The Washington Post has a decent article in today’s paper on the status of the FARC rebel group in Colombia. It argues that the recent killing of a senior member of the group’s ruling council by one of his subordinates is symptomatic of an internal crisis within the group which has begun eroding its capabilities.
In a country where most people cannot remember a time of peace, Colombians are for the first time raising the possibility that a guerrilla group once thought invincible could be forced into peace negotiations or even defeated militarily.
Weakened by infiltrators and facing constant combat and aerial bombardment, the insurgency is losing members in record numbers. The FARC, as the group is known, lost 1,583 fighters in combat last year, its columns are plagued by command-and-control problems, and popular support is evaporating, the government of President Álvaro Uribe says.
Since 2000, the Uribe administration has received $5 billion in U.S. aid, mostly for military and anti-drug programs — more than any other government outside the Middle East. The money has helped it revamp the Colombian army, paying for new helicopters and training for elite troops, although rights groups remain concerned about abuses, including the killings of civilians.
The most serious problem the FARC is facing is not guerrilla deaths or the loss of territory, but mass desertion, according to political analysts, military officials and former guerrillas interviewed this month. Many said desertions have badly hurt morale and provided the military with important strategic information about the hermetic group.
Statistics provided by the Colombian defence ministry claim 2,480 rebels deserted the group last year, up from 1,558 the previous year. Disaffected rebels are encouraged to leave the group by widely publicised government initiatives, including amnesties for anyone not implicated in atrocities, and government programmes aimed at assisting the reintegration of former fighters.
While undoubtedly positive news, it should be stressed that the FARC does not face defeat any time soon, and the group has proved its resilience in the past. Nevertheless, even the possibility that the tide may have turned against the FARC will be welcome news to the Uribe administration, which has made rolling-back the gains made by the group in recent years one of its top priorities.
Read the full article here.