Yet Another Blow to the FARC

Via the BBC: Farc ‘co-ordinator’ held in Spain

Spanish police say they have arrested the representative of the left-wing Colombian rebel group Farc in Spain.

Maria Remedios Garcia Albert, a Spanish national, was detained near Madrid, as part of a joint operation by the Spanish and Colombian authorities.


It is claimed that Ms Garcia helped co-ordinate the group’s wider activities in Europe – allegedly liaising with counterparts in Switzerland and Sweden.

It is possible that Garcia was tracked down from information captured from the laptop of Raúl Reyes, who was killed in combat in March. The avalanche of woes that have been visited upon the FARC in the last year or so has been remarkable.

The most recent example was the highly publicized rescue of Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages (including three Americans). Not only were Betancourt and the three Americans perhaps the most valuable assets that the FARC had, the rescue operation utterly embarrassed them.

Additionally there has been the following:

  • The death of the FARC’s founder, Ivan Marulanda.
  • The surrender of top level leader Karina.
  • The capture of another top leader, Santiago.
  • The aforementioned death of Reyes in the raid over the Colombian-Ecuador border that sparked off a diplomatic row in the region (and Ecuador still remains hacked off at Colombia). The raid that killed Reyes led to acquisition of the aforementioned laptop.
  • The death of Ivan Rios at the hands of a reward-seeking fellow member of the FARC, who had been (like Reyes) a member of the FARC’s seven-man secretariat. He was Karina’s immediate boss and his death appears to have set off a chain of events that led to her surrender.

A casual perusal of that list would lead one to believe that the FARC must be on its last legs and while I would like to think that as well, I remain cautious in rendering any conclusions at this point in time. It should be noted that the FARC has been in constant operation since the mid-1960s and has been, to use a word, resilient. At the moment they exist in a number of cells across the country, which makes direct destruction difficult (indeed, it was the fragmented nature of the group that the Colombian government exploited in its rescue of Betancourt). Further, their participation in the cocaine trade gives them a remarkable revenue source. As such, while the FARC has clearly been reduced in size, it is easy to see them continuing their operations for the foreseeable future, if anything because the money is available for them to do so.

There is the chance that there will be some internal divisions with the group, as the more ideologically oriented portions seek to continue armed struggle (it is thought that the current leader whose nom de guerre is El Mono Jojoy is more ideologically minded than some of the commanders) and those who simply want to pursue their criminal activities. Indeed, there are reports that some FARC fronts have teamed up with right-wing paramilitary groups (their alleged enemies) to engage in drug related activities.

There is no doubt that the armed conflict is evolving at the moment, and that the Colombian state is making strides, but I would caution against any assumptions that we are on the verge of violence ceasing. There is still the question of the ELN (the National Liberation Army, Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group) and the paramilitaries. In fact, I fear that as long at there is money to be made from drugs that there will be some sort of serious violence problem in Colombia.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Grewgills says:

    In fact, I fear that as long at there is money to be made from drugs that there will be some sort of serious violence problem in Colombia.

    That is the root of it. Prohibition, particularly in the US and EU where the big money is to be made from drugs, ensure a steady revenue stream for all manner of terrorists and thugs.

  2. Perhaps the perfidious influence and activities of Hugo Chavez deserves a mention here as well.

  3. Grewgills: Indeed.

    Charles: Too much is made of Chavez in this area, as the FARC did not need Chavez to do any of that they have done in recent years, let alone over the decades. Venezuela could have been a great anit-matter rift in space since 1998 (when Chaevz was first elected) and the FARC would have pretty much done what they did the last ten years.