FARC: Transitioning from Guns to Gavels
By admin July 28, 2017

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Founded in 1964 under a Marxist-Lenninist Ideology, the armed wing of the Communist Party is the largest “irregular army” in Colombia operating in various regions of the country. The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) were established after the assassination of Liberal Party leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitain during a period known in Colombia as “La Violencia.” The death of the politician triggered more than a decade of conflict between Liberal Party and Conservative Party supporters.

Among the hundreds of thousands of Colombians that fled to rural areas of the country were a faction of the Communist Party of Colombia, soon to be known as FARC. Members survived by forming militias and seeking revenue through illicit means like drug trafficking, extortion, and kidnapping for ransom. Since their inception, the FARC have been viewed as agents of chaos and dangerous Communist opposition to the Colombian government. Despite concerted Columbian and US joint counter insurgency efforts and over $10 billion in US assistance, the group’s strategic adaptation strategies, lucrative crime involvement, network structure and clear goal of gaining political power have given way to FARC longevity.

Early this week, the FARC announced plans to formally transition from violent guerilla group to legitimate political party on September 1. The new name of the demobilized rebel group, under which they will take part in the 2018 elections, will be announced that same day. These next-steps of a peace deal made last year between the violent non-state actor (VNSA) organization and the Colombian administration are an important solidification of FARC’s voluntary disarmament that has taken place over the last several years.

Some publications are calling the “save-the-date” proclamation of peaceful political involvement a major step towards peace, even a turning point in Colombia’s history of political instability, oppression, insurgency, and public unrest. Citing the successful conversions of other US Department of State foreign terrorist organizations (FTO) like the Continuity Irish Republican Army, it is possible FARC could become a revolutionary voice in the Colombian government now peacefully representing struggling farmers and lower class urban populations seeking social change. However, it is also likely that the evolution of FARC will not be as positive nor problem-free as one would hope.

As it stands, FARC’s leaders are largely ineligible to run in next year’s election. All commanders have been accused of war crimes and will only be considered for candidacy after they have served their sentences and reconciled with victims. FARC’s current leader, Timonchenko, has publicly accepted that his party will not take part in the upcoming presidential elections, but will pursue influence in the congress.

As FARC prepares to enter the political sphere for the second time, leadership is hoping for a successful campaign, ending in the acquisition of seats rather than disaster as in the 1985 elections. The rest of the world should watch carefully to ensure that FARC moves forward productively, using legitimate influence in benevolent ways to bring greater equality and opportunity to would-be militia members and the rest of Colombian society.


Further Reading:


Who are the FARC?

Colombia’s Farc hand over a further 30% of weapons

‘Goodbye, Weapons!’ FARC Disarmament in Colombia Signals New Era

FARC to formally announce political party on September 1

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