Colombia emerged from the collapse of the Gran Colombia in 1830. Since then the country has struggled with internal threats, illicit drug production, and estranged relations with neighboring nations. In a country slightly less than twice the size of Texas and claiming over 46,000,000 citizens, Colombia faces many challenges in its efforts to resolve internal conflict, reduce narcotics operations, improve the environment, and repair relationships in the region.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is the largest, oldest, and most influential threat group operating in Colombia. FARC targets government officials and military forces in jungle and urban environments with land mines, ambushes, kidnappings, and snipers. As of late 2012, however, representatives of FARC and the Colombian government are engaging in peace talks in Havana. In March 2014, FARC negotiator Jesus Emilio Carvajalino reported that his group had brought nearly 250 proposals to the negotiating table while appealing for power in distinct political sectors through congressional elections back home.
At the same time, FARC continues to spread its influence through militant attacks and violent protests against the government. In August 2013, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos ordered 50,000 soldiers into the capital city of Bogota to quell violent demonstrations by farmers and rural groups upset with government policies they claimed are negatively affecting their lives. “[T]he Santos government has accused the rebels [FARC] of infiltrating the protests in an attempt to stir unrest and force the president to make concessions at the negotiating table . . . FARC has been increasing its political dominance in swathes of rural Colombia,” and “has offered support to the rural and workers’ movement with which it is often aligned.”
As the Bogota protests and Havana peace talks demonstrate, FARC is trying to shift from being a sole military force to a political organization—from targeting politicians to becoming politicians. FARC is using the peace talks to show Colombian citizens that it is capable of operating on a diplomatic scale; yet, it is also using groups sympathetic to its Marxist causes, such as the farmers and rural workers, to launch violent protests against political opposition.
If FARC secured congressional seats in the next election and strengthened its influence within labor groups, it could establish a legitimate constituency and become a powerful political force. As a result, FARC could effectively shed its stigma as a guerrilla force and instead operate as political advocates for legislation adhering to their longstanding Marxist ideology. FARC politicians could also push for decreased security measures and trade regulations in order to increase narcotics trafficking. This, in turn, would empower and enrich Colombian drug cartels that would then increase finances for FARC.
The second largest threat facing Colombia is the National...