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The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia

            The Colombian and American governments should increase their response to The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Weakened by the corruption sown by cocaine cartels and a decades-long civil war, the Colombian government faces a strong leftist insurgent group that not only wages guerrilla warfare but also carry's out kidnappings, hijackings, attacks on civilians, and political assassinations. The FARC formed in the 1960's after Colombia's two main political parties ended more than a decade of political violence and agreed to share power. The group is governed by a secretariat, led by septuagenarian Manuel Marulanda, aka "Tirofijo", and six others, including senior military commander Jorge Briceno, aka "Mono Jojoy." The FARC brought together communist militants and peasant self-defense groups. These Marxist guerrillas are Colombia's largest and best-equipped rebel group, with some 18,000 members. It operates in about half the country, mostly in the jungles of the southeast and the plains at the base of the Andes Mountains. They recruit new members among the farmers and peasants living on turf controlled by the FARC, who are in effect governed by the group; it also recruits from Colombian citizens terrorized by right-wing paramilitary groups. It has been known to actively recruit minors, sometimes using force. .
             Leaders of the FARC say they represent the rural poor against Colombia's wealthy classes and oppose American influence in Colombia, the privatization of natural resources, multinational corporations, and rightist violence. The FARC particularly apposes Plan Colombia, the United States $1.3 billion initiative to equip the Colombian military to eradicate coca (the plant from which cocaine is made), which targets regions controlled by the FARC. .
             The FARC is far from a small-time terrorist group. With their support and income, from both terrorist acts and drug trafficking, they pose a serious threat to innocent civilians.

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