In the comments section, James Schipper asks pointedly:
The FARC may not be near defeat, but it isn’t anywhere near victory either. The FARC has been active for decades now. Has it accomplished anything positive for the Columbian masses?
That is a good question.
Considering the murderous nature of the Colombian state, why should the FARC lay down its arms? Recall that it was the murderous nature of the Colombian state that started this whole mess by forcing the Left to take up arms in the first place, since they were getting massacred while they were unarmed.
The History of the Colombian Civil War
A little background. This conflict actually started in 1928 with the Banana Massacre in the Far North. There was a banana workers strike and the state sent the army in there to break it up. They massacred something like 60-70 workers to break up the strike.
Then in 1948, Gaitan, a very progressive Liberal, was elected President on a platform of land reform and other reforms. He was quickly murdered by the Conservatives. The people rose up in rage and rebellion all over Colombia. This degenerated into general conflict between the Liberals and the Conservatives, basically over the issue of land reform and the fact that the Liberals had many progressives with them.
This led to the decade of violence called La Violencia, in which 200,000 Colombians were slaughtered. La Violencia was caused by an attempt by the Conservatives and the oligarchy to wipe out the Left. La Violencia continued into the 1960’s.
Some Communists were so sick and tired of all the fighting that they lay down their arms and formed a commune on some land called La Marquetalia. They all moved there and set up farms and whatnot. The Colombian oligarchy started agitating about “Communism in Colombia.” The CIA and the US military went down there to advise the Colombians.
As it turned out, the Colombian military waged a huge armed attack on La Marquetalia, including the use of chemical weapons, in an attempt to exterminate them. The people of Marquetalia tried to fight back, but they had few weapons. They were effectively slaughtered, but a few survived. The survivors of La Marquetalia went on the become the FARC! So that is how the FARC got its start in 1964.
What Good is the FARC?
Actually the FARC does defend the people a lot. When the death squads and army come out to murder and abduct the people, rampaging through the communities, the FARC often wages an offensive to clear them out. The FARC plays a role in defending the people from the murderous state. If the FARC gave up their guns, the people would be defenseless. I’m opposed to that.
Also, look what happened the last time the FARC laid down their guns They were slaughtered like flies. Why should they do it again?
The FARC should only disarm if they can negotiate a solution with the state such as the FMLN did in El Salvador. The FMLN negotiated an integration of the two militaries, getting rid of some notorious security forces, major changes in the corrupt judicial process, and a huge land reform. Via these changes, many of the reasons for the armed struggle went away and the FMLN was able to compete peacefully.
As is, the death squads are tremendously reduced, but still active. They kill about 6 Salvadorans a year. But the FMLN opened up enough space to compete peacefully, and they just won the Presidency. And the land reform produced lasting changes in the countryside. The FARC is only going to give up its guns if it can negotiate some major changes in the system and defang the state enough so that they can compete peacefully in elections.
If you study Latin America, you will see that rightwing death squads rampage through the region, killing progressives. Often the conflict is over land and the death squads are often run by large landowners. Also the police and military operate in the interests of the wealthy, killing progressive people. They kill peasants to steal their land or they kill peasants involved in land disputes and land takeovers.
200 have been killed in Venezuela.
1 person every day is being killed in Honduras.
About 6 a year are killed in El Salvador.
Death squads operate regularly in Guatemala, even after the war.
In Brazil, death squads in the countryside have killed 2-3,000 people in recent years.
As you can see, the Right in Latin America is murderous, whether the people are armed or not. Even if you’re not armed, they come out and kill you anyway. If you arm yourself, at least you get to fight back.
For the record, the Democratic Pole favors a negotiated solution to the war.