FARC - Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - Activities
Bombings, murder, mortar attacks, kidnapping, extortion, hijacking, as well as guerrilla and conventional military action against Colombian political, military, and economic targets. In March 1999, the FARC executed three US Indian rights activists on Venezuelan territory after it kidnapped them in Colombia. Foreign citizens often are targets of FARC kidnapping for ransom.
Although the Colombian government has given the FARC political status and has attempted to negotiate with this terrorist organization to stop the recruitment of minors, the FARC has refused. The Colombian government's Family Welfare Institute estimates that at least 30 percent of the FARC's fighters are younger than 18, compared to about 15 percent a decade ago. However, international and Colombia agencies that track the use of child fighters now think the FARC's numbers may be higher. During recent skirmishes between the Army and a FARC column, 32 of the 77 fighters captured by army troops were under 18 years old, and 19 of those were 15 and under. Of the 46 FARC fighters who were killed in the skirmishes, 20 were children. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that there were about 6,000 minors serving in the FARC and AUC terrorist groups last year.
The FARC broke off negotiations with the government in October 2001, protesting government security measures around the zone and military flights over the territory. On 12 January 2002, President Pastrana gave the FARC 48 hours to come up with a new proposal for talks, or, he said, he would abolish the safe zone he had granted them three years earlier as a condition for talks. Colombian army units took up positions around the zone and many people here feared a major escalation of the war was imminent. That crisis was averted on 14 January 2002, when the FARC agreed to immediate talks, and dropped the complaint about government security measures. The resulting agreement on a timetable for talks represents the most significant advance toward peace in Colombia in nearly four decades of war.
On 20 January 2002 representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, signed an agreement with the government of President Andres Pastrana that sets a timetable for peace negotiations. Less than four hours before the deadline for an agreement set by President Pastrana was to expire, the rebels and government negotiators announced their timetable and plan for talks. The last-minute accord prevented what many feared would be an escalation of the 38-year civil conflict. The timetable included a number of target dates for completing discussions of such issues as a cease-fire, kidnappings and other action that harm civilians, and the dismantling of anti-rebel para-military groups. The timetable set 7 April 2002 as the deadline for reaching an accord on these issues.
On 12 February, 2003 a plane tasked to the program working on eradicating Colombia's coca plantations and flying on a routine reconnaissance mission, crash landed in FARC territory. The plane was carrying a Colombian sergeant and four American contractors. Once located it was discovered that the Colombian soldier and one of the American passengers had been shot by FARC rebels and the three other Americans were taken captive. The three American hostages were accused of being CIA spies and were used as bargaining leverage to negotiate a prisoner exchange with the Colombian government. As of July 2006, no exchange had been made. This event exemplifies the abduction and ransom tactics the FARC has used to extort money and power for their cause. The FARC are believed to be in possession of hundreds of kidnapping victims ranging from Colombian politicians, policemen and other prominent figures.
In 2004 President Uribe launched a large military operation called "Patriot Plan" involving 15,000 government soldiers who pushed into FARC controlled territory in an attempt to wrest part of the countryside from rebel hands and capture key Guerilla leaders. The plan was partially successful causing the FARC to retreat and lose territory they had controlled for decades. The Patriot Plan was limited in its success of capturing key FARC leaders producing few apprehensions and driving most of the group's top leaders into deeper hiding.
By 2005 President Uribe's efforts to increase pressure on FARC appeared to have some partial success, decreasing the intensity of attacks on Government forces. However, statistics demonstrated that while the intensity of attacks had decreased the frequency of clashes remained the same. There was a resurgence of violence in early 2005 when 50 Colombian soldiers were killed in the month of February. Also in 2005, 3 Irish Republican Army (IRA) members who were awaiting final sentencing for training the FARC on IRA bomb tactics fled Colombian parole and resurfaced in Ireland. They were detained and questioned by the Irish national police and released without charge. The Colombian government requested their extradition. Ireland does not have an extradition treaty with Colombia; the case remained under review and the three fugitives at large.
In August 2005, the Brazilian Federal Police arrested Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) "spokesman" Francisco Antonio Cadena Collazos under an international warrant. In August 2006, the Government of Brazil granted him political asylum and denied Colombia's extradition request.
On 3 September and 25 October 2007, Colombian authorities announced the deaths of commanders Tomas Medina Caracas "El Negro Acacio," and Gustavo Rueda Diaz, "Martin Caballero," respectively, noting that they represented serious blows to the FARC.
In November 2007, President Alvaro Uribe agreed to a request of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, to act as intermediaries for a possible "humanitarian exchange" of FARC-held hostages for FARC prisoners in Colombian jails. The Colombian government-sanctioned effort ended in November after Chavez and Cordoba repeatedly failed to adhere to Colombia's guidelines. Nevertheless, Chavez continued his efforts to gain the release of hostages including a failed effort at year's end involving the promised release of three Colombian hostages (Clara Rojas, her son Emmanuel, and Consuelo Gonzales de Perdomo) to an international delegation that included former-Argentine President Nestor Kirchner. The Government of Colombia revealed that the FARC had turned over Emmanuel to a sympathizer, who had in turn placed the child in Colombian social services. Confusion over Emmanuel's whereabouts coupled with FARC allegations that the Colombian military was operating in the area led the FARC to temporarily call off the release. The FARC, under intense public pressure, eventually turned over Rojas and Gonzales to President Chavez.
In March 2008 Colombia forces mounted a raid against the FARC in Ecuador, leading to the capture of laptop computers and other intelligence. The raid resulted in an immediate regional crisis over the apparent Colombian violation of Ecuadoran sovereignty, with both Ecuador and Venezuela mobilizing military forces. The Colombian authorities intially suggested that the raid had been conducted with Ecuadoran approval, but later appeared to back away from this assertion. In return Colombian authorities claimed the intelligence recovered proved links between the governments of both Ecuador and Venezuela and the FARC. The crisis and potential military confrontation were later resolved, but an investigation continued into the allegations of regional support for the FARC.
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