The Colombian civil war, which to date is not only the longest-running civil war in South America, but amazingly in the whole world mostly came to an end with the historic peace process between the government, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known by their Spanish acronym the FARC.
The peace deal that led to the demobilization of the FARC has resulted in them transitioning into a political party known as the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (which means it still gets to keep its FARC acronym), which is guaranteed at least 10 seats in the national assembly until 2026, with the plan being for the former Marxist army to pursue their goals of social justice, and agrarian reform through political means rather than through the barrel of the gun.
Whilst the peace process has been viewed extremely positively by most Colombians and the rest of the world, the politics of Colombia are far from simple, and alas the civil war continues through a number of continuity armed groups, right-wing paramilitaries, and drug cartels that have rushed in to fill the power vacuum created by the withdrawal of the FARC.
So, who is still fighting in Colombia?
The National Liberation Army, better known by their Spanish acronym of the ELN were formed in the early 1960s, inspired by Che Guevara’s guerilla tactics. Their official ideology can be called Christian/Catholic Communism, although like all the armed groups of the country many have accused them of simply being drug dealers and extortionists. They were always the second largest force compared to the FARC, but today and after the demobilization of the FARC are now the biggest rebel army, with an estimated force of 3000 active personnel, as well as urban supporters.
The “New” FARC
As with any peace process, there are always some dissenters, and it is estimated that almost 10% of the active FARC forces (1200), as well as some leading commanders, not only rejected the peace process but decided to continue to fight. The New FARC have turned into a real nightmare for the government, with regular attacks on the army, and seemingly no sign of peace from the hardliners in the short term.
The Popular Liberation Army, known by its Spanish acronym of the EPL is a Colombian guerrilla group formed in 1967 that mostly demobilized in the early 90s, but as with most groups had a number that decided to continue the fight. The EPL can be considered a Maoist inspired group that disagreed with the Soviet line. Like most other groups they are accused of being a criminal organization, and their current strength is estimated to be in the low hundreds.
The Indigenous Revolutionary Armed Forces of the Pacific known by their Spanish acronym of the FARIP are a guerrilla group formed by indigenous people in the rural areas of Colombia, less a revolutionary force, and more a protection force, albeit left-leaning for the indigenous ethnic minority. Estimated to again only have a few hundred active supporters, as well as a number of sympathizers.
Clan De Golfo
The Clan De Gulfo, which literally means “The Gulfs Clan”, are largely a drug trafficking gang, that could also be considered a right-wing paramilitary group, they have a fighting force of around 3000 fighters, and have stepped into the huge power vacuum that arrived with the exit of the FARC.
So whilst the civil war is far from over, and the conditions in Colombia are as of yet far from perfect, the last few years have resulted in drastic improvements, and whilst the politics are damned interesting, for most Colombians, life simply goes on. Check out our blog post here on is it safe to travel Colombia.