This is not really the case.
The Western media would have you believe that the FARC are narcoterrorists with no support even among the peasants. This is not the case. The FARC have deep and vast support among the peasantry in the countryside. In the cities, it is more complicated.
It is true that the FARC has lost support lately. This is probably due to tactics.
The taking of prisoners was a tough one. Yes, the FARC took prisoners. Those were in general not hostages but POW’s. Colombian soldiers and police were taken as POW’s when captured. Does the FARC not have a right to take POW’s? The state does. The state arrests guerrilla suspects and imprisons them all the time. Why can’t the FARC imprison state combatants in the same way?
It’s also true that they took some Colombian legistlators prisoner. But why should they not have done this? Those legislators were voting for prosecuting the war against the FARC. By the same token, does the state not prosecute those who fund the FARC?
Several Americans, apparently spying on the FARC for the CIA or Pentagon, were also taken hostage. Many tears have been shed over this in the US. They were treated well by the FARC. If they didn’t want to be taken prisoner, why were they spying for the CIA?
In addition, the FARC has imprisoned some wealthy Colombians for tax evasion. It’s not true that these people were kidnapped for hostage money.
The FARC levies a tax on all Colombians worth more than $1 million. That is a lot of Colombians, as the Colombian elite is fabulously rich. The FARC is waging a revolution, and the rich must pay war taxes to fund the revolution. Simple, right?
Most rich Colombians have figured out that you have to pay your FARC taxes every years. They meet FARC operatives outside major cities and fork it over. It’s a very small amount of money, and they can easily pay. Some have chosen to evade their war taxes. So the FARC imprisoned them until their taxes were paid. Is this not right and proper?
We must understand that the Western line about the FARC is 100% negative. Further, all media coming out of Colombia is anti-FARC. Most journalists are self-censoring and simply report the military’s line. 90% of Colombian FARC reporting comes straight from the Colombian military. Journalists are constantly threatened by the Colombian state for being “FARC sympathizers.” Most Colombian journalists have their phones tapped. The Colombian state has murdered many Colombian journalists. So most just figure out how to play it safe.
It’s true that the Colombian guerrilla has been hit very hard lately. The guerrillas have suffered some serious losses, but they immediately replaced them. They still probably number ~18,000 fulltime guerrillas. Militia is probably many more. They are facing the heaviest offensive ever waged against a Latin American guerrilla outfit. This new offensive is all coming via US dollars and aid. The US has 7 new military bases in Colombia. The 100% purpose of these bases is to fight the war against the Colombian guerrilla.
Question: If the FARC is near collapse, why is it that the FARC killed more Colombian soldiers last year than 2002, which was at the very height of the war when the FARC was close to seizing power? Yes, the FARC has killed more Colombian troops than at any time in recent memory. Granted, most of that was in defensive action, but do those sky high enemy KIA counts sound like a losing army?
In addition, last year, the FARC waged about 5 offensive actions every single day. I get FARC military reports. The FARC kills Colombian troops just about every single day in Colombia. This is one kick-ass guerrilla army.
Everyone in the US seems to want the FARC to lose. But why should the Colombian regime win?
This is a regime that has decimated all of Colombian civil society.
Labor unionists, community leaders, peasant leaders and peasants, Indian leaders and Indians, women’s organizations, gay rights organizations, environmental groups, anti-free trade agreement groups, human rights groups, journalists, students, professors, anti-mining and anti-oil groups, really anyone who is anyone in Colombian civil society, has been subjected to a terror and extermination campaign.
Typically the charge is that these civilians are “members of the FARC” or “FARC sympathizers.” Usually, there is no evidence whatsoever that they are FARC members. If they are FARC sympathizers, how do you prove such a thing, and since when is such a thought crime illegal? Does the FARC have a right to slaughter anyone who is a government sympathizer?
Why should we in the West support such a vicious, venal and genocidal regime? If the FARC goes, will anything get better? What makes anyone think that the regime is going to stop killing the people just because the FARC is gone?
The FARC, if anything, defends the people.
Here is what happens.
The state wages on “offensive against the guerrilla.” The army and death squads move into a region and start killing the local civilian leaders right away. The FARC quickly appears on the scene and starts attacking the army and death squads, trying to dive them out of the area. So you can see the FARC are really trying to protect the people from the state, to give the people a means of defense. What’s so bad about that?
The FARC want some sort of guarantees that the state will not massacre them if they lay down their arms. In the 1980’s, a faction of the FARC, the Patriotic Union, broke away, laid down arms, and tried to seek power by peaceful means. They were decimated by state terror – 5,000 of them were slaughtered like flies. Given that record, is the FARC not correct to be wary about laying down their arms?
As part of a negotiated settlement, the FARC wants a land reform. As in El Salvador, land is the key issue. A tiny fraction of the population owns almost all the farmland in Colombia. The vast majority of rural people own little or no land.
The rich are constantly stealing, with armed force, what little land the peasants have left.
This is how it works.
The army and the death squads will show up and tell the peasants to leave their land. You leave or you die. Most folks pack up. After the land is vacated, the rich move in and steal the vacated peasants’ land. This process goes on all over Latin America, especially in Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and Brazil. It is source of much of the death squad run murders in the region. The same process goes on in Pakistan, India and I believe in the Philippines. Before the Salvadoran War ended, it was common in El Salvador.
A huge land reform was enacted in El Salvador as a consequence of the peace settlement. It did not solve the problems of the rural areas, but at least the peasants have their own land and can feed themselves. The major cause of the war was ended, at a cost of 70,000 lives.
As I understand it, the Colombian elite refuses to budge on land reform and demands that the FARC disarm for peace talks to start. This will not work. The Salvadoran state dropped their demand for rebel disarmament, and this enabled a peace settlement. Unilateral disarmament never makes sense.