In another unwarranted fit of fanfare the Colombian government has announced that it has carried out another operation against the FARC. In the operation, in the province of Arauca, the Colombian Army killed 31 FARC combatants and captured a futher 3. In response to the operation Colombian President Juan Santos declared that, ‘we must continue advancing, with a rifle in one hand and the Constitution in the other.’ Although force and the law are important components of the struggle against the guerrilla groups operating in Colombia, what the government often seems to forget is that there are other components to the conflict. Groups such the FARC, the ELN, the EPL and the M19 formed largely in response to appalling rates of poverty and inequality, as well as the legacy of La Violencia.
The strategy that Santos is pursuing, and Uribe pursued before him, is making a clear impact on the FARC and the ELN. The deaths of Mono Jojoy in September 2010 and then Alfonso Cano in November 2011 were especially important in weakening the capacity and effectiveness of the organisation. To put an end to the conflict, however, a much wider range of strategies must be adopted. A rifle in one hand and the constitution in the other can only get you so far.