Established in 1964 as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party, the FARC is Colombia’s oldest, largest, most capable, and best-equipped Marxist insurgency. The FARC is governed by a secretariat, led by septuagenarian Manuel Marulanda (a.k.a. “Tirofijo”) and six others, including senior military commander Jorge Briceno (a.k.a. “Mono Jojoy”). The FARC is organized along military lines and includes several urban fronts.
In February 2002, the group’s slow-moving peace negotiation process with President Andres Pastrana's administration was terminated by Bogota following the FARC's plane hijacking and kidnapping of a Colombian Senator from the aircraft. On 7 August, the FARC launched a large-scale mortar attack on the Presidential Palace where President Alvaro Uribe was being inaugurated. High-level foreign delegations—including the United States—attending the inauguration were not injured, but 21 residents of a poor neighborhood nearby were killed by stray rounds in the attack.
Approximately 9,000 to 12,000 armed combatants and several thousand more supporters, mostly in rural areas.
Location/Area of Operation
Colombia, with some activities—extortion, kidnapping, logistics, and R&R—in Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador.
Cuba provides some medical care and political consultation. A trial is currently underway in Bogota to determine whether three members of the Irish Republican Army—arrested in Colombia in 2001 upon exiting the FARC-controlled demilitarized zone (despeje)—provided advanced explosives training to the FARC.