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Mar 6, 2008

What is the FARC and why should I care?
Las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (known as the FARC or FARC-EP) has been terrorizing residents of this South American country for years. Established in the 1960s as part of the Communist Party, FARC leaders have characterized their fight as something similar to the story of Robin Hood — the organization supposedly takes from the rich and gives to the poor.

However, the FARC is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, Colombia, the Latin American Parliament and the European Union. Atrocities committed by the FARC include recruiting children as young as 11 years old, sexually assaulting and forcing abortion upon female recruits, and participating in organized terror, including shootings and bombings.

The FARC is funded through extortion, kidnapping ransoms and the illegal narcotics trade. The FARC is one of the biggest players in the importation of cocaine into the United States, and they are currently holding three United States contractors as well as a former Colombian-French presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt. Betancourt has received much attention of late due to her connection to France, whose president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is pleading for her release.

Although FARC leaders still claim to be the Ejército del Pueblo (People’s Army), most Colombian citizens will tell you the opposite. I know several Colombians who fled their country to escape the violence. Kidnapping and violence are daily fears in Colombia, thanks to the terrorist FARC.

What can we do to support Colombia?
President Bush has vowed to honor our nation’s support for Colombia and help fight against terrorist acts committed by the FARC. (While I am not quite sure that his intentions are completely humanitarian, this is an excellent step.) Bush says the most important thing we can do to help Colombia is to foster a free trade agreement with the country.

I do not agree with his idea that a free trade agreement with Colombia is the best solution. Certainly, if Colombia wishes to have a free trade agreement with the United States, they should be allowed to do so, but in saying this, I think the United States has taken a typically economic and self-centered view of its relationship with Colombia. (Many people are unaware that Colombia is a large supplier of oil to the United States.)

United States policy regarding Colombia has often been self-centered and has NOT benefitted Colombian citizens. Plan Colombia, with it’s goals of the eradication of coca fields (and thus, a proposed decrease in cocaine importation to the United States), has been put under harsh criticisms. My opinion is that this policy, which ruined not only coca fields, but also legal crops, probably contributed to the support from the rural poor in Colombia for the FARC.

I believe that the best way to help Colombia at this time is to help stabilize the nation. Colombia has undergone a more than 40-year civil war. No economic solution will benefit the nation until the nation is able to stabilize itself politically.

No child deserves to grow up in such violence. Humanitarian forces from both the United Nations and the United States are necessary to help prevent more instability and violence in the country.

Another solution is to discontinue American support for the FARC.

United States citizens support the FARC daily by buying and using cocaine. The illegal drug trade is at the heart of the FARC. To cut this supply of money to the FARC would greatly reduce their effectiveness.

We also need to get the word out about the FARC. If you are a member of Facebook, there are a number of organizations dedicated to speaking out against the FARC. I am a member of the group “Un millon de voces contra las FARC” (A million voices against the FARC). If you don’t understand Spanish, there is also a group for English speakers, although less informative and with fewer members.

Please pass on the word to everyone you know. Even if you do not feel that you can immediately help the situation, turning a blind eye is the worst thing you can do.

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Posted: Thursday March 6, 2008, 2:18 pm
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Tina D.
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Manhattan, KS, USA
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