|Start date 1964||Location Colombia|
|Similar La Violencia, Thousand Days' War, Guatemalan Civil War, Mexican Drug War, Bojayá massacre|
Colombian conflict history 12
The Colombian Conflict began in the mid-1960s and is a low-intensity asymmetric war between Colombian governments, paramilitary groups, crime syndicates, and left-wing guerrillas such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the National Liberation Army (ELN), fighting each other to increase their influence in Colombian territory.
- Colombian conflict history 12
- Armed conflict
- Early 1990s
- Mid 1990s
- Role of the United States
- Statistics about victims of war
- Use of landmines
It is historically rooted in the conflict known as La Violencia, which was triggered by the 1948 assassination of populist political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, and in the aftermath of United States-backed strong anti-communist repression in rural Colombia in the 1960s that led liberal and communist militants to re-organize into FARC.
The reasons for fighting vary from group to group. The FARC and other guerrilla movements claim to be fighting for the rights of the poor in Colombia to protect them from government violence and to provide social justice through communism. The Colombian government claims to be fighting for order and stability, and seeking to protect the rights and interests of its citizens. The paramilitary groups claim to be reacting to perceived threats by guerrilla movements. Both guerrilla and paramilitary groups have been accused of engaging in drug trafficking and terrorism. All of the parties engaged in the conflict have been criticized for numerous human rights violations.
According to a study by Colombia's National Centre for Historical Memory, 220,000 people have died in the conflict between 1958 and 2013, most of them civilians (177,307 civilians and 40,787 fighters) and more than five million civilians were forced from their homes between 1985 – 2012, generating the world's second largest population of internally displaced persons (IDPs). 16.9% of the population in Colombia has been a direct victim of the war. 2.3 million children have been displaced from their homes, and 45,000 children killed, according to national figures cited by Unicef. In total, one in three of the 7.6 million registered victims of the conflict are children, and since 1985, 8,000 minors have disappeared. Since the peace talks with the FARC began four years ago, some 1,000 children have been forcibly recruited by some of the myriad armed groups in the country, 75 have been killed, and 65 schools have been damaged by fighting.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that a peace deal with the FARC by 20 July 2016 would end the conflict with this organization if the talks which started in 2012 were successfully concluded. On 23 June 2016, the Colombian government and the FARC rebels signed a historic ceasefire deal, bringing them closer to ending more than five decades of conflict. However, on October 2, 2016, a majority of the Colombian public rejected the deal. In October 2016, Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end. The Colombian government and the FARC on November 24 signed a revised peace deal and the revised agreement was to be submitted to Congress for approval. The House of Representatives unanimously approved the plan on November 30, a day after the Senate also gave its backing.
The armed conflict in Colombia emerged due to a combination of economic, political and social factors in the country 60 years ago. In the early period (1974–1982), guerrilla groups like the FARC, the ELN and others focused on slogan of greater equality through communism, and they came to have support from some local people. However, the balance of power and influence shifted in the mid-1980s when Colombia granted greater political and fiscal autonomy to local governments, strengthening the position of the Colombian Government in more remote regions of the country. In 1985, the FARC co-created the left-wing Patriotic Union (UP) political party. Eventually, the UP distanced itself from insurgent groups. However, right-wing paramilitaries apparently linked to the armed forces murdered a large number of party members during the 1980s and 90s, decimating the organization and aggravating the broader conflict.
Initially, a group of Americans began to smuggle marijuana during the decades of the sixties and seventies. Later, the American Mafia began to establish drug trafficking in Colombia in cooperation with local marijuana producers. Cocaine (and other drugs) manufactured in Colombia were historically mostly consumed in the US as well as Europe. Organized crime in Colombia grew increasingly powerful in the 1970s and 80s with the introduction of massive drug trafficking to the United States from Colombia. After the Colombian Government dismantled many of the drug cartels that appeared in the country during the 1980s, left-wing guerrilla groups and rightwing paramilitary organizations resumed some of their drug-trafficking activities and resorted to extortion and kidnapping for financing, activities which led to a loss of support from the local population. These funds helped finance paramilitaries and guerrillas, allowing these organizations to buy weapons which were then sometimes used to attack military and civilian targets.
During the presidency of Álvaro Uribe, the government applied more military pressure on the FARC and other outlawed left-wing groups. After the offensive, many security indicators improved. As part of a controversial peace process, the AUC (right-wing paramilitaries) as a formal organization had ceased to function. Colombia achieved a great decrease in cocaine production, leading White House drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske to announce that Colombia is no longer the world's biggest producer of cocaine. The United States of America is still the world's largest consumer of illegal drugs.
In February 2008, millions of Colombians demonstrated against the FARC and other outlawed groups. 26,648 FARC and ELN combatants have decided to demobilize since 2002. During these years the military forces of the Republic of Colombia managed to be strengthened.
The Peace process in Colombia, 2012 refers to the dialogue in Havana, Cuba between the Colombian government and guerrilla of FARC-EP with the aim to find a political solution to the armed conflict. After almost four years of peace negotiations, the Colombian state and the FARC announced consensus on a 6-point plan towards peace and reconciliation. The government also began a process of assistance and reparation for victims of conflict. Recently, U.P. supporters reconstituted the political party, within the process of reconciliation. Colombia’s congress approved the revised peace accord.
In February 2015, the Historical Commission on the Conflict and its Victims (Comisión Histórica del Conflicto Armado y sus Víctimas – CHCV) published its report entitled “Contribution to an Understanding of the Armed Conflict in Colombia”. The document, that deals with the “multiple reasons for the conflict, the principle factors and circumstances that made it possible and the most notable impacts on the population”, help to understand Colombia’s armed conflict in terms of international law.
The origin of the armed conflict in Colombia goes back to 1920 with agrarian disputes over the Sumapaz and Tequendama regions. Peasants at the time fought over ownership of coffee lands which caused the liberals and conservative parties to take sides in the conflict, worsening it.
In 1948 the assassination of populist Jorge Eliécer Gaitán radically stirred up the armed conflict. It led to the Bogotazo, an urban riot killing more than 4,000 people, and subsequently to ten years of sustained rural warfare between members of Colombian Liberal Party and the Colombian Conservative Party, a period known as La Violencia ("The Violence"), which took the lives of more than 200,000 people throughout the countryside.
As La Violencia wound down, most self-defense and guerrilla units made up of Liberal Party supporters demobilized, but at the same time some former Liberals and active Communist groups continued operating in several rural enclaves. One of the Liberal bands was a group known as the "Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia" (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), or FARC, formed by Pedro Antonio Marin in 1964. The goal of the FARC, among other things, was redistribution of land that would benefit poor peasant farmers like Marin.
Also in 1958, an exclusively bipartisan political alternation system, known as the National Front, resulted from an agreement between the Liberal and Conservative parties. The agreement had come as a result of the two parties attempting to find a final political solution to the decade of mutual violence and unrest, remaining in effect until 1974.
In the early 1960s Colombian Army units loyal to the National Front began to attack peasant communities. This happened throughout Colombia with the Colombian army considering that these peasant communities were enclaves for bandits and Communists. It was the 1964 attack on the community of Marquetalia that motivated the later creation of FARC. Despite the infantry and police encirclement of the villages inside Marquetalia (3500 men swept through the area), Manuel Marulanda managed to escape the army cordon.
Unlike the rural FARC, which had roots in the previous Liberal peasant struggles, the ELN was mostly an outgrowth of university unrest and would subsequently tend to follow a small group of charismatic leaders, including Camilo Torres Restrepo.
Both guerrilla groups remained mostly operational in remote areas of the country during the rest of the 1960s.
The Colombian government organized several short-lived counter-guerrilla campaigns in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These efforts were aided by the U.S. government and the CIA, which employed hunter-killer teams and involved U.S. personnel from the previous Philippine campaign against the Huks, and which would later participate in the subsequent Phoenix Program in the Vietnam War.
By 1974, another challenge to the state's authority and legitimacy had come from the 19th of April Movement (M-19), leading to a new phase in the conflict. The M-19 was a mostly urban guerrilla group, founded in response to an electoral fraud during the final National Front election of Misael Pastrana Borrero (1970–1974) and the forced removal of former president Gustavo Rojas Pinilla.
By 1982, the perceived passivity of the FARC, together with the relative success of the government's efforts against the M-19 and ELN, enabled the administration of the Liberal Party's Julio César Turbay Ayala (1978–82) to lift a state-of-siege decree that had been in effect, on and off, for most of the previous 30 years. Under the latest such decree, president Turbay had implemented security policies that, though of some military value against the M-19 in particular, were considered highly questionable both inside and outside Colombian circles due to numerous accusations of military human rights abuses against suspects and captured guerrillas.
Citizen exhaustion due to the conflict's newfound intensity led to the election of president Belisario Betancur (1982–1986), a Conservative who won 47% of the popular vote, directed peace feelers at all the insurgents, and negotiated a 1984 cease-fire with the FARC at La Uribe, Meta, after a 1982 release of many guerrillas imprisoned during the previous effort to overpower them. A truce was also arranged with the M-19. The ELN rejected entering any negotiation and continued to recover itself through the use of extortions and threats, in particular against foreign oil companies of European and U.S. origin.
As these events were developing, the growing illegal drug trade and its consequences were also increasingly becoming a matter of widespread importance to all participants in the Colombian conflict. Guerrillas and newly wealthy drug lords had mutually uneven relations and thus numerous incidents occurred between them. Eventually the kidnapping of drug cartel family members by guerrillas led to the creation of the 1981 Muerte a Secuestradores (MAS) death squad ("Death to Kidnappers"). Pressure from the U.S. government and critical sectors of Colombian society was met with further violence, as the Medellín Cartel and its hitmen, bribed or murdered numerous public officials, politicians and others who stood in its way by supporting the implementation of extradition of Colombian nationals to the U.S. Victims of cartel violence included Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, assassinated in 1984, an event which made the Betancur administration begin to directly oppose the drug lords.
The first negotiated cease-fire with the M-19 ended when the guerrillas resumed fighting in 1985, claiming that the cease-fire had not been fully respected by official security forces, saying that several of its members had suffered threats and assaults, and also questioning the government's real willingness to implement any accords. The Betancur administration in turn questioned the M-19's actions and its commitment to the peace process, as it continued to advance high-profile negotiations against with the FARC, which led to the creation of the Patriotic Union (Unión Patriótica) -UP-, a legal and non-clandestine political organization.
On November 6, 1985, the M-19 stormed the Colombian Palace of Justice and held the Supreme Court magistrates hostage, intending to put president Betancur on trial. In the ensuing crossfire that followed the military's reaction, some 120 people lost their lives, as did most of the guerrillas, including several high-ranking operatives and 12 Supreme Court Judges. Both sides blamed each other for the outcome. This marked the end of Betancur's peace process.
Meanwhile, individual FARC members initially joined the UP leadership in representation of the guerrilla command, though most of the guerrilla's chiefs and militiamen did not demobilize nor disarm, as that was not a requirement of the process at that point in time. Tension soon significantly increased, as both sides began to accuse each other of not respecting the cease-fire.
According to historian Daniel Pecáut, the creation of the Patriotic Union took the guerrillas' political message to a wider public outside of the traditional communist spheres of influence and led to local electoral victories in regions such as Urabá and Antioquia, with their mayoral candidates winning twenty-three municipalities and their congressional ones gaining fourteen seats (five in the Senate, nine in the lower Chamber) in 1988. According to journalist Steven Dudley, who interviewed ex-FARC as well as former members of the UP and the Communist Party, FARC leader Jacobo Arenas insisted to his subordinates that the UP's creation did not mean that the group would lay down its arms nor a rejection of the Seventh Conference's military strategy. Pecáut states that new recruits entered the guerrilla army and its urban militia units during the period, also claiming that FARC did not stop kidnapping and continued to target regional politicians for assassination.
In October 1987, the UP's 1986 presidential candidate Jaime Pardo Leal was assassinated amid a wave of violence that would lead to the deaths of thousands of its party members at the hands of death squads. According to Pecáut, the killers included members of the military and the political class who had opposed Belisario Betancur's peace process and considered the UP to be little more than a "facade" for FARC, as well as drug traffickers and landowners who were also involved in the establishment of paramilitary groups.
The Virgilio Barco Vargas (1986–1990) administration, in addition to continuing to handle the difficulties of the complex negotiations with the guerrillas, also inherited a particularly chaotic confrontation against the drug lords, who were engaged in a campaign of terrorism and murder in response to government moves in favor of their extradition overseas.
In June 1987, the ceasefire between FARC and the Colombian government formally collapsed after the guerrillas attacked a military unit in the jungles of Caquetá. According to journalist Steven Dudley, FARC founder Jacobo Arenas considered the incident to be a "natural" part of the truce and reiterated the group's intention to continue the dialogue, but President Barco sent an ultimatum to the guerrillas and demanded that they immediately disarm or face military retaliation. Regional guerrilla and Army skirmishes created a situation where each violation of the ceasefire rendered it null in each location, until it was rendered practically nonexistent.
By 1990, at least 2,500 members of the FARC-founded Patriotic Union had been murdered, according to historian Daniel Pecáut, leading up to that year's assassination of presidential candidate Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa. The Colombian government initially blamed drug lord Pablo Escobar for the murder but journalist Steven Dudley argues that many in the UP pointed at then-Interior Minister Carlos Lemos Simmonds for publicly calling out the UP as the "political wing of FARC" shortly before the murder, while others claimed it was the result of an alliance between Fidel Castaño, members of the Colombian military and the DAS. Pecáut and Dudley argue that significant tensions had emerged between Jaramillo, FARC and the Communist Party due to the candidate's recent criticism of the armed struggle and their debates over the rebels' use of kidnapping, almost leading to a formal break. Jaramillo's death led to a large exodus of UP militants; in addition, by then many FARC cadres who joined the party had already returned to clandestinity, using the UP experience as an argument in favor of revolutionary war.
The M-19 and several smaller guerrilla groups were successfully incorporated into a peace process as the 1980s ended and the 90's began, which culminated in the elections for a Constituent Assembly of Colombia that would write a new constitution, which took effect in 1991.
Contacts with the FARC, which had irregularly continued despite the end of the ceasefire and the official 1987 break from negotiations, were temporarily cut off in 1990 under the presidency of César Gaviria Trujillo (1990–1994). The Colombian Army's assault on the FARC's Casa Verde sanctuary at La Uribe, Meta, followed by a FARC offensive that sought to undermine the deliberations of the Constitutional Assembly, began to highlight a significant break in the uneven negotiations carried over from the previous decade.
Both parties nevertheless never completely broke off some amount of political contacts for long, as some peace feelers continued to exist, leading to short rounds of conversations in both Caracas, Venezuela (1991) and Tlaxcala, Mexico (1992). Despite the signing of several documents, no concrete results were achieved when the talks ended.
FARC military activity increased throughout the bulk of the 1990s as the group continued to grow in wealth from both kidnapping and drug-related activities, while drug crops rapidly spread throughout the countryside. The guerrillas protected many of the coca growers from eradication campaigns and allowed them to grow and commercialize coca in exchange for a "tax" either in money or in crops.
In this context, FARC had managed to recruit and train more fighters, beginning to use them in concentrated attacks in a novel and mostly unexpected way. This led to a series of high-profile raids and attacks against Colombian state bases and patrols, mostly in the southeast of Colombia but also affecting other areas.
In mid-1996 a civic protest movement made up of an estimated 200,000 coca growers from Putumayo and part of Cauca began marching against the Colombian government to reject its drug war policies, including fumigations and the declaration of special security zones in some departments. Different analysts have stressed that the movement itself fundamentally originated on its own, but at the same time, FARC heavily encouraged the marchers and actively promoted their demands both peacefully and through the threat of force.
Additionally, in 1997 and 1998, town councilmen in dozens of municipalities of the south of the country were threatened, killed, kidnapped, forced to resign or to exile themselves to department capitals by the FARC and the ELN.
In Las Delicias, Caquetá, five FARC fronts (about 400 guerrillas) recognized intelligence pitfalls in a Colombian Army base and exploited them to overrun it on August 30, 1996, killing 34 soldiers, wounding 17 and taking some 60 as prisoners. Another significant attack took place in El Billar, Caquetá on March 2, 1998, where a Colombian Army counterinsurgency battalion was patrolling, resulting in the death of 62 soldiers and the capture of some 43. Other FARC attacks against Police bases in Miraflores, Guaviare and La Uribe, Meta in August 1998 killed more than a hundred soldiers, policemen and civilians, and resulted in the capture or kidnapping of a hundred more.
These attacks, and the dozens of members of the Colombian security forces taken prisoner by the FARC, contributed to increasingly shaming the government of president Ernesto Samper Pizano (1994–1998) in the eyes of sectors of public and political opinion. He was already the target of numerous critics due to revelations of a drug-money scandal surrounding his presidential campaign. Perceptions of corruption due to similar scandals led to Colombia's decertification as a country cooperating with the United States in the war on drugs in 1995 (when the effects of the measure were temporarily waived), 1996 and 1997.
The Samper administration reacted against FARC's attacks by gradually abandoning numerous vulnerable and isolated outposts in more than 100,000 km² of the rural countryside, instead concentrating Army and Police forces in the more heavily defended strongholds available, which allowed the guerrillas to more directly mobilize through and influence events in large areas of rural territory which were left with little or no remaining local garrisons.
Samper also contacted the guerrillas in order to negotiate the release of some or all of the hostages in FARC hands, which led to the temporary demilitarization of the municipality of Cartagena del Chairá, Caquetá in July 1997 and the unilateral liberation of 70 soldiers, a move which was opposed by the command of the Colombian military. Other contacts between the guerrillas and government, as well as with representatives of religious and economic sectors, continued throughout 1997 and 1998.
Altogether, these events were interpreted by some Colombian and foreign analysts as a turning point in the armed confrontation, giving the FARC the upper hand in the military and political balance, making the Colombian government a target of critics from some observers who concluded that its weakness was being evidenced, perhaps even overshadowing a future guerrilla victory in the middle term. A leaked 1998 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report went so far as to speculate that this could be possible within 5 years if the guerrilla's rate of operations was kept up without effective opposition. Some viewed this report as inaccurate and alarmist, claiming that it did not properly take into account many factors, such as possible actions that the Colombian state and the U.S. might take in response to the situation, nor the effects of the existence of paramilitary groups.
Also during this period, paramilitary activities increased, both legally and illegally. The creation of legal CONVIVIR self-defense and intelligence gathering groups was authorized by Congress and the Samper administration in 1994. Members of CONVIVIR groups were accused of committing numerous abuses against the civilian population by several human rights organizations. The groups were left without legal support after a 1997 decision by the Colombian Constitutional Court which restricted many of their prerrogatives and demanded stricter oversight. However, in April 1997, preexisting paramilitary forces and several former CONVIVIR members were joined to create the AUC, a large paramilitary militia closely tied to drug trafficking which carried out attacks on the FARC and ELN rebel groups as well as civilians starting with the 1997 Mapiripán Massacre.
The AUC, originally present around the central/northwest part of the country, executed a series of raids into areas of guerrilla influence, targeting those that they considered as either guerrillas or their supporters. This resulted in a continuing series of massacres. After some of these operations, government prosecutors and/or human rights organizations blamed officers and members of Colombian Army and police units for either passively permitting these acts, or directly collaborating in their execution.
On August 7, 1998, Andrés Pastrana Arango was sworn in as the President of Colombia. A member of the Conservative Party, Pastrana defeated Liberal Party candidate Horacio Serpa in a run-off election marked by high voter turn-out and little political unrest. The new president's program was based on a commitment to bring about a peaceful resolution of Colombia's longstanding civil conflict and to cooperate fully with the United States to combat the trafficking of illegal drugs.
In July 1999, Colombian military forces attacked the town of Puerto Lleras, Colombia where FARC rebels were stationed. Using U.S. supplied aircraft and equipment, and backed with U.S. logistical support, Colombian government forces strafed and bombed the town for over 72 hours. In the attack, three civilians were killed, and several others were wounded as the military attacked hospitals, churches, ambulances, and residential areas. FARC rebels were forced to flee the area, and many were killed or wounded. The Colombian government claimed that this was a significant victory, while human rights groups claimed this as proof that "anti-narcotics" aid, was actually just military aid which was being used to fight a leftist insurgency.
The years from 2000–2006 were bloody ones in Colombia with thousands of deaths every year resulting from the ongoing war between the Colombian Armed Forces, Paramilitary groups such as the AUC and the rebel groups (mainly the FARC, ELN and also the EPL). The fighting resulted in massive internal displacement of Colombia's civilian population and thousands of civilian deaths.
During President Uribe's first term in office (2002–2006), the security situation inside Colombia showed some measure of improvement and the economy, while still fragile, also showed some positive signs of recovery according to observers. But relatively little has been accomplished in structurally solving most of the country's other grave problems, such as poverty and inequality, possibly in part due to legislative and political conflicts between the administration and the Colombian Congress (including those over a controversial project to eventually give Uribe the possibility of re-election), and a relative lack of freely allocated funds and credits.
Some critical observers considered that Uribe's policies, while reducing crime and guerrilla activity, were too slanted in favor of a military solution to Colombia's internal war while neglecting grave social and human rights concerns. Critics have asked for Uribe's government to change this position and make serious efforts towards improving the human rights situation inside the country, protecting civilians and reducing any abuses committed by the armed forces. Political dissenters and labor union members, among others, have suffered from threats and have been murdered.
In 2001 the largest government supported paramilitary group, the AUC, which had been linked to drug trafficking and attacks on civilians, was added to the US State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations and the European Union and Canada soon followed suit.
On January 17, 2002, right-wing paramilitaries entered the village of Chengue, and divided up the villagers into two groups. They then went from person to person in one of the groups, smashing each person's head with sledgehammers and rocks, killing 24 people, as the Colombian military sat by and watched. Two other bodies were later discovered dumped in a shallow grave. As the paramilitaries left, they set fire to the village.
In 2004, it was revealed by the National Security Archive that a 1991 document from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency had described then-Senator Uribe as a "close personal friend" and collaborator of Pablo Escobar. The Uribe administration denied several of the allegations in the 1991 report.
Starting in 2004 a disarmament process was begun of Colombia's paramilitary groups (especially the AUC) and was completed on April 12, 2006, when 1,700 fighters turned in their weapons in the town of Casibare.
In May 2006, the Colombian presidential election resulted in Uribe winning re-election with a historic first round vote tally of 62%, followed by leftist Carlos Gaviria with 22% and Horacio Serpa.
On June 28, 2007 the FARC suddenly reported the death of 11 of the 12 kidnapped provincial deputies from Valle del Cauca Department. The Colombian government accused the FARC of executing the hostages and stated that government forces had not made any rescue attempts. FARC claimed that the deaths occurred during a crossfire, after an attack to one of its camps by an "unidentified military group". FARC did not report any other casualties on either side.
In 2007, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Colombian Senator Piedad Córdoba were acting as authorised mediators in the ongoing Humanitarian Exchange between the FARC and the government of Colombia. Colombian President Álvaro Uribe had given Chávez permission to mediate, under the conditions that all meetings with the FARC would take place in Venezuela and that Chávez would not contact members of the Colombian military directly, but instead go through proper diplomatic channels. However, President Uribe abruptly terminated Chávez's mediation efforts on November 22, 2007, after Chávez personally contacted General Mario Montoya Uribe, the Commander of the Colombian National Army. In response, Chávez said that he was still willing to mediate, but had withdrawn Venezuela's ambassador to Colombia and placed Colombian-Venezuelan relations "in a freezer" President Uribe responded that Colombia needed "mediation against terrorism, not for Chávez to legitimise terrorism," that Chávez was not interested in peace in Colombia, and that Chávez was building an expansionist project on the continent.
Several scandals have affected Uribe's administration. The Colombian parapolitics scandal expanded during his second term, involving numerous members of the administration's ruling coalition. Many pro-government lawmakers, such as the President's cousin Mario Uribe, have been investigated for their possible ties to paramilitary organizations.
At the end of 2007, FARC agreed to release former senator Consuelo González, politician Clara Rojas and her son Emmanuel, born in captivity after a relationship with one of her captors. Operation Emmanuel was proposed and set up by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, with the permission of the Colombian government. The mission was approved on December 26. Although, on December 31, FARC claimed that the hostage release had been delayed because of Colombian military operations. On the same time, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe indicated that FARC had not freed the three hostages because Emmanuel may not be in their hands anymore. Two FARC gunmen were taken prisoner.
Colombian authorities added that a boy matching Emmanuel's description had been taken to a hospital in San José del Guaviare in June 2005. The child was in poor condition; one of his arms was hurt, he had severe malnutrition, and he had diseases that are commonly suffered in the jungle. Having been evidently mistreated, the boy was later sent to a foster home in Bogotá and DNA tests were announced in order to confirm his identity.
On January 4, 2008, the results of a mitochondrial DNA test, comparing the child's DNA with that of his potential grandmother Clara de Rojas, were revealed by the Colombian government. It was reported that there was a very high probability that the boy was indeed part of the Rojas family. The same day, FARC released a communique in which they admitted that Emmanuel had been taken to Bogotá and "left in the care of honest persons" for safety reasons until a humanitarian exchange took place. The group accused President Uribe of "kidnapping" the child in order to sabotage his liberation. However, on January 10, 2008, FARC released Rojas and Gonzalez through a humanitarian commission headed by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
On January 13, 2008, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez stated his disapproval with the FARC strategy of armed struggle and kidnapping saying "I don't agree with kidnapping and I don't agree with armed struggle". He repeated his call for a political solution and an end to the war on March and June 2008, "The guerrilla war is history...At this moment in Latin America, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place".
On February 2008, FARC released four others political hostages "as a gesture of goodwill" toward Chávez, who had brokered the deal and sent Venezuelan helicopters with Red Cross logos into the Colombian jungle to pick up the freed hostages.
On March 1, 2008, the Colombian armed forces launched a military operation 1.8 kilometres into Ecuador on a FARC position, killing 24, including Raúl Reyes, member of the FARC Central High Command. This led to the 2008 Andean diplomatic crisis between Colombia and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, supported by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
On March 3, Iván Ríos, also a member of the FARC Central High Command was killed by his security chief "Rojas".
On May 24, 2008, Colombian magazine, Revista Semana, published an interview with Colombian defense minister Juan Manuel Santos in which Santos mentions the death of Manuel Marulanda Vélez. The news was confirmed by FARC-commander 'Timochenko' on Venezuelan based television station Telesur on May 25, 2008. 'Timochenko' announced the new commander in chief is 'Alfonso Cano'.
In May 2008, a dozen jailed paramilitary leaders were extradited to the United States on drug-related charges. In 2009, extradited paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso would claim that the AUC had supported Uribe's 2002 election, but said that this was a result of their similar "ideological discourse" and not the result of any direct prior arrangement.
In March 2008 alone, FARC lost 3 members of their Secretariat, including their founder.
On July 2, 2008, the Colombian armed forces launched Operation Jaque that resulted in the freedom of 15 political hostages, including former Colombian presidential candidate Íngrid Betancourt, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell, three American military contractors employed by Northrop Grumman and 11 Colombian military and police. Two FARC members were arrested. This trick to the FARC was presented by the Colombian government as a proof that the guerrilla organisation and influence is declining.
On October 26, 2008, after 8 years of captivity, the ex-congressman Óscar Tulio Lizcano escaped with the assistance of a FARC rebel he convinced to travel with him. Soon after the liberation of this prominent political hostage, the Vice President of Colombia Francisco Santos Calderón called Latin America's biggest guerrilla group a "paper tiger" with little control of the nation's territory, adding that "they have really been diminished to the point where we can say they are a minimal threat to Colombian security," and that "After six years of going after them, reducing their income and promoting reinsertion of most of their members, they look like a paper tiger." However, he warned against any kind of premature triumphalism, because "crushing the rebels will take time." The 500,000 square kilometers (190,000 sq mi) of jungle in Colombia makes it hard to track them down to fight.
According to the Colombian government, in early 2009 FARC launched plan Rebirth to avoid being defeated. They planned to intensify guerrilla warfare by the use of landmines, snipers, and bomb attacks in urban areas. They also plan to buy missiles to fight the Colombian airforce which highly contribute to their weakness since few years.
In February 2009, the guerrilla released 6 hostages as a humanitarian gesture. In March, they released Swedish hostage Erik Roland Larsson.
In April 2009, the Colombian armed forces launched Strategic Leap, an offensive in borders areas where the FARC's forces still has a strong military presence, especially in Arauca, near the Venezuelan border.
In November 2009, Nine Colombian soldiers were killed when their post was attacked by FARC guerrillas in a southwestern part of the country.
On December 22, 2009, FARC rebels raided the home of Provincial governor Luis Francisco Cuellar, killing one police officer and wounding two. Cuellar was found dead the following day.
On January 1, 2010, Eighteen FARC rebels were killed when the Colombian Air Force bombed a jungle camp in Southern Colombia. Colombian troops of the elite Task Force Omega then stormed the camp, capturing fifteen FARC rebels, as well as 25 rifles, war materials, explosives, and information which was given to military intelligence. In Southwestern Colombia, FARC rebels ambushed an army patrol, killing a soldier. The troops then exchanged fire with the rebels. During the fighting, a teenager was killed in the crossfire.
When Juan Manuel Santos was elected president in August 2010, he promised to "continue the armed offensive" against rebel movements. In the month after his inauguration, FARC and ELN killed roughly 50 soldiers and policemen in attacks all over Colombia. September also saw the killing of FARC's second-in-command Mono Jojoy. By the end of 2010, it became increasingly clear that "neo-paramilitary groups", referred to as "criminal groups" (BACRIM) by the government, had become an increasing threat to national security, with violent groups such as Los Rastrojos and Aguilas Negras taking control of large parts of the Colombian countryside.
In 2010, the FARC killed at least 460 members of the security forces, while wounding more than 2,000.
By early 2011, Colombian authorities and news media reported that the FARC and the clandestine sister groups have partly shifted strategy from guerrilla warfare to "a war of militias", meaning that they are increasingly operating in civilian clothes while hiding amongst sympathizers in the civilian population. In early January 2011, the Colombian army said that the FARC has some 18,000 members, with 9,000 of those forming part of the militias. The army says it has "identified" at least 1,400 such militia members in the FARC-strongholds of Valle del Cauca and Cauca in 2011. In June 2011, Colombian chief of staff Edgar Cely claimed that the FARC wants to "urbanize their actions", which could partly explain the increased guerrilla activity in Medellín and particularly Cali. Jeremy McDermott, co-director of Insight Crime, estimates that FARC may have some 30,000 "part-time fighters" in 2011, consisting of supporters making up the rebel militia network instead of armed uniformed combatants.
In 2011, the Colombian Congress issued a statement claiming that the FARC has a "strong presence" in roughly one third of Colombia, while their attacks against security forces "have continued to rise" throughout 2010 and 2011.
In 2012, the Colombia Military launched The Espada de Honor War Plan, an aggressive counterinsurgency strategies that aims to dismantle FARC's structure, crippling them both militarily and financially. The plan targets FARC leadership and it is focused on eliminating 15 of the most powerful economic and military fronts.
On July 20, 2013, as peace talks were making progress, two rebel attacks on government positions killed 19 soldiers and an unspecified number of combatants. It was the deadliest day since peace talks began in November 2012.
On 15 December 2014, 9 FARC guerrillas were killed in the aftermath airstrikes conducted by the Colombian air force in the Meta province.
On 22 May 2015, the FARC suspended a truce after 26 of its fighters were killed in a government air and ground offensive.
On 22 June 2015, a Colombian Army Black Hawk helicopter was destroyed while landing on a mine field laid by FARC: four soldiers were killed and six were wounded.
On 23 June 2016, the Colombian government and FARC agreed to a ceasefire. A "final, full and definitive accord" was agreed to on August 24, 2016. This accord does not include ELN.
On 2 October 2016, the results of the referendum to decide whether or not to support the peace accord showed that 50.2% opposed the accord while 49.8% favoured it.
In October 2016, President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long war to an end.
The Colombian government and the FARC on November 24 signed a revised peace deal and the revised agreement will be submitted to Congress for approval. The House of Representatives unanimously approved the plan on November 30, a day after the Senate also gave its backing.
Role of the United States
The United States has been heavily involved in the conflict since its beginnings, when in the early 1960s the U.S. government encouraged the Colombian military to attack leftist militias in rural Colombia. This was part of the U.S. fight against communism, according to Mario A. Murillo.
In December 2013, The Washington Post revealed a covert CIA program, started in the early 2000s, which provides the Colombian government with intelligence and GPS guidance systems for smart bombs.
As of August, 2004, the US had spent $3 billion in Colombia, more than 75% of it on military aid. Before the Iraq war, Colombia was the third largest recipient of US aid only after Egypt and Israel, and the U.S. has 400 military personnel and 400 civilian contractors in Colombia. Currently, however, Colombia is not a top recipient of U.S. aid; while it was under the first five years of the Plan Colombia, Colombia today no longer ranks among the top ten.
If the peace talks underway in Havana are successful in bringing peace to Colombia, this U.S. aid to the military will likely need to be reallocated to help support a lasting peace.
Statistics about victims of war
According to a study by Colombia's National Centre for Historical Memory, 220,000 people have died in the conflict between 1958 and 2013, most of them civilians (177,307 civilians and 40,787 fighters) and more than five million civilians were forced from their homes between 1985 – 2012, generating the world's second largest population of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The report shows that the humanitarian crisis in Colombia is extremely serious in terms of both lethal and nonlethal violence. The report examines the widespread use of sexual violence against women and girls as a weapon of war, as well as the invisibility of this phenomenon. 16.9% of the population in Colombia has been a direct victim of the war.
2.3 million children have been displaced from their homes, and 45,000 children killed, according to national figures cited by Unicef. In total, one in three of the 7.6 million registered victims of the conflict are children, and since 1985, 8,000 minors have disappeared. Since the peace talks with the FARC began four years ago, some 1,000 children have been forcibly recruited by some of the myriad armed groups in the country, 75 have been killed, and 65 schools have been damaged by fighting.
According to the report “Basta ya”, written in 2013 by Colombia’s National Centre for Historical Memory, 80% of victims affected by conflict-related violence and landmines were civilians. The report documents 1,982 massacres between 1980 and 2012.
Use of landmines
Since 1990, over 11,000 people have been killed or wounded by landmines in Colombia. Between 1982 and the end of 2012, 2,038 people have been killed by landmines, according to the Presidential Program for Mine Action. Since 2000, casualties from landmines in Colombia have ranged from 1,300 a year to just around 550.
In the past, the Colombian government laid landmines around 34 military bases to protect key infrastructure, but it renounced their use in 1997. Landmines are primarily used by the rebel groups to protect their home bases and illegal drug crops, which fund the conflict. FARC and ELN have deployed antipersonnel mines throughout an estimated area of up to 100 square kilometers. In March 2015, FARC stated that it would begin humanitarian demining in selected parts of Colombia.