The Resurgence of the Farc

By Elsie Haldane

In August this year, Colombia (and the world) awoke to the news which many had feared: a call to arms from the Farc rebels, a group responsible for the deaths of more than 35,000 civilians and the forced displacement of many more. They have posted a video from Venezuela (meaning they cannot be captured by the Colombian government) that shows Iván Márquez, a former commander of the guerilla group, against a banner that says, ‘As long as there is the will to fight, there is the hope of victory’, along with an image of Colombia’s famous liberator and ex-president, Simón Bolívar. Márquez is surrounded by armed guerilla soldiers who look solemnly at the camera while their new leader condemns the ‘indignance’ of ex-president Juan Manuel Santos and current president Iván Duque.

This call to arms has come less than three years after the Farc group signed a peace deal with the Colombian government, in an attempt to end almost fifty years of armed conflict in the country. So why have some members of the Farc decided to take up arms again?

The answer can only be found within the complications that result from many decades of armed struggle. The Farc guerilla group formed in 1964, from then existing Communist groups, as a retaliation against perceived government aggression. Since then, they have been concerned with expanding their army and using violent tactics to grab the attention of the government, such as assassinations, bombings, and killings of rural civilians. To fund their attacks, they have often turned to extortion, the selling of illegal drugs, and kidnapping for ransom. The six-year kidnap of presidential candidate Íngrid Betancourt is an infamous example, and enough to make any politician in Colombia fear for their safety.

In 2016, the Colombian government took a historic step towards making peace in the region by working with the Farc to negotiate a peace deal. The president at the time, Juan Manuel Santos, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in getting the deal signed. This deal was carried forward and signed by Santos and leaders of the Farc, and many members of the group laid down their arms within the months following the peace deal.

So, again, why have the Farc decided to take up arms again? Iván Márquez states in his filmed speech that the points they negotiated have failed, and that the government has not kept up its end of the deal, mainly in terms of investing in rural infrastructure and social schemes to alleviate poverty. Márquez clearly knows how to pick the right words, as his speech is quite rousing, and will no doubt encourage more young people from poor areas to join in the group’s activities.

And most importantly, what does this mean for Colombia and its people? It depends entirely on how strong this new Farc group can grow. If they can raise money and source arms from wealthy sympathisers, they may be able to start attacking people again in order to threaten the government into doing what they wish. If they can’t grow stronger, they will no doubt continue to threaten the country and remain as a traumatic reminder of the horror that many survivors of the conflict went through. For those people, all Colombians and the wider world, all that we can hope for is that they are either caught quickly, or that they somehow decide that the country they love doesn’t want to see another decade of senseless violence.

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