Conflict & Justice

Weakened rebels in Colombia

There was a time in Colombia when protests against the FARC were considered useless, but as the FARC has been weakened, protests have been growing. Protesters are clamoring for the FARC to release the remaining 700 or more hostages they're still holding, but the gatherings have a triumphant, almost celebratory feeling to them. The question remains: is the FARC listening? Just a couple weeks after the rescue of Ingrid Betancourt and other hostages, the FARC captured 18 more people in what many call an act of retribution. The guerillas then released them last week, and indeed the FARC seems off balance after the killing of three top FARC officials over the last multiple months. Colombia's Army can take much of the credit for the crackdown on the FARC. The Army has hit the strongest FARC units and this former insurgent says when top commanders die, confusion and disorganization usually follows in the ranks of rebel groups. But the rebels' ideological erosion is only part of the story. In addition to the military pressure, the government has created incentives for deserters, and this deserter says 150 others have deserted from his FARC unit as a result. But the FARC is still far from finished and the latest estimates place its ranks at close to 10,000 fighters, well below its peak of 20,000, but the organization is still active and mobile, says this analyst.

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