Colombia: December 2, 2003



Who's Who in Colombia's Chaos

Colombian Government Self-explanatory. Current President is Alvaro Uribe, elected with 53.05 percent of the vote and delivered on his promise to go after the armed groups tearing the country apart.

Political parties Conservative Party (PSC or PCC), 11 percent last election, holds 21 seats in the House of Representatives and 13 seats in the Senate; Liberal Party (PL), 31.3 percent, holds 54 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 28 in the Senate. A mix of minor parties (Colombia formally recognizes about sixty political parties, including a communist party and a party that used to be the guerilla group M-19) and independents hold the rest of the seats in the legislature (61 seats in the Senate, 91 in the Chamber of Deputies).

Major insurgent forces:

FARC Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Largest group of guerillas, roughly 16,000 fighters. Started out as communist, but is now heavily into guarding and trafficking narcotics. Probably receiving safe haven and assistance from Venezuela.

ELN Army of National Liberation. Smaller group of left-wing guerillas (5,000 fighters) operating against the Colombian government.

AUC United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. Anti-guerilla force operating outside the authority of the Colombian government, with 13,000 fighters, not all of whom are controlled by the command structure. Currently under a demobilization agreement with the Colombian 
government, but that could change.

Major players:

Alvaro Uribe Current President of Colombia.

Jorge Briceno Top military strategist for FARC. Also known as Mono Jojoy.

Manuel Marulanda Leader of FARC.

Alfonso Cano Second-in-command of FARC.

Carlos Castano Founder the AUC. Prior to the AUC forming, he was a key player in Los Pepes (The People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar).

Salvatore Mancuso Leader of the AUC on paper. Probably a figurehead as long as Carlos Castano is around.

Other Interested Parties:

Venezuela: Long-running border dispute with Colombia. President Hugo Chavez has been accused of supporting terrorist groups, most notably FARC.

United States: Eager to cut coca production to eradicate the supply of cocaine. The major agency involved is the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), but Special Forces troops are also down there to help train the Colombian army. -- Harold C. Hutchison




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