Las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (known as the FARC) likes to characterize itself as “The People’s Army,” but they are far from it. Through their deception tactics, the FARC has garnered support internationally as well as from Colombia’s rural poor.
Established in the 1960s as part of the Colombian Communist Party, the FARC has characterized itself as a modern-day Robin Hood – the organization supposedly takes from the rich and gives to the poor. However, atrocities committed by the FARC include recruiting children as young as 11 years old, and sexually assaulting and forcing abortion upon female recruits. The FARC is funded through extortion, kidnapping ransoms and the illegal narcotics trade. The organization is also one of the biggest players in the importation of cocaine into the United States, and routinely takes innocent hostages.
United States President George W. Bush has vowed to honor US support for Colombia in their fight against the FARC. (While I am not quite sure that his intentions are completely humanitarian, this at least shows the nation’s support for Colombia.) President Bush said the most important thing the United States can do to help Colombia is to foster a free trade agreement between the two countries.
This is not the best solution. If Colombia wishes to participate in free trade with the United States, they should be allowed to do so, but with Bush’s affirmation that free trade is the way to go, the United States has taken a typically economic and self-centered view of its relationship with Colombia. (Many people are unaware that Colombia is a large supplier of oil to the United States.)
United States policy regarding Colombia has often been self-centered at best, and has not benefited Colombian citizens. Plan Colombia, with its goals of the eradication of coca fields (and thus, a proposed decrease in cocaine importation to the United States), has been put under harsh criticisms. My opinion is that this policy, which ruined not only coca fields, but also legal crops, contributed to the support from the rural poor in Colombia for the FARC.
The best way to help Colombia at this time is to help stabilize the nation. Colombia has undergone a more than 40-year civil war. No economic solution will benefit Colombia until the nation is able to stabilize itself politically. In fact, a free trade agreement will likely fuel the FARC’s fire even more and contribute to the FARC’s image in many countries as a celebrated revolutionary organization that is fighting against corrupt capitalist government.
One way the United States can help stabilize Colombia is by fighting for equality for Colombia’s poor. Without the support of the poor rural farmers in Colombia, who have suffered losses due to the American- led “War on Drugs,” the FARC will continue to rally support from this group. To cut off this support will help stabilize the country and will weaken the FARC’s recruitment and morale (many of the FARC’s recruits are poor rural citizens).
Another solution is to discontinue American support for the FARC.
United States citizens support the FARC daily by buying and using cocaine. The illegal drug trade is at the heart of the FARC. To cut this supply of money to the FARC would greatly reduce their effectiveness.
Sadly, it is the United States who plays a large role in Colombia’s problems. Plan Colombia backfired, and the United States is still a heavy consumer of illegal narcotics. While the United States has made feint attempts to correct this problem, they took the wrong approach by punishing poor farmers who only raised drugs to survive and support their families. While the United States and Colombia should not condone those who produce illegal drugs, they should have taken a more comprehensive approach to the problem. Instead of fixing the sources of the problems (drug consumption in the United States and poverty in Colombia), they have exacerbated both by ignoring them.