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FARC 2.0?

In recent months, leftist rebels in Colombia have made a splash with blockbuster attacks that line the front pages. Are they back from their presumed near-death, or is something else going on? My latest for FP:
Rumble in the Jungle
In Colombia, FARC operations are on the rise as the guerrilla movement changes strategy and returns to its insurgent roots.
By Elizabeth Dickinson


TAMESIS, Colombia – Didier Alvarez shakes his head with fear as he speaks. Over the last decade, he has seen Salgar, his small town in Colombia's northwest Antioquia province, transformed. In the early 2000s, the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and rival paramilitary units roamed the area, fighting for territory, massacring civilians, and extracting rents from the local economy. By 2008, the armed groups were gone; the FARC was chased into the jungle by the Colombian military and the paramilitaries demobilized. "Things started to calm down," he remembers.
"But we are falling back into crisis," Alvarez continues. "The [FARC] guerrillas and other armed groups are back, destroying our towns, assassinating leaders." Two towns were attacked near his own in the last two months. As the head of the community's local council, Alvarez is terrified. He's not the only one; 74 percent of Colombians believe that security is getting worse, according to a June Gallup poll.

Three years ago, the outgoing government of President Álvaro Uribe declared "the end of the end" of the FARC. The group was in its death throes, and this decades-long conflict was coming to an end, Uribe said, thanks to eight years of intensive military operations. But while few seem to be paying attention, this resilient rebel force, which the International Crisis Group estimates has between 8,000 and 10,000 members, has made a comeback -- and not only in places like Salgar. In the first six months of 2011, the militant group undertook some 1,115 "military actions," including everything from armed combat to kidnappings to land mining. That's an increase of 10 percent from the same period last year. In fact, FARC operations have increased every year since 2005.

So is the FARC making a comeback? Not exactly -- but it has changed its strategy...
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Originally posted at www.elizabeth-dickinson.com

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