Colombian armed conflict (1964–present)

Colombian armed conflict (1964–present)
Colombian Armed Conflict
Colin Powell, then the US Secretary of State visiting Colombia as part of the United States' support of Plan Colombia.
Date 1964 – present
Location Colombia
Status Ongoing; insurgency continues, drug war unresolved
El Caguan DMZ
AUC (De)*
AAA (Dis)*
Black Eagles
Other paramilitary successor groups.[1]

Drug cartels

Colombia Government
Air Force
Colnationalpolice.png National Police
United States USA

Drug cartels

M-19 (Dis)*
Hammer and sickle.svg MOEC (Dis)*
CGSB (Dis)*
Quintín Lame Command (Dis)*
ERC (De)*

Drug cartels

Commanders and leaders
Fidel Castaño 
Carlos Castaño 
Vicente Castaño [citation needed]
Rodrigo Tovar Pupo
Salvatore Mancuso
Diego Murillo
Colombia Juan Manuel Santos
Colombia Padilla León
Colombia Montoya Uribe
Mauricio Jaramillo
Timoleón Jiménez
Joaquín Gómez
Iván Márquez
Antonio García
Francisco Galán
Paramilitary successor groups, including the Black Eagles: 3,749 – 13,000[2][3][4] Colnationalpolice.png National Police: 145,871[5]
Army: 238,889[6]
Air Force: 13,108[6]
FARC: 9,000–18,000 in 2010, according to the Colombian Armed Forces.[7]
+ ~30,000 part time militants according to analysts.[8]
ELN: 3,500 – 5,000
IRAFP: ~80
Casualties and losses
Colombia Army and Police: 4,286 killed, 13,076 injured (since 2002[6]) FARC: 12,981 demobilized (since 2002[6])
ELN: 2,789 demobilized (since 2002[6])

Since 2002, 34,512 guerrillas captured, 13,197 killed[6]

total casualties=50,000–200,000[9]

total people displaced= 2,400,000–4,000,000[10]

The Colombian armed conflict or Colombian Civil War are terms that are employed to refer to the current asymmetric low-intensity armed conflict in Colombia that has existed since approximately 1964 or 1966, between the Colombian government and peasant guerrillas such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

It is historically rooted in the conflict known as La Violencia, which was triggered by the 1948 assassination of populist political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán,[11] and in the aftermath of United States-backed military attacks on peasant communities in rural Colombia in the 1960s that led Liberal and Communist militants to re-organize into FARC.[12]

The reasons for fighting vary from group to group. The FARC and other guerrilla movements claim to be fighting for the rights of the poor in Colombia to protect them from government violence and to provide social justice through socialism.[13] The Colombian government claims to be fighting for order and stability, seeking to protect the rights and interests of its citizens, private companies and multinational corporations such as Occidental Petroleum, from guerrilla attacks. The paramilitary groups, such as the AUC, claim to be reacting to perceived threats by guerrilla movements.[14] Both guerrilla and paramilitary groups have been accused of engaging in drug trafficking and terrorism. All parties engaged in the conflict have been criticized for numerous human rights violations.

The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people, and displaced millions.



The direct origins of the current conflict are usually dated to 1964–1966, while the remote origins would at least go back as far as 1948[citation needed].

The 1948 assassination of populist Jorge Eliecer Gaitán lead to the Bogotazo, an urban riot killing more than 4,000 people, and subsequently to ten years of sustained rural warfare between members of Colombian Liberal Party and the Colombian Conservative Party, a period known as La Violencia ("The Violence"), which took the lives of more than 200,000 people throughout the countryside.[11]

As La Violencia wound down, most self-defense and guerrilla units made up of Liberal Party supporters demobilized, but at the same time some former Liberals and active Communist groups continued operating in several rural enclaves. One of the Liberal bands was a group known as the "Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia" (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), or FARC, formed by Dumar Aljure in the early 1950s, one of the largest Liberal guerrillas in 1958.[15] This group eventually ceased to exist, but its name remained as a historical reference[citation needed].

Also in 1958, an exclusively bipartisan political alternation system, known as the National Front, resulted from an agreement between the Liberal and Conservative parties. The agreement had come as a result of the two parties attempting to find a final political solution to the decade of mutual violence and unrest, remaining in effect until 1974.[11]



In the early 1960s Colombian Army units loyal to the National Front began, at the behest of the United States, to attack peasant communities throughout Colombia that they considered to be enclaves for bandits and Communists. It was the 1964 attack on the community of Marquetalia that motivated the later creation of FARC.[16]

Unlike the rural FARC, which had roots in the previous Liberal peasant struggles, the ELN was mostly an outgrowth of university unrest and would subsequently tend to follow a small group of charismatic leaders, including Camilo Torres Restrepo.[17]

Both guerrilla groups remained mostly operational in remote areas of the country during the rest of the 1960s[citation needed].

The Colombian government organized several short-lived counter-guerrilla campaigns in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These efforts were aided by the U.S. government and the CIA, which employed hunter-killer teams and involved U.S. personnel from the previous Philippine campaign against the Huks, and which would later participate in the subsequent Phoenix Program in Vietnam.[14][18]


By 1974, another challenge to the state's authority and legitimacy had come from the 19th of April Movement (M-19), leading to a new phase in the conflict. The M-19 was a mostly urban guerrilla group, founded in response to an electoral fraud during the final National Front election of Misael Pastrana Borrero (1970–1974) and the defeat of former dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla[citation needed].


By 1982, the perceived passivity of the FARC, together with the relative success of the government's efforts against the M-19 and ELN, enabled the administration of the Liberal Party's Julio César Turbay Ayala (1978–1982) to lift a state-of-siege decree that had been in effect, on and off, for most of the previous 30 years. Under the latest such decree, president Turbay had implemented security policies that, though of some military value against the M-19 in particular, were considered highly questionable both inside and outside Colombian circles due to numerous accusations of military human rights abuses against suspects and captured guerrillas[citation needed].

Citizen exhaustion due to the conflict's newfound intensity led to the election of president Belisario Betancur (1982–1986), a Conservative who won 47% of the popular vote, directed peace feelers at all the insurgents, and negotiated a 1984 cease-fire with the FARC at La Uribe, Meta, after a 1982 release of many guerrillas imprisoned during the previous effort to overpower them. A truce was also arranged with the M-19. The ELN rejected entering any negotiation and continued to recover itself through the use of extortions and threats, in particular against foreign oil companies of European and U.S. origin[citation needed].

As these events were developing, the growing illegal drug trade and its consequences were also increasingly becoming a matter of widespread importance to all participants in the Colombian conflict. Guerrillas and newly wealthy drug lords had mutually uneven relations and thus numerous incidents occurred between them. Eventually the kidnapping of drug cartel family members by guerrillas led to the creation of the 1981 Muerte a Secuestradores (MAS) death squad ("Death to Kidnappers"). Pressure from the U.S. government and critical sectors of Colombian society was met with further violence, as the Medellín Cartel and its hitmen, bribed or murdered numerous public officials, politicians and others who stood in its way by supporting the implementation of extradition of Colombian nationals to the U.S. Victims of cartel violence included Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, assassinated in 1984, an event which made the Betancur administration begin to directly oppose the drug lords[citation needed].

The first negotiated cease-fire with the M-19 ended when the guerrillas resumed fighting in 1985, claiming that the cease-fire had not been fully respected by official security forces, saying that several of its members had suffered threats and assaults, and also questioning the government's real willingness to implement any accords. The Betancur administration in turn questioned the M-19's actions and its commitment to the peace process, as it continued to advance high profile negotiations with the FARC, which led to the creation of the Patriotic Union (Unión Patriótica) -UP-, a legal and non-clandestine political organization[citation needed].

On November 6, 1985, the M-19 stormed the Colombian Palace of Justice and held the Supreme Court magistrates hostage, intending to put president Betancur on trial. In the ensuing crossfire that followed the military's reaction, some 120 people lost their lives, as did most of the guerrillas, including several high-ranking operatives and 12 Supreme Court Judges.[3] Both sides blamed each other for the outcome. This marked the end of Betancur's peace process.[4]

Meanwhile, individual FARC members initially joined the UP leadership in representation of the guerrilla command, though most of the guerrilla's chiefs and militiamen did not demobilize nor disarm, as that was not a requirement of the process at that point in time. Tension soon significantly increased, as both sides began to accuse each other of not respecting the cease-fire.[citation needed].

According to historian Daniel Pecáut, the creation of the Patriotic Union took the guerrillas' political message to a wider public outside of the traditional communist spheres of influence and led to local electoral victories in regions such as Urabá and Antioquia, with their mayoral candidates winning twenty-three municipalities and their congressional ones gaining fourteen seats (five in the Senate, nine in the lower Chamber) in 1988.[19] According to journalist Steven Dudley, who interviewed ex-FARC as well as former members of the UP and the Communist Party,[20] FARC leader Jacobo Arenas insisted to his subordinates that the UP's creation did not mean that the group would lay down its arms nor a rejection of the Seventh Conference's military strategy.[21] Pecáut states that new recruits entered the guerrilla army and its urban militia units during the period, also claiming that FARC did not stop kidnapping and continued to target regional politicians for assassination.[22]

In October 1987, the UP's 1986 presidential candidate Jaime Pardo Leal was assassinated amid a wave of violence that would lead to the deaths of thousands of its party members at the hands of death squads.[23][24] According to Pecáut, the killers included members of the military and the political class who had opposed Belisario Betancur's peace process and considered the UP to be little more than a "facade" for FARC, as well as drug traffickers and landowners who were also involved in the establishment of paramilitary groups.[25]


Early 1990s

The Virgilio Barco Vargas (1986–1990) administration, in addition to continuing to handle the difficulties of the complex negotiations with the guerrillas, also inherited a particularly chaotic confrontation against the drug lords, who were engaged in a campaign of terrorism and murder in response to government moves in favor of their extradition overseas.[citation needed].

In June 1987, the ceasefire between FARC and the Colombian government formally collapsed after the guerrillas attacked a military unit in the jungles of Caquetá.[26][27] According to journalist Steven Dudley, FARC founder Jacobo Arenas considered the incident to be a "natural" part of the truce and reiterated the group's intention to continue the dialogue, but President Barco sent an ultimatum to the guerrillas and demanded that they immediately disarm or face military retaliation.[27] Regional guerrilla and Army skirmishes created a situation where each violation of the ceasefire rendered it null in each location, until it was rendered practically nonexistent[citation needed].

By 1990, at least 2,500 members of the FARC-founded Patriotic Union had been murdered, according to historian Daniel Pecáut, leading up to that year's assassination of presidential candidate Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa. The Colombian government initially blamed drug lord Pablo Escobar for the murder but journalist Steven Dudley argues that many in the UP pointed at then-Interior Minister Carlos Lemos Simmonds for publicly calling out the UP as the "political wing of FARC" shortly before the murder, while others claimed it was the result of an alliance between Fidel Castaño, members of the Colombian military and the DAS.[28] Pecáut and Dudley argue that significant tensions had emerged between Jaramillo, FARC and the Communist Party due to the candidate's recent criticism of the armed struggle and their debates over the rebels' use of kidnapping, almost leading to a formal break.[29][30] Jaramillo's death led to a large exodus of UP militants; in addition, by then many FARC cadres who joined the party had already returned to clandestinity, using the UP experience as an argument in favor of revolutionary war.[24][26][31]

The M-19 and several smaller guerrilla groups were successfully incorporated into a peace process as the 1980s ended and the 90s began, which culminated in the elections for a Constituent Assembly of Colombia that would write a new constitution, which took effect in 1991[citation needed].

Contacts with the FARC, which had irregularly continued despite the end of the ceasefire and the official 1987 break from negotiations, were temporarily cut off in 1990 under the presidency of César Gaviria Trujillo (1990–1994). The Colombian Army's assault on the FARC's Casa Verde sanctuary at La Uribe, Meta, followed by a FARC offensive that sought to undermine the deliberations of the Constitutional Assembly, began to highlight a significant break in the uneven negotiations carried over from the previous decade[citation needed].

Both parties nevertheless never completely broke off some amount of political contacts for long, as some peace feelers continued to exist, leading to short rounds of conversations in both Caracas, Venezuela (1991) and Tlaxcala, Mexico (1992). Despite the signing of several documents, no concrete results were achieved when the talks ended[citation needed].


FARC military activity increased throughout the bulk of the 1990s as the group continued to grow in wealth from both kidnapping and drug-related activities, while drug crops rapidly spread throughout the countryside. The guerrillas protected many of the coca growers from eradication campaigns and allowed them to grow and commercialize coca in exchange for a "tax" either in money or in crops[citation needed].

In this context, FARC had managed to recruit and train more fighters, beginning to use them in concentrated attacks in a novel and mostly unexpected way. This led to a series of high profile raids and attacks against Colombian state bases and patrols, mostly in the southeast of Colombia but also affecting other areas[citation needed].

In mid-1996 a civic protest movement made up of an estimated 200,000 coca growers from Putumayo and part of Cauca began marching against the Colombian government to reject its drug war policies, including fumigations and the declaration of special security zones in some departments. Different analysts have stressed that the movement itself fundamentally originated on its own, but at the same time, FARC heavily encouraged the marchers and actively promoted their demands both peacefully and through the threat of force.[32][33]

Additionally, in 1997 and 1998, town councilmen in dozens of municipalities of the south of the country were threatened, killed, kidnapped, forced to resign or to exile themselves to department capitals by the FARC and the ELN.[34][35]

In Las Delicias, Caquetá, five FARC fronts (about 400 guerrillas) recognized intelligence pitfalls in a Colombian Army base and exploited them to overrun it on August 30, 1996, killing 34 soldiers, wounding 17 and taking some 60 as prisoners. Another significant attack took place in El Billar, Caquetá on March 2, 1998, where a Colombian Army counterinsurgency battalion was patrolling, resulting in the death of 62 soldiers and the capture of some 43. Other FARC attacks against Police bases in Miraflores, Guaviare and La Uribe, Meta in August 1998 killed more than a hundred soldiers, policemen and civilians, and resulted in the capture or kidnapping of a hundred more[citation needed].

These attacks, and the dozens of members of the Colombian security forces taken prisoner by the FARC, contributed to increasingly shaming the government of president Ernesto Samper Pizano (1994–1998) in the eyes of sectors of public and political opinion. He was already the target of numerous critics due to revelations of a drug-money scandal surrounding his presidential campaign. Perceptions of corruption due to similar scandals led to Colombia's decertification as a country cooperating with the United States in the war on drugs in 1995 (when the effects of the measure were temporarily waived), 1996 and 1997.[36][37]

The Samper administration reacted against FARC's attacks by gradually abandoning numerous vulnerable and isolated outposts in more than 100,000 km².² of the rural countryside, instead concentrating Army and Police forces in the more heavily defended strongholds available, which allowed the guerrillas to more directly mobilize through and influence events in large areas of rural territory which were left with little or no remaining local garrisons[citation needed].

Samper also contacted the guerrillas in order to negotiate the release of some or all of the hostages in FARC hands, which led to the temporary demilitarization of the municipality of Cartagena del Chairá, Caquetá in July 1997 and the unilateral liberation of 70 soldiers, a move which was opposed by the command of the Colombian military. Other contacts between the guerrillas and government, as well as with representatives of religious and economic sectors, continued throughout 1997 and 1998[citation needed].

Altogether, these events were interpreted by some Colombian and foreign analysts as a turning point in the armed confrontation, giving the FARC the upper hand in the military and political balance, making the Colombian government a target of critics from some observers who concluded that its weakness was being evidenced, perhaps even overshadowing a future guerrilla victory in the middle term. A leaked 1998 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report went so far as to speculate that this could be possible within 5 years if the guerrilla's rate of operations was kept up without effective opposition. Some viewed this report as inaccurate and alarmist, claiming that it did not properly take into account many factors, such as possible actions that the Colombian state and the U.S. might take in response to the situation, nor the effects of the existence of paramilitary groups.[38]

Also during this period, paramilitary activities increased, both legally and illegally. The creation of legal CONVIVIR self-defense and intelligence gathering groups was authorized by Congress and the Samper administration in 1994. Members of CONVIVIR groups were accused of committing numerous abuses against the civilian population by several human rights organizations. The groups were left without legal support after a 1997 decision by the Colombian Constitutional Court which restricted many of their prerrogatives and demanded stricter oversight. After 1997, preexisting paramilitary forces and several former CONVIVIR members joined in creating the "Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia" ("United Self-defense Forces of Colombia") or AUC, a now illegal loose federation of regional paramilitary groups[citation needed].

The AUC, originally present around the central/northwest part of the country, executed a series of raids into areas of guerrilla influence, targeting those that they considered as either guerrillas in disguise or their suspected collaborators. This resulted in a continuing series of massacres, such as a July 1997 operation against the village of Maripipán, Meta, which left between 30 and 49 civilians dead. After some of these operations, government prosecutors and/or human rights organizations repeatedly blamed officers and members of Colombian Army and Police units for either passively permitting these acts, or directly collaborating in their execution.[39][40]

Late 1990s – Early 2000s

On August 7, 1998, Andrés Pastrana Arango was sworn in as the President of Colombia. A member of the Conservative Party, Pastrana defeated Liberal Party candidate Horacio Serpa in a run-off election marked by high voter turn-out and little political unrest. The new president's program was based on a commitment to bring about a peaceful resolution of Colombia's longstanding civil conflict and to cooperate fully with the United States to combat the trafficking of illegal drugs[citation needed].

In July 1999, Colombian military forces attacked the town of Puerto Lleras, Colombia where FARC rebels were stationed. Using U.S. supplied aircraft and equipment, and backed with U.S. logistical support, Colombian government forces strafed and bombed the town for over 72 hours. In the attack, 3 civilians were killed, and several others were wounded as the military attacked hospitals, churches, ambulances, and residential areas. FARC rebels were forced to flee the area, and many were killed or wounded. The Colombian government claimed that this was a significant victory, while human rights groups claimed this as proof that "anti-narcotics" aid, was actually just military aid which was being used to fight a leftist insurgency.[41]

On September 10, 2001, the AUC were added to the US State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Critics [WHO?][citation needed]. had long accused the US of hypocrisy for labeling the FARC and ELN terrorists, while ignoring the AUC, which was responsible for far more killings.[5] Due to payments made by Chiquita Brands International to the AUC, requests have been made for the extradition of Chiquita's board members and executive officers.[42]

On January 17, 2002, right-wing paramilitaries entered the village of Chengue, and divided up the villagers into two groups. They then went from person to person in one of the groups, smashing each person's head with sledgehammers and rocks, killing 24 people, as the Colombian military sat by and watched. 2 other bodies were later discovered dumped in a shallow grave. As the paramilitaries left, they set fire to the village.[43]

Early 2000s – 2006

Army soldiers wearing a new version of digitalized camouflage.

During President Uribe's first term in office (2002–2006), the security situation inside Colombia showed some measure of improvement and the economy, while still fragile, also showed some positive signs of recovery according to observers. But relatively little has been accomplished in structurally solving most of the country's other grave problems, such as poverty and inequality, possibly in part due to legislative and political conflicts between the administration and the Colombian Congress (including those over a controversial project to eventually give Uribe the possibility of re-election), and a relative lack of freely allocated funds and credits[citation needed].

Some critical observers [WHO?] considered that Uribe's policies, while reducing crime and guerrilla activity, were too slanted in favor of a military solution to Colombia's internal war while neglecting grave social and human rights concerns. Critics [WHO?] have asked for Uribe's government to change this position and make serious efforts towards improving the human rights situation inside the country, protecting civilians and reducing any abuses committed by the armed forces. Political dissenters and labor union members, among others, have suffered from threats and have been murdered.[citation needed]

In 2004, it was revealed by the National Security Archive that a 1991 document from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency had described then-Senator Uribe as a "close personal friend" and collaborator of Pablo Escobar. The Uribe administration denied several of the allegations in the 1991 report.[44][citation needed]

In May 2006, Uribe was re-elected on the first round of the elections, with a historically unprecedented 62% of the total vote, with leftist Carlos Gaviria in second place (22%) and Horacio Serpa in third.

2007 – 2009

On June 28, 2007 the FARC suddenly reported the death of 11 of the 12 kidnapped provincial deputies from Valle del Cauca Department. The Colombian government accused the FARC of executing the hostages and stated that government forces had not made any rescue attempts. FARC claimed that the deaths occurred during a crossfire, after an attack to one of its camps by an "unidentified military group". FARC did not report any other casualties on either side.[45]

In 2007, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Colombian Senator Piedad Córdoba were acting as authorised mediators in the ongoing Humanitarian Exchange between the FARC and the government of Colombia. Colombian President Álvaro Uribe had given Chávez permission to mediate, under the conditions that all meetings with the FARC would take place in Venezuela and that Chávez would not contact members of the Colombian military directly, but instead go through proper diplomatic channels.[46][47] However, President Uribe abruptly terminated Chávez's mediation efforts on November 22, 2007, after Chávez personally contacted General Mario Montoya Uribe, the Commander of the Colombian National Army.[48] In response, Chávez said that he was still willing to mediate, but had withdrawn Venezuela's ambassador to Colombia and placed Colombian-Venezuelan relations "in a freezer"[49] President Uribe responded that Colombia needed "mediation against terrorism, not for Chávez to legitimise terrorism," that Chávez was not interested in peace in Colombia, and that Chávez was building an expansionist project on the continent.[50]

Several scandals have affected Uribe's administration. The Colombian parapolitics scandal expanded during his second term, involving numerous members of the administration's ruling coalition. Many pro-government lawmakers, such as the President's cousin Mario Uribe, have been investigated for their possible ties to paramilitary organizations.[51]

At the end of 2007, FARC agreed to release former senator Consuelo González, politician Clara Rojas and her son Emmanuel, born in captivity after a relationship with one of her captors. Operation Emmanuel was proposed and set up by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, with the permission of the Colombian government. The mission was approved on December 26. Although, on December 31, FARC claimed that the hostage release had been delayed because of Colombian military operations. On the same time, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe indicated that FARC had not freed the three hostages because Emmanuel may not be in their hands anymore.[52] Two FARC gunmen were taken prisoner.

Colombian authorities added that a boy matching Emmanuel's description had been taken to a hospital in San José del Guaviare in June 2005. The child was in poor condition; one of his arms was hurt, he had severe malnutrition, and he had diseases that are commonly suffered in the jungle. Having been evidently mistreated, the boy was later sent to a foster home in Bogotá and DNA tests were announced in order to confirm his identity.[52] On January 4, 2008, the results of a mitochondrial DNA test, comparing the child's DNA with that of his potential grandmother Clara de Rojas, were revealed by the Colombian government. It was reported that there was a very high probability that the boy was indeed part of the Rojas family.[53] The same day, FARC released a communique in which they admitted that Emmanuel had been taken to Bogotá and "left in the care of honest persons" for safety reasons until a humanitarian exchange took place. The group accused President Uribe of "kidnapping" the child in order to sabotage his liberation.[54][55] However, on January 10, 2008, FARC released Rojas and Gonzalez through a humanitarian commission headed by the International Committee of the Red Cross. On January 13, 2008, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez stated his disapproval with the FARC strategy of armed struggle and kidnapping saying "I don't agree with kidnapping and I don't agree with armed struggle".[56] He repeated his call for a political solution and an end to the war on March and June 2008, "The guerrilla war is history...At this moment in Latin America, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place".[57]

On February 2008, FARC released four others political hostages "as a gesture of goodwill" toward Chávez, who had brokered the deal and sent Venezuelan helicopters with Red Cross logos into the Colombian jungle to pick up the freed hostages.[58]

On March 1, 2008, the Colombian armed forces launched a military operation 1.8 kilometres into Ecuador on a FARC position, killing 24, including Raúl Reyes, member of the FARC Central High Command. This led to the 2008 Andean diplomatic crisis between Colombia and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, supported by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

On March 3, Iván Ríos, also a member of the FARC Central High Command was killed by his security chief "Rojas".

On May 24, 2008, Colombian magazine, Revista Semana, published an interview with Colombian defense minister Juan Manuel Santos in which Santos mentions the death of Manuel Marulanda Vélez. The news was confirmed by FARC-commander 'Timochenko' on Venezuelan based television station Telesur on May 25, 2008. 'Timochenko' announced the new commander in chief is 'Alfonso Cano'.[59]

In May 2008, a dozen jailed paramilitary leaders were extradited to the United States on drug-related charges. In 2009, extradited paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso would claim that the AUC had supported Uribe's 2002 election, but said that this was a result of their similar "ideological discourse" and not the result of any direct prior arrangement.[60]

In March 2008 alone, FARC lost 3 members of their Secretariat, including their founder.

On July 2, 2008, the Colombian armed forces launched Operation Jaque that resulted in the freedom of 15 political hostages, including former Colombian presidential candidate Íngrid Betancourt, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell, three American military contractors employed by Northrop Grumman[61] and 11 Colombian military and police.[62] Two FARC members were arrested. This trick to the FARC was presented by the Colombian government as a proof that the guerilla organisation and influence is declining.

On October 26, 2008, the ex-congressman, Óscar Tulio Lizcano escaped after 8 years of captivity with a FARC rebel he convinced to travel with him. Soon after the liberation of this prominent political hostage, the Vice President of Colombia Francisco Santos Calderón called Latin America's biggest guerrilla group a "paper tiger" with little control of the nation's territory, adding that "they have really been diminished to the point where we can say they are a minimal threat to Colombian security," and that "After six years of going after them, reducing their income and promoting reinsertion of most of their members, they look like a paper tiger." However, he warned against any kind of premature triumphalism, because "crushing the rebels will take time." The 500,000 square kilometers (190,000 sq mi) of jungle in Colombia makes it hard to track them down to fight.[63]

According to the Colombian government, in early 2009 FARC launched plan Rebirth to avoid being defeated. They planned to intensify guerrilla warfare by the use of landmines, snipers, and bomb attacks in urban areas. They also plan to buy missiles to fight the Colombian airforce which highly contribute to their weakness since few years.[64]

On February 2009, the guerilla released 6 hostages as a humanitarian gesture. In March, they released Swedish hostage Erik Roland Larsson.

On April 2009, the Colombian armed forces launched Strategic Leap[65], an offensive in borders areas where the FARC's forces has still a strong military presence, especially in Arauca, near the Venezuelan border.[66]

On November 2009, Nine Colombian soldiers were killed when their post was attacked by FARC guerrillas in a southwestern part of the country.[67]

On December 22, 2009, FARC rebels raided the home of Provincial governor Luis Francisco Cuellar, killing one police officer and wounding two. Cuellar was found dead the following day.

On January 1, 2010, Eighteen FARC rebels were killed when the Colombian Air Force bombed a jungle camp in Southern Colombia. Colombian troops of the elite Task Force Omega then stormed the camp, capturing fifteen FARC rebels, as well as 25 rifles, war materials, explosives, and information which was given to military intelligence. In Southwestern Colombia, FARC rebels ambushed an army patrol, killing a soldier. The troops then exchanged fire with the rebels. During the fighting, a teenager was killed in the crossfire.[68]

2010 – 2011

When Juan Manuel Santos was elected president in August 2010 he promised to 'continue the armed offensive' against rebel movements. In the month after his inauguration FARC and ELN killed roughly 50 soldiers and policemen in attacks all over Colombia.[69] September also saw the killing of FARC's second-in-command Mono Jojoy. By the end of 2010 it became increasingly clear that 'neo-paramilitary groups', referred to as 'criminal groups' (BACRIM) by the government, had become an increasing threat to national security, with violent groups such as Los Rastrojos and Aguilas Negras taking control of large parts of the Colombian countryside.[70]

In 2010 the FARC killed at least 460 members of the security forces, while wounding more than 2,000.[71]

By early 2011 Colombian authorities and news media reported that the FARC and the clandestine sister groups have partly shifted strategy from guerrilla warfare to 'a war of militias', meaning that they are increasingly operating in civilian clothes while hiding amongst sympathizers in the civilian population.[72] In early January of 2011 the Colombian army said that the FARC has some 18,000 members, with 9,000 of those forming part of the militias.[73] The army says it has 'identified' at least 1,400 such militia members in the FARC-strongholds of Valle del Cauca and Cauca in 2011.[74] In June 2011 Colombian chief of staff Edgar Cely claimed that the FARC wants to 'urbanize their actions',[75] which could partly explain the increased guerrilla activity in Medellín and particularly Cali.[76][77][78][79][80] Jeremy McDermott, co-director of Insight Crime, estimates that FARC may have some 30,000 'part-time fighters' in 2011, consisting of supporters making up the rebel militia network instead of armed uniformed combatants.[8]

In 2011 the Colombian Congress issued a statement claiming that the FARC has a 'strong presence' in roughly one third of Colombia, while their attacks against security forces 'have continued to rise' throughout 2010 and 2011.[81]

Role of the United States

The United States has been heavily involved in the conflict since its beginnings, when in the early 1960s the U.S. government pushed the Colombian military to attack peasant self-defense communities in rural Colombia, as part of its fight against communism.[82]

As of August, 2004, the US had spent $3 billion in Colombia, more than 75% of it on military aid. Before the Iraq war, Colombia was the third largest recipient of US aid only after Egypt and Israel, and the U.S. has 400 military personnel and 400 civilian contractors in Colombia..[6] [7]

See also


  1. ^ "Why did the Colombia Peace Process Fail?" (PDF). The Tabula Rasa Institute. Retrieved 2006-02-26.  [PDF file]
  2. ^ Livingstone, Grace (2004). Inside Colombia: Drugs, Democracy, and War. Rutgers University Press. p. 176. ISBN 0813534437. 
  3. ^ Molano, Alfredo (February 18 2004). James Graham (Translator). ed. Loyal Soldiers in the Cocaine Kingdom: Tales of Drugs, Mules, and Gunmen. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231129157. 
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  26. ^ Livingstone, p. 6; Source: Colombian Commission of Jurists; Arocha, Jaime (1998). Evolución reciente del conflicto armado en Colombia: La Guerrilla in Las violencias: inclusión creciente (1998 ed.). Bogata: CES. pp. 35–65. ISBN 958-96259-5-9. 
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Further reading



  • Stokes, Doug; Noam Chomsky (Foreword) (2005). America's Other War: Terrorizing Colombia. Zed Books. ISBN 1842775472. 
  • Cuellar, Francisco Ramírez; Aviva Chomsky (2005). The Profits of Extermination. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.. ISBN 1567513220. 
  • Aviva Chomsky (2008). Linked labor histories: New England, Colombia, and the making of a global working class. Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822341901. 
  • Bushnell, David (1993). The Making of Modern Colombia, a Nation in spite of itself. University of California Press. ISBN 0520082893. 
  • Dudley, Steven (January 2004). Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerrilla Politics in Colombia. Routledge. ISBN 041593303X. 
  • Kirk, Robin (January, 2003). More Terrible than Death: Massacres, Drugs, and America's War in Colombia. PublicAffairs. ISBN 1-58648-104-5. 
  • Ruiz, Bert (October 1, 2001). The Colombian Civil War. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-1084-1. 
  • Safford, Frank and Marco Palacios (July 1, 2001). Colombia: Fragmented Land, Divided Society. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504617-X. 
  • Taussig, Michael (November 1, 2003). Law in a Lawless Land: Diary of a Limpieza. New Press. ISBN 1-56584-863-2. 

Other languages

  • Murillo, Mario and Jesus Rey Avirama (September 1, 2003). Colombia and the United States: War, Terrorism and Destabilization. Seven Stories Press. ISBN 1-58322-606-0. 
  • Palacios, Marco (1995) (in Spanish). Entre la legitimidad y la violencia: Colombia 1875–1994. Norma. 
  • Pardo Rueda, Rafael (2004) (in Spanish). La historia de las guerras. Ediciones B-Vergara. ISBN 958-97405-5-3. 
  • Hennecke, Angelika (2006) (in German). Zwischen Faszination und Gewalt : Kolumbien—unser gemeinsamer Nenner : Reflexionen über das Verhältnis zwischen kultureller Identität, Kommunikation und Medien anhand der diskursanalytischen Untersuchung einer kolumbianischen Werbekampagne. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. ISBN 363154930X. 
  • Pizarro Leongómez, Eduardo (1991). Las Farc: de la autodefensa a la combinación de todas las formas de lucha. Universidad Nacional. 
  • Tirado Mejía, Alvaro, ed (1989). Nueva historia de Colombia. Planeta. 

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