This essay is a brief research on the ‘Revolutionary armed forces of Columbia’, briefed as ‘FARC-EP’. It exposes the reader to its brief history, its organization and structure and its activities.
The Fuerzas Armadas Revolutionaries de Columbia- Ejercito Del Pueblo or FARC_EP is Colombia’s oldest and largest guerilla group, established in 1964-66 as the military wing of the Colombia Communist Party.’ The FARC-EP is currently present in Colombia’s 35-40% territory. It is very strong in southeastern jungles and the plains at the base of the Andes mountains. It is classified as a terrorist group by multiple nations and organizations. It is currently governed by a secretariat led by Manuel Marulanda Velez. It has proclaimed itself a politico-military Marxist-Leninist organization, of Bolivarian inspiration. and claims to represent the rural poor against Colombia’s wealthy class. It is opposed to the influence of USA in Colombia, multinational corporations and paramilitary violence. It says it wants to achieve power in Columbia through these objectives. It funds itself through kidnapping, extortions and participation in drug trade. It recruits children below 18 years of age as soldiers and informants , usually by force, and Human Rights estimates say that approximately 20-30 percent of FARC- EP force, are children below 18 years of age. (Overview, 2006)
The period that followed murder of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan in 1948, saw loss of more than 200,000 lives and came to be known as La Violencia. The young
Colombians were brought up to think that violence is a way of life. Military rule lasted from 1953 to 1958, when civilian rule was established under the coalition known as National Front. During this period, many communists refused to surrender to the military rule, and went off to far off remote places. Jacobo Arenas who was to later become the ideological leader of FARC, was sent by communist party of Colombia, to organize guerrilla units in rural areas during 1948- 1955. During the post 1958 period, the armed communists successfully established their own government in remote area and called it as ‘Republic of Marquetalia’.
In 1964, under the pressure from conservatives, the Colombian army was asked to attack the strongholds of these guerilla groups. The communists dispersed following this attack, to reorganize later under the leadership of Jacob Arena and Manuel Marulanda, who became the two top leaders. As FARC continued to grow, it established itself throughout the country, in semi-autonomous fronts. Not much is known about the history of this organization between 1955 to 1964.(Historical background, 2006)
Military structure of FARC-EP
Till 1982, FARC functioned as a guerilla outfit. Jacob Arena, after the seventh Guerilla conference in 1982, stated to work, to change FARC into a rebel army.
He added ranks and badges to many uniforms, as well as introducing firearms and ammunition, in addition to providing new weapons and technology for FARC militants.(Belligerence, 2006 )
The FARC military structure :
a) Squad – the basic unit consisting of 12 combatants
b) Guerilla – consists of two squads
c) Company – consists of two guerillas
d) Column – consists of two or more companies
e) Front : consists of more than one column
f) The central high command : designates the highest command of each front
g) Block of fronts : consists of five or more fronts
h) The central high command or its secretariat designates the high command of each block
i) The central high command is the superior organization of direction and
command of the FARC- EP. Its agreements, orders and decisions rule over
the entire movements and all its members. (Belligerence, 2006 )
Operational areas :
The military set-up of FARC_EP is organized in seven main operational
regions. These are :
1) The northern or the Carribean block
2) The north western block
3) The middle Magdelaina block
4) The central block
5) The eastern block
6) The southwestern block
7) The southern block
It is estimated that the total strength of FARC-EP is 15000 to 18000 men, organized in more than 80 fronts.(Main operational regions, 2006 )
The FARC_EP has adopted the famous Marxist theory: ‘ the baby of the new society, is inside the pregnant mother of the old society’ as a way to adopt their non military policies and activities. Many of these policies were introduced to them by one of their founders and ideological leaders, Jacob Arenas. The socio- economic structure built by the FARC serves a sort of model for the future socialist state they wish to establish, and allow them to build their own strength and support base.
The political doctrine of FARC-EP is based on Marxism-Leninism, Cuban and
Guevarian influence, Bolivarian ideology and Christian liberation theology. It covers every fact relating to their society, as a result of mixture of above philosophies, illustrating the perspective of the political and socio-economic structure of their socialist state.
The person who has made the maximum contribution in introducing proper political doctrine, was Jacob Arenas. He intended to build the political doctrine and believed that the FARC would guide Columbian society towards what he perceived as freedom from socio-economic inequality.
His thoughts were highly influenced by Marxism-Leninism, the People’s liberation army of China. He was also influenced by the Cuban revolution, ideas of Guevara, Bolivarianism and the liberation theology of Christianity.(Political Doctrine, 2006 )
One important change that Arenas introduced was academics. Students were taught anthropology at various levels to all its members, with focus on history of humankind in Latin America and Colombia. Students are also taught economics, politics and power of the state, and advance education. They primarily prepare the student to believe that the people of Colombia have so far been exploited economically, and that capitalist government is responsible for the socio-economic inequality, and this can be improved by the communist government only. (People’s education, 2006)
FARC-EP advocates socialist economy, where luxury goods are produced in very less number than the goods required by the poor people. Food, shelter and clothing are given the primary importance. Frequently, the soldiers teach the local peasants how to improve their ways of working, that could be advantageous to them. ( People’s economy, 2006)
The activities of FARC-EP so far include abduction, kidnapping, illegal drug trafficking, and exploitation of coca farmers. Cocaine, given by the coca fruit grown in jungles of Columbia, is the most expensive drug in the market. (activities, 2006)
It is doubtless that the Colombian government is forced to give attention to this outfit, and there have been peace negotiations also, but FARC-EP has chosen to remain a violence driven outfit. Perhaps due to this reason, it is being labeled as a ‘terrorist’ organization by many countries and international organizations.
FARC-EP was born due to violence, has grown up with violence and is sustaining itself on violence and unjust methods. Till its strategy remains dominated by violence, it will never be able to rule Colombia as a ‘socialist country’.
1) Overview, Historical background and activities, from wikipedia, the free
encyclopedia, 26 Novemebr 2006, retrieved on 29 Novemebr 2006,
< http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_Armed_Forces_of_Colombia >
2) Belligerence, Main operational regions, from wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,
6 November 2006, Retrieved on 29 Novemebr 2006
< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Structure_of_the_Farc_EP >
3) Political doctrine, People’s education, people’s economy, from wikipedia, the free
encyclopedia, 31 October 2006, Retrieved on 29 November 2006
< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socio_Economic_Structure_of_the_FARC-EP >