August 28th, 2012
12:09 AM ET

Five facts about Colombia's FARC rebels

The Colombian president said Monday the government is in "exploratory" talks with Latin America's oldest insurgency.

Here are five facts about the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly known as the FARC:

1. The FARC has been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s

The FARC was formed in 1964. Espousing anti-U.S. and Marxist ideology, the group draws the overwhelming majority of its members from the rural poor. Its aim is to overthrow the government.

Though it began as an insurgency and continues to champion leftist causes, the FARC is sometimes criticized for eschewing its beliefs in favor of running drugs. Colombia is one of the world's top cocaine producers and the FARC is estimated to make around $500 million from the illicit trade per year, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

2. The two sides have not sat down since 2002

Peace talks between the rebels and the government have occurred sporadically since the 1980s. A cease-fire brokered in 1984 included the release of a number of imprisoned guerrilla fighters. That truce ended in 1990 when several thousand former FARC members were killed.

The last attempt at peace fell apart in 2002. Then-President Andres Pastrana ceded control of an area roughly the size of Switzerland to the FARC, but broke off talks after a series of high profile rebel attacks. The government moved to retake control of the so-called neutral zone, and the sides have been at war since.

3. The rebels have suffered significant setbacks

From its peak, the FARC has shrunk considerably in both size and strength, in part because of a U.S.-backed security campaign. As of last year, the group was thought to have around 8,000 troops, down from more than 16,000 a decade earlier.

The FARC has also lost several of its top leaders. In November, the group's head, Alfonso Cano, was killed in what President Juan Manuel Santos described then as the nation's "most overwhelming blow" against the rebel organization.

Colombian security forces killed the then-second-in-command, Raul Reyes, during a 2008 cross-border raid into Ecuador. That same year, FARC founder Manuel Marulanda died of an apparent heart attack.

4. Despite its losses, the FARC continues to carry out attacks

Rebels and government troops still clash with regularity and the FARC is capable of inflicting serious casualties.

Between 2010-2011, attacks rose by 10%, according to the Colombian think tank Nuevo Arco Iris. Some saw the increase as evidence of a comeback, while others argued it reflected a desperate attempt by the FARC to hold strategic land.

The rebels remain in control of some remote regions, notably in the southern jungle.

5. The United States and the European Union consider the group a terrorist organization

In its struggle against the government, the FARC has engaged in bombings, murder, extortion and kidnappings.

Among the highest profile cases in recent years was that of Ingrid Betancourt, who was kidnapped in 2002 during her campaign for the presidency. She was freed in a helicopter rescue mission in 2008. Colombian commandos posed as humanitarian aid workers to liberate the group, which included three U.S. military contractors and 11 Colombian police and military members.

After Cano's death, the FARC tapped a new leader, Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, who is also known as Timoleon Jimenez or Timochenko.

The U.S. State Department alleges he has run the FARC's cocaine operations and ordered rebels to "shoot down fumigation aircrafts, increase coca production, kidnap United States citizens and kill farmers who sold cocaine paste to non-FARC buyers."

A $5 million reward is offered for information leading to his arrest.

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Filed under: Colombia • World
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Kenney

    The 5 facts are true it IS NOT PROPAGANDA so if someone here wants to challenge it lets roll!!!!!! But they left one thing out and that is the cause of this reagans war against drugs what war ? We never fought a war

    August 28, 2012 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. Kenney

    We allow the cocaine into this country to control those masses that now need it that would oif been a good place to train our guys for vietnam

    August 28, 2012 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kenney

    Ive seen cargo containers loaded with cocain that was destined for US soil ! Ive seen that stuff and the damage done so why do we engage in a war over seas why we can fight this one and be done with it in 12 months ! Its pathetic that we let our citizens in this country fall apart why they get richer over the boarder

    August 28, 2012 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. Kenney

    @yaj yaj ,,,,,ask the harvard bussiness class of 1970 they will have the answers for you they of course will lie but its easy whatever they tell you every answer they give its just the opposite simple isnt it

    August 28, 2012 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    No, darling, I am not against capitalism...this country's economy is driven by capitalism.
    Don't ever presume to think that you know what I am thinking; you would be wrong 95% of the time.
    I am against *crony* capitalism, and if you do not know the difference, I suggest that you learn it before desparaging any of my opinions.
    I deplore the state of this country and the economy, but it has been in the works for a long time before the current President was elected, and should Romney be elected, it will remain so for years to come.
    Having been one of those silly women who HAD to work three jobs to PUT the hot dogs on the table, and NEVER having taken one penny of ANY sort of aid, I can relate to how bloody unfair it is...but the wealth and you seem to think is going to happen with a change in leadership is not realistic, and Romney will. Not. Be. Able. To. Turn. It. Around. Any. Faster. Than. Obama. Has. Been. Trying. To. Do.
    I'm cannot, and will not, agree with everything you say, just as I do not expect you to agree with me; but show me the respect I damn well deserve for my opinions, as you expect me to show yours.

    August 28, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. Kenney

    @banasy well put and respect is now given man you bite hard my kind of people ! I didnt know you that well but now i do i will remember not to tread on you thats for sure lmao

    August 28, 2012 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Kenney:
      No worries...I just dislike it intensely when one assumes they know what I think, for usually they are dead wrong.
      People underestimate me a lot.
      That's their mistake, if you know what I mean, lmao!

      August 28, 2012 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kenney

    @ guest and that means allowing cocaine to enter the US on purpose to be consumed by its citizens ? The fallout from the leader in the past is now being felt and seen in our society , but wjat part is civil now thats unknown to me and to allow this to continue (our relationship with the farc) then how civil is it really?

    August 28, 2012 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©

    Oh, and one last thing before I sign off:
    Heck yeah I think there should be welfare reform; any other questions that you think you already know how I will answer?
    Good night.

    August 28, 2012 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kenney

    @ mr turner,,,,,you have just been rolled into a blunt and smoked!!!!!!!hahahahahah good night to you sweet dreams to you,,,,,superman here the real superman

    August 28, 2012 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Ken turner

      sorry bro. Beat you to it! Hahaha. Just because I'm from the Midwest and fairly welspoken doesn't mean I don't play wit the medicine. :) have a great night all

      August 28, 2012 at 4:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ken turner

    that's a great escape of my question. Why do you not address the failures in this country at the hands of losers while people actually contribute?. Crony? I know what that means. Getting your buddy(the POTUS to support a known failed business adventure at the tune of 5 hundred mill dollars) Crony rhymes with phoney. And BTW don't forget the welfare state that has risen ENORMOUSLY under your savior. But let's go down the same path that got us here shall we. Romney has a plan. Does obomba? Haven't heard one. All I hear is "let me keep my job". But blind folks will be ignorant of the FACTS. Oh where are all the jobs that obomba PROMISED three years ago? You got nothin whilst losers suck America dry. Sweet dreams banz. Love and respect you dispite our diffs...

    August 28, 2012 at 3:43 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Iraq and Afganistan.
      Two "projects" that have bankrupted this country and failed miserably.
      If one is going to talk about Solyndra, please don't forget the two BIGGEST gaffes in over a decade...and the cost is measured in more than mere dollars.

      August 28, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      You gave me no question, except the one I had already answered about welfare, which you apparently think is this country's biggest economic woe.
      It's not.
      I do not think the Koch Brother's style of govermnent is the answer, but you obviously do...
      We'll see, won't we?

      August 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ken turner

    Sorry banz just trying to rile and wake the folks as to why this country is going broke and the dollar declining dispite the fact that main street news outlets rosy outlook on our future... It's not good... Buenos noches coches. (no offense. Just a commen S.W.joke)

    August 28, 2012 at 3:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. chrissy

    WHAT is this romney plan??? I have searched and searched and havent seen it yet. Do you have a link?

    August 28, 2012 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
  13. Hamlet Elsinor

    Fact is: The FARC are Terrorists (not just considered Terrorists). They kidnap for ransom; they kidnap children to join their ranks; they bomb ambulances; they assassinate (or at least attempt to) journalists who are right of center. They are terrorists not freedom fighters.

    August 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. saywhat

    @banasy
    Right and 'projects' which are conveniently sidelined when politicos talk about economic and financial woes which engulf this country. The wasteful ways of the MIC are where the GOP likes to tread gingerly or not tread at all.
    @chrissy
    yes Romney has a 'plan' and so has Ryan, its a different matter though that it spells 'Disaster'. for the middle class and 'commoners'.

    August 28, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jorge

    The average Colombian is both happy at the turn of events against the drug trade in their country, and sick of cartels/CIA/FARC interfering violently in their lives, I'm sure that if the Colombian government had the means and resources to erradicate FARC and the big cartels all by itself, it would prefer to do so instead of bringing in U.S. intervention, as any elected government that could pull it off would become Colombia's golden boys/girls overnight.

    October 23, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |