Well, today was a real downer if you’re a fan of decades-long, body-laden exercises in Latin America-based futility. Along with the announcement that the U.S. and Cuba would begin normalizing relations, the Colombian Marxist paramilitary group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC, declared an indefinite, unilateral ceasefire in its fifty year long rebellion against the Colombian government.
FARC was founded in the 1960s on principles of land reform and Communism, though its five decade fight for the poor has been…marred, let’s say, by little things like FARC’s use of child soldiers, its habit of brutalizing indigenous populations (who are frequently the poorest of the poor…well, everywhere, actually, including in South America), its participation in the drug trade, its practice of “executing” people without the benefit of a trial, etc. The Colombian government isn’t run by angels, but FARC isn’t The Good Guys in this fight. They’ve been a major player, alongside the government, drug cartels, the National Liberation Front, and other groups, that’s gripped Colombia since the repressive anti-Communist crackdown there in the 1960s or, if you prefer, since civil war (La Violencia) broke out in 1948. That civil war was fought over land distribution, and the faction fighting it from the left, which ultimately lost the war, reformed itself in the 60s into several armed leftist groups of which FARC has been the most prominent. The fighting since the 60s has killed over 220,000 people and displaced millions.
FARC’s ceasefire reserves the right to self-defense, so it’s contingent on whether the government reciprocates or decides to keep fighting them. It comes after FARC and the Colombian government had been engaged in a two year peace process hosted by (coincidentally) Cuba. If it holds then this is a major step toward peace for Colombia, though there are obviously other factions that must be dealt with.