The FARC, a leftist guerrilla group heavily involved in drug production and trafficking, was established in the early 1960s. Over the past several years, the FARC has been weakened significantly by the government’s military campaign against it. In March 2008, the military killed the group’s second in command, Raúl Reyes, during a raid on a FARC camp in Ecuador. In May 2008, the FARC admitted that its long-time leader, Manuel Marulanda, had died of a heart attack in March. In July 2008, a Colombian military operation in the southeastern province of Guaviare rescued 15 long-held hostages, including three U.S. defense contractors (held since February 2003) and a prominent Colombian Senator and presidential candidate. The Colombian military
dealt a significant blow to the terrorist group in September 2010 when it killed a top military commander, Victor Julio Suárez (aka “Mono Joyoy”) in a bombing raid on his camp in a mountainous region of Meta department in central Colombia. In November 2011, the Colombian military killed the FARC’s leader, Alfonso Cano, in a bombing raid in the department of Cauca in southwestern Colombia. In September 2012, a top FARC commander, Danilo García, was killed in a military raid in the northern department of Norte de Santander. In August 2013, a Colombian Air Force raid killed the leader of the FARC’s 57th Front in Chocó department bordering Panama. In July 2014, the FARC’s commander of its 30th Front, who also allegedly was the group’s drug trafficking boss on the country’s Pacific coast, was captured.
Despite the military campaign against it, the FARC is estimated to have a strength of around about 8,000-9,000 fighters, operating in various locations throughout Colombia. The group has been responsible for terrorist attacks, including the destruction of infrastructure, kidnapping, extortion, and has now diversified into illegal mining. In the aftermath of the killing of FARC leader Alfonso Cano in November 2011, the FARC chose Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timoleón Jiménez or Timochenko, as its new leader.
In August 2012, the Colombian government of President Juan Manuel Santos announced that it had begun exploratory peace talks with the FARC. Formal talks began in Norway in October 2012, and have continued in Cuba. To date, the two sides have reached agreements on three of the five substantive agenda items: land and rural development, political participation, and resolving the problem of illicit drugs. Remaining items are a framework for ending the conflict (including a cessation of hostilities and the handover of weapons) and compensation for victims. President Santos was reelected to a second term in June 2014 and primarily based his campaign on a peace platform to continue the peace negotiations. In late July 2014, President Santos strongly criticized continued FARC terrorist attacks and warned that such behavior could jeopardize the peace talks.