Conflict Summary

Although much weakened in the eight years before President Alvaro Uribe left office in August 2010, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have not been defeated. The Marxist guerrilla force – and the smaller National Liberation Army, or ELN – formed in the mid-1960s. FARC emerged after a government of national unity excluded communists and failed to resolve land conflicts; the ELN was inspired by the Cuban revolution. Both groups have since fought the Colombian government and now-disbanded right-wing paramilitaries such as the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC). By the late 1990s, FARC was heavily involved in kidnappings, assassinations and Colombia's sizable cocaine trade. So, like predecessor Andres Pastrana, Uribe was boosted in his fight against the rebels by large inflows of US anti-drugs cash. Relentless army offensives followed failed peace talks in 2002, and FARC was pushed from urban areas, saw its numbers roughly halved to 9,000 and lost several key members. In 2008, it was even tricked into releasing hostages, including French–Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt. Colombian operations near or in neighbouring countries have caused diplomatic friction, particularly with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has been accused of harbouring FARC rebels (and has acted as a government–FARC negotiator). Despite recent rebel calls for peace talks, new Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has vowed to continue a hard line on security. While the right-wing AUC was successfully demobilised in 2006, the armed drug-trafficking groups that emerged in its wake – known as BACRIM – have overtaken FARC as Colombia's biggest source of violence.