Calming the FARC down

Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia is the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC. Depending on your perspective FARC is:

  1. A legitimate political movement that has developed outside of Colombia’s democracy because leftist groups have historically been excluded by political elites, and any of their candidates killed. To the extent it’s connected with drugs that’s just because it needed a way to finance its campaign.
  2. A violent terrorist group of outlaws, living in the deepest darkest jungle and inseparable from narco-barrons.

It’s the first FARC that were interviewed by Colombian newspaper El Tiempo to get their reactions to the Colombian Congressional elections. It’s also primarily the first FARC that are participating in ongoing peace talks in Havana. But it’s the second FARC that captured two Police Officers not far from the tourist trap Cartagena* and assassinated them after a week of captivity.

President Santos is an advocate of the peace process and happy to engage with the first FARC. But every time the second rears its head the real politik means he needs to hit back hard. We saw him speaking on the news in the wake of the police assassinations saying the regional Colombian military presence would be redoubled. At a time when political support for the peace process is tenuous it would seem to make sense for the second FARC to calm the FARC down, and let the first FARC carry the torch…

Of course this whole terrorist/political freedom fighter thing isn’t new, or unique to Colombia. Think the IRA in Ireland, Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka or Fretilin in East Timor. But there’s at least one significant difference. All those other groups wanted out. They were fighting for secession and independence. FARC wants in. They identify as Colombians but want the Colombian political system changed. That seems to be a tougher nut to crack.

The reality is though that FARC represents a significant political force and can’t easily be ignored of quashed. No idea what form it might take, but it’s apparent that some kind of of compromise will be required to create a sustainable peace.

*It’s a much fostered myth that the ongoing conflict in Colombia is confined to jungles distant from the tourist trail. Actually there are territorial disputes between guerrillas and paramilitaries within an hour’s drive of Santa Marta. To be fair though the more war like action tends to be in the amazon regions and on the borders of Panama and Ecuador.

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