Group Profile - Group Profile The membership of the...

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Group Profile The membership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—FARC) has always come primarily from the countryside. Sociologist James Peter says that 80 percent of the FARC’s members are peasants, which explains its vitality and development over time. Most FARC members reportedly are poorly educated, young people from rural areas and who are more attracted to the FARC for its relatively good salary and revolutionary adventurism than for ideology. Many are teenagers, both male and female. Many poor farmers and teenagers join the FARC out of boredom or simply because it pays them about $350 a month, which is $100 more than a Colombian Army conscript. Others may be more idealistic. For example, Ramón, a 17-year-old guerrilla, told a Washington Post reporter in February 1999 that “I do not know the word ‘Marxism,’ but I joined the FARC for the cause of the country...for the cause of the poor.” The FARC has relied on forced conscription in areas where it has had difficulties recruiting or in instances in which landowners are unable to meet FARC demands for “war taxes.” In early June 1999, the FARC’s Eduardo Devía (“Raul Reyes”) pledged to a United Nations representative not to recruit or kidnap more minors. Although the FARC has traditionally been a primarily peasant-based movement, its membership may have broadened during the 1990s as a result of the steadily expanding area under FARC control. Timothy P. Wickham-Crowley points out that “The most striking single feature of the Colombian guerrilla experience, especially but not only for the FARC, is how thoroughly the entire guerrilla experience has been rooted in local experiences in the countryside.” Wickham- Crowley qualifies that traditional characteristic, however, by noting that, according to FARC leader Manuel Marulanda, “there had been an appreciable broadening of the guerrillas’ ranks, now including a larger number of urbanites: workers, intellectuals, students, professionals, doctors, lawyers, professors, and priests.” If true, this would be surprising considering that the FARC’s increasingly
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