The FARC was dealt a severe political, military and public relations defeat last week by the successful operation that led to the release of Ingrid Betencourt and the three American contractors. From a political perspective, the injustice and cruelty of the kidnapping by the FARC have been condemned internationally and has led to a diminishing number of supporters for the group. The days when the FARC was viewed as a meaningful political force are all but gone
Further, the number of FARC troops is down significantly, and the recent demise of a number of FARC leaders has only further deteriorated the organization’s military strength. The FARC has been soundly and routinely defeated on the battlefield by the Columbian military. To supplement its weakening military strength, the FARC has used kidnapped victims as an offensive weapon to create leverage with the Columbian government, but now even this weapon has been taken away.
Finally, the FARC has also suffered what is likely a lethal public relations blow by the kidnapping victims who have publicly renounced the FARC as nothing more than a terrorist organization – a message that we pushed regularly during my time as the head of the DEA, but was not widely advanced around the world. Now, however, it is not just the United States branding the FARC as a terrorist organization funded by illegal drug trafficking – the label is uniformly recognized across the globe.
The greatest irony is that the FARC’s number 1 nemesis is President Uribe. With this rescue mission and the subsequent fall-out, the FARC has managed to give Uribe a victory that will only strengthen his position with the Columbian public and allow him to be even more aggressive in his efforts against the FARC.