombia but throughout the region.
The so-called dissidences control the production of cocaine and marijuana that supplies the North and part of the Northeast of Brazil. They work directly with the supply of drugs for organizations such as Família do Norte (created in Amazonas) and Comando Vermelho.
As a result of the new business model, the FARC promoted a significant reduction in its staff. With the end of the clashes with the Colombian State, its fighters were unemployed and converted into a mass with financial need and superlative proficiency to be co-opted by organized crime not only within Colombia, but in Brazil.
There is a lack of studies on the impact of ex-combatants on the change in the pattern of violence in the region, but their marks are already known, especially in the Amazon states, where crime was redesigned by the struggle of factions and by the presence of these FARC orphans.
It is difficult to predict the impacts of the US government measure. But the signs give no hope that they will be positive. Not a chance.