Gustavo Coronel, writing at Human Events, has an excellent background article on the FARC:
In the 1980’s FARC separated from the Communist Party and became increasingly involved with drug trafficking. Its top hierarchy of seven members is led by septuagenarian Manuel Marulanda. Its main sources of financing are kidnapping, protection money and drug trafficking. Kidnapping, done for ransom, brings in some $200 million per year. Often, however, hostages are not released or are assassinated even after ransom is paid. A U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, Richard Starr, was kidnapped in 1997 and held for three years until his mother raised the $250,000 ransom. German citizen Lothar Hintze was kidnapped and held for five years, although his wife paid ransom three times.
Protection money is extorted from peasants who live in FARC-controlled areas. In later years more income has been coming to the group from drug trafficking, an estimated $400 million per year. Venezuela is the transit country of choice for about 300 tons of cocaine being shipped every year to the U.S. and Europe by FARC operators. The Russian mafia has established close contacts with the group. Frank Cilluffo, from CSIS, testified to the U.S. Congress in 2000 that Russian planes fly into the Colombian jungle carrying arms and ammunitions to the guerrillas in exchange for cocaine. Brazilian drug lords and Venezuelan military commanders have also been reported to work closely with the terrorists.
The FARC have killed an estimated 100,000 people in Colombia, most of them civilians, and caused the displacement of over two million Colombians from their normal places of residence. Some of the killing has been especially gruesome, from the massacre of seven peasants in 2004 (that was the object of a strong U.N. resolution of condemnation) to the cold-blooded execution of eleven provincial deputies in 2007, after five years of captivity. The Red Cross determined they had been shot in the head at close range, after their release had been promised by the FARC.
A 2005 U.N. report stated: “For year 2004 the FARC continued to commit grave breaches of human rights such as murder, torture and hostage-taking affecting civilians, including women, boys and girls and ethnic groups”. Human Rights Watch has denounced their use of gas cylinder mortars against the civilian population. By Executive Order 13224 of President Bush, of October 2001, the U.S. designated the FARC as a terrorist organization, an example followed by the European Union.
This is the organization that Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez has openly embraced.
In other FARC news, Colombian brings news of hostages. Following her release, the FARC has taken six more hostages.