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Threat Actor Profile - FARC/FARC-EP

Institute for National Strategic Studies

Threat Actor: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)/ The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP)

Date of Activity: 1964 - 2016

Area of Operations: Colombia

Overview: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was a left-wing guerrilla group that was active in Colombia for over five decades. The group was founded in 1964 as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party, with the goal of overthrowing the Colombian government and implementing a socialist system.

The FARC was known for its use of kidnappings, bombings, and other violent tactics in its struggle against the government. Over the years, the group grew to become one of the largest and most powerful guerrilla groups in Latin America, with an estimated 20,000 fighters at its peak.

The Colombian government, with the support of the United States, waged a decades-long war against the FARC, but the group was able to maintain a significant presence in the country due to its control of large swaths of rural territory.

In 2016, the Colombian government and the FARC reached a peace agreement, which led to the disarmament of the group and its transition into a political party. The peace agreement was a significant achievement, as it put an end to one of the longest-running armed conflicts in the world.

However, the implementation of the peace agreement has faced challenges, and there has been a resurgence of violence by other armed groups in areas previously controlled by the FARC. Additionally, many former FARC members have expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of economic opportunities and the slow pace of reintegration into society.

Though the FARC was removed from U.S. State Department's terrorist blacklist in 2021, the new Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) and Segunda Marquetalia took their place. These rival organizations were created by members who rejected the 2016 peace agreement and continue to fight for control of critical areas of Colombia, particularly those associated with drug trafficking. Since 2019, the FARC-EP has been responsible for most of the FARC-D (FARC-dissident) attacks in Colombia. The FARC has engaged in numerous armed confrontations with Colombian authorities, as well as with other FARC-D factions.


  • Guerrilla warfare: The FARC used hit-and-run tactics, ambushes, and raids to attack government and military targets. They also used the rugged terrain and dense jungle cover in remote areas of Colombia to their advantage, making it difficult for government forces to locate and engage them.

  • Kidnappings: The FARC used kidnappings as a primary means of raising funds and exerting pressure on the government. They targeted wealthy individuals, politicians, and foreign nationals for ransom.

  • Bombings: The FARC often used bombings as a means of causing disruption and damage to infrastructure, such as bridges, roads, and oil pipelines.

  • Drug trafficking: The FARC was involved in the production, transportation and sale of illegal drugs, particularly cocaine. They used the proceeds from drug trafficking to fund their operations.

  • Propaganda: The FARC used various forms of propaganda, such as leaflets and radio broadcasts, to disseminate their message and mobilize support among the population.

  • Network and logistics: The FARC had a strong underground network that was able to provide them with supplies and intelligence. They also had a system of camps and safe houses that helped them evade government forces.

Recent Activity:

  • On June 25, 2021, FARC-EP insurgents shoot at a helicopter carrying the Colombian President and two cabinet ministers, hitting the aircraft multiple times but inflicting no casualties.

  • On June 15, 2021, FARC-EP insurgents conducted a VBIED attack against a Colombian Army base, wounding 44 Colombians and two US military advisers.

  • Colombian General Luis Fernando Navarro asserted in 2021 that FARC lost 1,500 members in 2020, saying that the FARC still had 2,500 armed members in its ranks.

  • In 2019, ex-FARC members attempted to reinstate the organization and initiate new armed actions. Government forces conducted a bombing raid, killing 12 FARC dissidents in the process.

  • In 2010, the FARC carried out a bombing of a police academy in Bogotá, killing 22 people and injuring over 60.

  • In 2008, the group attacked a military base in the department of Guaviare, killing at least 27 soldiers.

  • In 2007, the FARC kidnapped a former governor of the department of Antioquia, who was later freed in a military operation.

  • In 2003, the group carried out a bombing of a social club in Bogotá, killing 36 people and injuring over 200.

  • In 2002, the FARC launched a bombing campaign against the oil infrastructure in Colombia, causing extensive damage to pipelines and oil refineries.

Key Individuals (FARC-EP):

Nestor Gregorio Vera Fernandez, AKA "Ivan Mordisco"

Overall leader

Alexander Diaz Mendoza, AKA "Calarca"

Leads the 40th Front; allegedly helps guide the FARC-EP’s strategy to consolidate territory and form an “urban command” for terrorist operations

Javier Alonso Veloza, AKA "Jhon Mechas"

Leads the 33rd Front; responsible for two high-profile attacks in Colombia in 2021, one targeting US military forces and another targeting a helicopter carrying the Colombian President

Group Identifiers:

Analytical Assessment:

Despite the mass demobilization of roughly 10,000 FARC members in 2016, violence continues to occur throughout Colombia. In the subsequent years, over two dozen FARC-D and other dissident insurgencies have cropped up, waging a guerilla war on government forces, civilians, and rival organizations. These groups continue to vie for control of drug trafficking routes and conduct terrorist attacks against government employees and political leaders. In 2018, the FARC-EP met with The National Liberation Army (ELN), one of the oldest and most powerful insurgencies in Colombia, to coordinate ongoing insurgent and illicit efforts. Recent attempts at peace negotiations between the Colombian government and ELN fighters have proven to be ineffectual and the Colombian military has continued to wage offensives against the guerillas. It is our assessment that FARC-D groups, including the FARC-EP, will continue to grow in numbers as they form alliances with other aligned factions against the authorities. These alliances may take the form of militant actions, but will more than likely revolve around drug trafficking, and other illicit financing activities.

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