The criminalization of parts of Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, is “almost inevitable” after a possible peace deal with the Colombian government, according to a new report by the crime-monitoring NGO InSight Crime.
The paper explored “three scenarios for the potential fragmentation of the FARC and the possible criminalization of elements of the organization.”
“Even if negotiators reach an agreement, there is a very real risk that elements of the FARC will refuse to turn themselves in, or simply criminalize and keep millions of dollars, which currently fund the revolutionary struggle, for themselves. Indeed, some form of criminalization of rebel elements is inevitable,” the report, published Tuesday, said.
The report stated the rebel group could criminalize during three stages of the ongoing FARC-government peace process in Havana, Cuba. During the first stage, factions of the FARC could secede during the actual negotiations, should certain leaders feel the negotiators were “selling out” the organization. Such was the case with the Maoist EPL rebel group, which only partially demobilized in 1991, with one prominent faction refusing to enter peace talks.
However, according to InSight Crime, the risk that factions of the FARC would break away from the organization during the negotiations was “small,” while highlighting that the rebel leadership’s lack of control over isolated fronts could lead to uncertainty in the rebel ranks. The security offensive launched by former president Alvaro Uribe in 2002 effectively isolated many FARC fronts from the organization’s seven-man ruling body, the Secretariat.
Secondly, the rebel group could fracture after a written peace agreement had been reached with the Colombian government, if individual members or whole units found the results unsatisfactory. According to InSight Crime, the risk of this scenario would increase should the FARC continue to lose “high profile and ideological leaders.”
Lastly, FARC members and units could criminalize after the demobilization process, effectively following the path of many former members of the paramilitary umbrella organization AUC.
According to the report, several factors could encourage FARC members to criminalize or break away from the organization, including lacking contact with the FARC leadership, close collaboration with the drug trafficking BACRIM (the Spanish acronym for criminal groups) and involvement in drug production and exportation.
Jeremy McDermott, co-director of InSight Crime and author of the report, told Colombia Reports a continuation of the FARC after an official demobilization, in the vein of the the various successor groups of the IRA in Ireland after the Good Friday agreements in 1998, could manifest itself in a variety of manners, all depending on the the seniority of the FARC members who would opt for a continuation of the armed struggle.
“The key to this is the seniority of the FARC leaders who turn themselves in. If Secretariat members refuse to demobilize, there can definitely be a continuation” of the insurgency, McDermott said.
However, McDermott said the FARC’s commander-in-chief, “Timochenko,” would rather cancel the peace talks than allow the organization to fracture.
“The rebels are going to want significant concessions that justify an end to the conflict and show that the last 50 years of struggle have had concrete results, both for their fighting rank-and-file and the communities that live under their influence. Timochenko does not want to be the FARC commander who presided over the breakup of the movement, or who ‘betrayed’ almost five decades of revolutionary struggle,” the report continued.
According to InSight Crime, the risk of sectors the FARC criminalizing after a demobilization was “very high, even almost inevitable,” however, the severity of the criminalization would depend on the kind of deal reached between the FARC Secretariat and the Colombian government. The study also highlighted the need to improve Colombia’s juridical system to “process the results of the peace deal and fill the vacuum that exists in FARC-dominated areas.”
- The FARC, the Peace Process and the Potential Criminalization of the Guerrillas (Report)
- Interview with Jeremy McDermott, co-director of InSight Crime