aka FARC; Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia
Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is Latin America's oldest, largest, most violent, and best-equipped terrorist organization. The FARC, founded in the 1960s, is responsible for large numbers of kidnappings for ransom in Colombia and, in past years, has held as many as 700 hostages. The FARC's capacity has been degraded by a continuing Colombian military offensive targeting key FARC units and leaders that has, by most estimates, halved the FARC's numbers – estimated at approximately 7,000 in 2015 – and succeeded in capturing or killing a number of FARC senior and mid-level commanders. In August 2012, the Colombian President announced that exploratory peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC were underway. The formal talks began in Norway and moved to Cuba, where they continued through 2015. These talks are the first such peace negotiations in more than a decade, and the fourth effort in the last 30 years. Although the government and the FARC reached tentative, partial agreements on land reform, political participation, drug trafficking, and victims' rights (including transitional justice), no overall bilateral peace agreement had been concluded by the end of 2015.
Activities: Over the years, the FARC has perpetrated a large number of high profile terrorist acts, including the 1999 murder of three U.S. missionaries working in Colombia, and multiple kidnappings and assassinations of Colombian government officials and civilians. In July 2008, the Colombian military conducted a dramatic rescue of 15 high-value FARC hostages including U.S. Department of Defense contractors Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Thomas Howe – held captive for more than five years, along with former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.
While peace negotiations were ongoing, the FARC remained active in carrying out acts of terrorism in 2015. On April 15, the FARC attacked a Colombian Army brigade in Cauca; 11 soldiers were killed and 20 wounded. Throughout May and June, FARC bombings of electricity towers in Norte de Santander, Valle del Cauca, and Nariño left almost a million people without power for days. A June 1 FARC attack on electrical infrastructure in the city of Buenaventura left approximately 400,000 without power, while the group's June 2 attack on electrical pylons in the southwestern city of Tumaco left approximately 200,000 people without electricity. Another June attack on Tumaco affected an additional 260,000 people.
On June 7, the FARC forced 19 oil tankers to dump their contents, estimated at 222,000 gallons of crude oil, on a roadway near Puerto Asis, Putumayo, which caused a significant environmental hazard. Throughout June and July, the FARC attacked oil pipelines, hitting the Transandino Pipeline five times and bombing the Cano Limon-Covenas Pipeline. The Colombian Environment Minister announced the damage caused by the Transandino attacks as "the worst oil spill in Colombia in the last decade."
In November, FARC member Diego Alfonso Navarrete Baltran was sentenced to 27 years in prison by a U.S. District Court for his role in the 2003 kidnapping of the three U.S. defense contractors held hostage by the FARC for five years.
Strength: Approximately 7000 members, with several thousand additional supporters.
Location/Area of Operation: Primarily Colombia; FARC leaders and combatants have however been known to use neighboring countries for weapons sourcing and logistical planning. The FARC often uses Colombia's border areas with Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador for incursions into Colombia; and has used Venezuelan and Ecuadorian territory for safe haven.
Funding and External Aid: The FARC is primarily funded by extortion, ransoms from kidnapping, and the international drug trade.