FARC: “terrorists” or “belligerents”?

In the wake of his successful negotiation of the release of two hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has launched an initiative for the FARC and its junior counterpart, the National Liberation Army (ELN), to be recognized by the international community as legitimate “belligerents”—not terrorists. Chávez says the FARC is an “insurgent” force with legitimate political aims and that the terrorist label “has just one cause: pressure from the United States.”

In a near-unanimous vote Jan. 17, the Venezuelan National Assembly approved a resolution recognizing the FARC’s belligerent status. The bill’s sponsor, Deputy Saul Ortega, emphasized that the resolution has no legal effect, granting the FARC neither diplomatic status nor safe passage in Venezuela. He said it was merely a show of support for Chávez’s proposal.

But the Colombian government protested the move as interference in its affairs, recalling French and Mexican recognition of the Sandinista National Liberation Front as a “state in formation” during the Nicaraguan revolution in 1979. Such a move would mean “giving the FARC diplomatic immunity, asylum rights, Venezuelan passports, and freedom from extradition,” said former Colombian Defense Minister Rafael Pardo, now a consultant based in Bogotá. “They would be giving the FARC a legitimacy, and that’s very grave.”

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has arranged an emergency trip to several European capitals to make the case that the FARC is a terrorist organization (as they are currently designation by the EU).

Groups on the US State Department’s list of “foreign terrorist organizations” are effectively international outlaws. Members of these organizations are subject to arrest without habeas corpus or Geneva Convention rights, and individuals who collaborate with them are designated criminals. The FARC has been on the US terrorist list since 1997.

Matthew Levitt, a former FBI analyst now a “counter-terrorism expert” with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), said the FARC fits the classic definition of a terrorist organization that targets civilians to achieve political ends. “To me there is no debate. They engage in other horrible crimes such as narco-trafficking that only makes them a worse problem,” Levitt said.

To qualify for “belligerent” status under international law, experts say an armed group must control territory, have a unified command, demonstrate the capacity to carry out military operations and observe basic human rights. The FARC have been implicated in hundreds of assassinations, kidnappings and car bombs, and do not openly control territory (since the Colombian army overran their “demilitarized zone” at San Vicente del Caguan in 2002).

But Chávez said in a speech to Venezuela lawmakers Jan. 11 that the FARC and ELN are “true armies that occupy real space in their country.” In the videotaped coverage of the hostages’ release the day before, Venezuelan Interior Minister RamĂłn Rodriguez ChacĂ­n told FARC fighters: “We are with you… Be strong. We are following your cause.”

Relations between Venezuela and Colombia have been tense since November, when Uribe declared that Chávez had broken protocol and abruptly terminated the Venezuelan president’s mediation role with the FARC, in which he tried to arrange a comprehensive release of hostages. Ex-Colombian defense minister Pardo said that with the move to have the FARC recognized as belligerents, relations between his country and Venezuela “may be at their lowest point in history.” (Los Angeles Times, Jan. 20)

See our last posts on Colombia and Venezuela.

See also our forthcoming feature, “BolĂ­var’s Sword: Venezuela’s Recognition of the Colombian Insurgency,” by Paul Wolf

  1. Chávez: kidnapping “mistaken policy”
    Chávez earlier this week called upon the FARC to abandon the tactic of kidnapping, calling it a “mistaken policy” (polĂ­tica equivocada). The comment came after Chávez shared the Jan. 10 edition of his radio talk show “AlĂł Presidente!” with one of the freed hostages, former Colombian lawmaker Consuelo González. During the broadcast, González said she would try to make the FARC “understand that in a revolutionary struggle, which must have man as its central purpose, acts such as kidnapping are not committed, because they are an attack against human dignity and against any possibility of instating democracy…” (La Jornada, Mexico, Jan. 14)

    1. Thousands march against FARC
      Led by released hostage Consuelo González, some 5,000 Colombians marched against the FARC tactic of kidnapping in the provincial city of Neiva Jan. 23, and demanded the release of all the rebel group’s captives. (La NaciĂłn, InfoBAE, Argentina, Jan. 23)

  2. Latin Mass & Rebel Movements
    Hello, could anyone answer this scholarly question? Does (Catholic or non-Catholic) anyone know the FARC-EP’s Stance (or Political Policy) toward the Latin Tridentine Mass…or Old Roman Rite Latin Mass? I know that some Colombian Rebel Movements (FARC, ELN, etc) in the 60s were found, funded, and organized by so-called Catholic priests who some were generals (jefes), is that really the truth? Yes you know, in the 1960s, there was only the good Old Latin Mass before those Conciliar Changes of the Vatican II Council circa 1969 took place. I read that in Communist China, the government of Communists allow a special Church called the Chinese Communist Patriotic Catholic Church to exist (in fact they use it for their political purposes), this sect rebelled from Rome, still they celebrate the Old Latin Mass Liturgy (pre-Vatican II style) with their valid succession of bishops, anyone know about this (anyone from China)? Yet, I admit that, I am not sure does Pro-Chavez Communist Army called the FARC-EP have chaplains (deacons, priests, bishops) like a regular governmental military? Do they have a Seminary? And how about the ELN too, (Padre Torres?), and the various other rebel groups- there are many of them in the montanas? Do these various schismatic groups communicate together for special feasts like Christmas(~Communcatio in Sacris)?

    I was wondering if they tolerate Traditionalist Latin Mass Catholic Priests (SSPX, SSPV, CMRI, FSSP)? Also what is their official policy toward the Greek and Russian Orthodox Priests? Do they like Putin’s Patriarch Alexis? Someone said they kill priests a lot (and a bishop in Cali), is that really true or a lie?

    Frankly, I am a little worried to hear Chavez mentioned in Peace Talks, I read he is involved in the Sin (Betrayal) of Communicatio in Sacris with non-Catholics (like Muslims). Where is Tony Blair in this mess (I hear he likes the Old Latin Mass as he left the Anglican Communion)? I have to tell you, that I am no theologian, actually, I read these matters from a new and brave scholarly book written by a Hispanic-Latino Professor, Dr. DeTucci (I think he studied at Harvard and the Javierana in Bogota, Colombia?), you can browse the book online by going to Lulu Bookstore:


    Dear Colombians (and Venezuelans), in my studies, I also read the Liberator Simon Bolivar forbade Non-Catholic Churches in Gran Colombia (and any “Communicatio in Sacris”), is that true? I read this Time Article that confirmed these Bolivarian Laws:


    I guess Bolivar was very Anti-Masonic, right? Does Harvard-educated President Alvaro Uribe take a stance on this or is he Indifferent? Or is Uribe under the control of the AUC, or not? I read online that Scholar-Cardinal CastrillĂłn Hoyos of Medellin, Colombia (Bishop Prelate and Vatican Official of the Latin Tridentine Mass Indult Commission Ecclesia Dei–which ironically is trying to heal the Latin Schismatic Rebel Groups formed by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre of France which extend globally including in Europe and the Americas, now headed by Monsignor Fellay) is actually a secret-Jefe Lord of the Right-Wing AUC, is this true? Further I read he also has helped the M-19 Blocks officially pontificating as their Bishop during the Solemn High Pontifical Old Latin Masses that were held for Medellin and Cali Cartel Families, and of course he must of collected their rich donations or la comienza they call it. Does anyone reading this, or perhaps sharing this, have revealing intelligence on this grave scandal (tell me)? Honestly, I suppose and I guess that this big rumor may be leaking around also (esp. in Caracas) that Hoyos also helps certain Israel/Zionist Programs with financial laundering (washing the dinero) of funds under the guise of Vatican-Church Hierarchy (e.g., the Most Holy Family Monastery’s Michael Dimond has been cited by some Bp. Michael Carter as being the Zionist Superior Jefe of this Programe). Further, I saw on television recently (Univision) that Director Oliver Stone (a Socialist) is investigating this whole Latin-Colombian Schism and claims to have the scoop of inside information on Uribe, Hoyos, and Friends to definitely expose them in a High-Budget Documentary that will be released to movie theaters around the world (in Spanish and English). May I guess there is a certain Liberal-Socialist Bishop Jason Spadafore (from Palma de Troya, Spain) involved in the fiasco? I guess so!

    Please share this reading and write me if you have something to share.



    P.S. Frankly…I also read about Vlad Tepes, a Catholic Prince who resisted the Turkish Muslim Invasion in Romania, he is a national hero to Romania, and he actually died a Roman Catholic! Vlad certainly put fear into his enemies by his strict justice, and his enemies lied that he was a vampire to demonize him. So people can make up stories about people, and call them terrible things, like a terrorist. You can read more here:


    1. Undoubtedly…
      …the Tridentine Mass is at the very top of the FARC’s concerns. And we love your website dedicated to Vlad the Impaler as a guardian of the faith. You just sent the wackjobbery meter into full tilt, dude. Good job, we live for moments like this.

      1. post of the week
        Damn. Beating out ‘Creation Beams’ is pretty impressive. And that was before working in Oliver Stone.
        However …
        “Thanks, Rosa”
        seems to indicate the author is not a dude. Unless they’re thanking Rosa. Given the content anything is possible.

  3. Drug dealers
    Look at this documentary from a California ex-cop involved in the drug fight.

    Wall street wanted to laundry FARC money in the US market.

    Most CIA bosses are wall street lawyers or bankers.

    Honest policemen who busted the CIA dealings are either dead or destroyed socially.

    It is a fact that drugs and weapons and oil are the main components of the US economy.

    G O D bless America.
    o i r
    l l u
    d g

  4. belligerents in international law
    Hi Bill

    Thanks for the interesting article.

    “To qualify for “belligerent” status under international law, experts say an armed group must control territory, have a unified command, demonstrate the capacity to carry out military operations and observe basic human rights.”

    I would really appreciate it if you could give me your source for this, I am interested to learn more.


    1. belligerents in international law: some answers
      My source was the Los Angeles Times of Jan. 20, just like it says. I’m not sure the definition of belligerent status is codified anywhere, but arises from tradition and case law, e.g. the “Prize Cases” heard by the US Supreme Court in our own Civil War. (See our feature story, “Bolivar’s Sword: Venezuela’s Recognition of the Colombian Insurgency” by Paul Wolf.)

      The section on “International vs. Internal Armed Conflict” at the Crimes of War website notes:

      Because the traditional laws of war—and laws of war crimes—concerned only conflicts between States, States accusing each other of violating them or of committing war crimes needed to characterize a conflict as truly international and not internal. Thus, the Geneva Conventions [of 1949] and Additional Protocol I [of 1977] address in nearly all their aspects international conflicts only… Additional Protocol II of 1977, which specifically addresses internal conflicts, provides fewer protections during such conflicts than the Geneva Conventions do for international conflicts.

      Of course the big majority of wars on the planet now are internal (e.g. Colombia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, etc.), and involve “irregular forces” (guerillas, insurgents, terrorists, etc.). So governments combating these irregular forces are either defining the conflict as something other than war (the Soviets called the Mujahedeen “bandits”; the Colombian government called the FARC “delinquents” before switching to “terrorists” after 9-11) or else to a large degree improvising—often in fairly sinister ways, e.g. Bush’s creation of the legal fiction “enemy combatant.” Yale Law School‘s page on the “Laws of War” provides the text of various treaties, conventions and agreements governing the conduct of belligerents going back to the mid-19th century. Scholars refer to these texts to determine what defines a legitimate belligerent. The way things are going, it is probably a good idea to codify the definition at this point.

      It should be noted that Mexico’s Zapatista rebels, from the first days of their uprising in January 1994 demanded recognition as a belligerent force, while announcing their intention to comply with the international laws of war and calling upon the international community to monitor the conflict. They did not attack civilian targets or take hostages. The FARC might consider emulating their example and freeing the civilian hostages they hold if they wish to be recognized as legitimate belligerents.

    2. Definition of Belligerent
      Hague Convention
      Look a the definition of “Belligerent” under
      Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land
      [annex to convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land]
      The Hague , 18 Oct 1907

      Section I- On Belligerents