Friday, October 21, 2011

And Then There Was Only the FARC

Maybe not flower powr yet, but ETA, the Basque terror group, has promised to lay down its arms. 
Yesterday, the Basque terrorist group ETA declared the end of their armed struggle for independence from Spain after 52 years and more than 800 killings.

Madrid train bombing by ETA.
In 2009, Sri Lanka's military defeated the Tamal Tigers, ending 33 years of vicious civil war on the island.

In 1998, the Belfast Agreement incorporated the various armed groups into government, leading to the end of most sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

During the '80s and '90s, various leftist rebel organizations throughout Latin America either seized power (in Cuba), laid down their arms or integrated into their nations' elected governments.

Only in Colombia (and to a small degree in Peru) have armed groups continued a futile insurgency against their governments.

Lost in the past? FARC guerrilla leaders.
To any reasonable observer it's obvious that the age of guerrilla insurgencies is over - at least in the relatively developed, democratic world. Remember that Afghanistan is a tribal state, the Taliban ruled the country for years and the 'elected' government never had much legitimacy. Back when the United States and Soviet Union bankrolled client organizations around the world, guerrilla group had a real chance, and managed to sieze power in Africa and the Middle East.

This isn't to argue that these various groups' causes aren't legit: the Basques, the Tamils and the Kurds (who fight on futilely), certainly deserve autonomous territories, if not states. Colombia, like many developing nations, suffers huge social injustices. But the terrorism committed by these insurgencies has done more damage to their causes than advanced them.

But by integrating themselves into the democratic process, as ETA will likely aim to do, rebel organizations have accomplished more. Take the IRA and the Nepalese communists, who now share power in their respective governments. Here in Colombia, the M-19 demobilized in ----, played an important role in writing Colombia's 1991 Constitution and several ex-M-19ers now sit in Colombia's Congress. Bogotá's next mayor may very well be ex-M-19 leader Gustavo Petro.

A FARC bombing. Still fighting, but for what? 
In contrast, the FARC and ELN guerrilla groups have only succeeded in scarring the image of the left in Colombia. Why else is Colombia one of the very few Latin nations with a conservative government? It was because Colombians got fed up with having to live under seige from chronic violence and turned to a president who led a no-holds-barred military campaign against the guerrillas, with only limited concern for human rights. It's why only a tiny proportion of Colombians still sympathize with the guerrillas.

Why do the FARC and ELN still insist on armed struggle, when they've gotten nowhere and are further than ever from victory? It's in part because of the guerrillas' obsolete mindset about Communism, Revolution and Che Guevara's 'New Man.' But it's also because they've got a huge, guaranteed income from the outlawed drug trade. It's been documented that insurgencies survive longer when they have such a black market income.

As long as drugs are illegal, illegal groups like Colombia's guerrillas (and other outlaws) will enjoy huge incomes and likely continue fighting and killing.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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