It may be an individual, a group, an organization, or a country that funds and advocates terrorism. Terrorism must use misappropriated violence or the threat of violence against the civilian populace to alarm or intimidate a government. The Unites States Department of Defense further defines terrorism as, "...violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives" (Beres n.d.). The activities of FARC in recent decades have seen the graduation from a rebel army fighting a right wing government to an organization that routinely attacks civilian targets and uses violence indiscriminately. A study of the history and structure of FARC can illustrate the strategic changes an organization can go through when faced with frustration in the political arena.
FARC, commonly referred to as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, saw its beginnings in 1948 during the period in Colombia known as La Violencia (The Violence) which lasted from 1948 until 1958 (Garcia, 2002). 'The Violence' was initiated by the assassination of the progressive liberal presidential candidate George Eliecer Gaitan, a leader who had taken up the cause of the landless peasants in Columbia. La Violencia was a ten-year struggle between liberals that demanded land reform and redistribution of property and the conservative landowners and miners. The landless peasants grouped together in self defense units located in the 'Independent Republics', pro-Communist areas in Southern Columbia. These defense units would battle against paramilitary peasants formed by the landowning elite. After 10 years of brutal fighting as many as 200,00 people were killed.
'The Violence' ended in 1958 when liberal and conservative forces agreed to an end to hostilities and agreed to a power sharing form of government. That same year, Richard Poole of the US State Department first recognized the existence of FARC. In a foreign service dispatch dated June 12 Poole writes, "CAS [CIA Covert Action Staff] here reported the formation of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) a guerrilla organization with Communist ties [...] It is obvious that the Communists hope to gain control of the organized guerrilla movement and have penetrated some units" (1958, p.4). In 1964, an estimated 16,000 soldiers of the new government's army attacked the "Independent Republics" by land and by air. According to Garcia (2002) "...most of the camps had already been abandoned and the guerrilla members had taken refuge in the mountains of southern Colombia". In 1964 FARC was formally established as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party. Based on Marxist ideology, it has remained under the leadership of Pedro Antonio Marin, a.k.a. Manuel Marulanda. According to the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, "A significant portion of the FARC's leadership, including FARC chief Manuel Marulanda, have been part of the organization since its founding and are presumably still dedicated to its Marxist ideology" (MIPT Terrorism, 2007). Though 'The Violence' officially ended in 1958, FARC has continued an armed struggle that has often been violent and aimed at civilian targets that have terrorist value such as kidnappings,