Coming to the Table
By Dialogo October 01, 2012
Historic peace talks between the Colombian Government and the FARC guerrilla
group that began in October 2012 prompted Diálogo to take a look back at the 50
years of conflict. Held in Oslo, Norway, and Havana, Cuba, with international
monitors Venezuela and Chile, the eyes of the world are watching to see if the
Western Hemisphere’s longest conflict will finally come to an end.
Political assassinations, rioting and rural unrest in Colombia mark a period
known as La Violencia (the violence) in which approximately 200,000 people are
killed. Liberal peasants form a number of self-defense organizations that are
influenced by communist radicals.
The “Southern Bloc” led by Pedro Antonio Marín (aka Manuel Marulanda Vélez)
renames itself the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). This group will
surpass all other guerrilla and paramilitary threats in the country.
FARC kidnaps the Dutch consul in Cali and demands a $1 million ransom. The
group continues abducting wealthy farmers, using kidnapping for ransom as a major
May – FARC calls for a strategic shift in which the group will employ
guerrilla warfare tactics in rural areas and provoke revolution in the cities, with
a view to taking power through mass insurrection. Financing for the guerrilla war
includes increasing income from drug production and trafficking.
August – President Belisario Betancur comes to power and initiates cease-fire
negotiations with FARC, the EPL and M-19 guerrilla groups.
The government and FARC sign La Uribe peace accords, under which FARC is
permitted to form a legitimate political party, the Patriotic Union (UP).
Right-wing paramilitary groups assassinate UP politicians. FARC resumes its
campaign of violence.
FARC grows rapidly and initiates a series of devastating assaults on police
and army bases.
President-elect Andrés Pastrana meets with FARC leaders for peace talks.
Pastrana would later grant FARC a demilitarized zone (DMZ) – a safe haven in
southern Colombia measuring 42,000 square kilometers. Three years of peace
negotiations with FARC begin.
The U.S. Congress approves $1 billion in military aid to President Pastrana’s
$7.5 billion “Plan Colombia” to fight drug trafficking and the guerrillas
threatening the safety and security of Colombians. Another $300 million from
Washington is intended to promote economic development, judicial reform and human
FARC is accused of using its safe haven as a training ground, a base for
attacks and a coca-growing region. Three Irish Republican Army members are convicted
of providing explosives and training to FARC fighters.
February – Peace talks collapse and President Pastrana orders FARC out of the
DMZ hours after the group hijacks an aircraft and kidnaps a senator.
Traveling into the former DMZ to campaign, presidential candidate Ingrid
Betancourt is kidnapped by FARC.
May – Alvaro Úribe wins the presidency on an aggressive counterinsurgency
platform. FARC has an estimated 22,000 members when he assumes office.
February – FARC detonates a car bomb in a garage inside the Bogotá club El
Nogal, killing 35 people and injuring many more.
June – President Úribe unveils his “Democratic Security” policy.
April – The first operation of President Úribe’s counterinsurgency Plan
Patriota begins in the former DMZ. The plan, helped by $700 million from Washington,
aims to weaken FARC by stepping up military action against the group.
December – Ricardo Palmera Pineda (aka Simón Trinidad), the most senior FARC
guerrilla captured to date, is extradited to the U.S. after being captured in
A report by the International Crisis Group concludes that around 60 percent
of operational FARC forces are in some way involved in the coca or poppy trade.
February – Thousands of Colombians across the country march in protest
March – A Colombian cross-border strike (Operation Phoenix) results in the
death of senior FARC member Luis Devía (aka Raúl Reyes) and the seizure of his
computers. FARC’s founder, Pedro Antonio Marín, dies of natural causes. FARC
secretariat member Manuel Muñoz Ortiz (aka Ivan Rios) is killed by his own men.
July – The Colombian Army frees FARC’s highest profile hostage, Ingrid
Betancourt, plus three U.S. contractors and 11 Colombian troops in Operation Jaque.
February – Former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos wins the presidency.
June – Operation Camaleón frees three military and police hostages held for
more than 12 years.
September – Colombian security forces step up their fight against FARC
leaders, killing secretariat member Víctor Suárez (aka Mono Jojoy), and up to 20
June – Colombia passes the Law of Victims and Restitution of Lands. Then-FARC
leader Alfonso Cano praises the legislation as a move toward the agrarian reform the
FARC has long fought for.
November – FARC leader Guillermo Leon Saenz (aka Alfonso Cano) is killed in a
military operation. President Santos declares his killing the most historic blow to
the guerrilla movement.
February – FARC declares the end of kidnapping for ransom, although hostages
are still believed to be in their captivity.
June – Colombia passes Legal Framework for Peace to provide a pathway for
demobilization and reincorporation of guerrillas into civil society. The legislation
is seen as a pathway to peace talks.
February-August – The Colombian Government and the FARC hold more than 60
exploratory meetings in secret in Havana, Cuba, to determine a way forward for the
October – The Colombian Government and the FARC meet in Oslo, Norway, to
begin peace talks. Negotiations continue in Havana, thereafter.