The following section will be maintained to provide a setting for making corrections regarding the original text of "A Biography of Colombia Embattled", or to briefly describe developments which may render some of that information obsolete. For coverage of new developments in Colombia, however, continue referring to "Colombia Updates."
The FARC And Shoulder-Fired Missiles: In the original text (2006), I utilized one source which claimed that the FARC was in possession of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles to use against aircraft. In 2008 (March 6), the Associated Press described the FARC as not yet having acquired such weapons. The Washington Times (March 12, 2008), reported information from Colombian security forces (based on the captured laptop of Raul Reyes) suggesting that the guerrillas were in the process of attempting to acquire such weapons from Libya. The exact military capabilities of the FARC are not always easy to pin down, especially since the portrayal of the guerrillas' arsenal is frequently subservient to the political objectives of those who wield facts in the war of information. (Better-armed guerrillas are more alarming, and useful for justifying higher levels of military aid to the Colombian government and deeper levels of US involvement; however, a juiced-up image of the guerrillas is also dangerous, because it makes them seem more capable of winning the war, which could boost the morale of their supporters.) If the FARC, to this point, has lacked antiaircraft missiles, recorded events have, nonetheless, shown that they do have some form of antiaircraft capability, which has resulted in downed helicopters and planes. Presumably, this capability would be furnished by rifles and machine guns, directing fire from the ground at low-flying aircraft. It is also possible that RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) might occasionally be used by the FARC against helicopters. (RPGs are weapons which fire grenades out of a tube with accuracy up to a range of about 100 yards. They are capable of damaging and destroying lightly-armored vehicles. They are also sometimes used against infantry, usually by aiming the grenades at hard targets in the vicinity of the targeted troops, such as trees, buildings, etc. The RPG's use as an antiaircraft weapon is not ideal, as the angle of fire, if too high, can create problems for the operator by reflecting the rocket blast back at him from the ground; this problem can be corrected by adding a crafted steel plate to the back of the tube which deflects the blast away from the operator. The RPG is also not an ideal weapon in the sense that its manner of fire, including a bright flash and a trail of smoke as the grenade flies away from the weapon, frequently gives away the position of its user.) One source I have consulted indicates that the FARC does have RPGs (which could have been misidentified in initial combat reports as surface-to-air missiles). However, I have not cross-checked this source with others to confirm that this is accurate.
- April 2008
NEW SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal (May 9, 2008), claims, on the basis of captured files from Raul Reyes' laptop, that the FARC is seeking to acquire shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles from Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, and that it is also seeking to acquire RPGs. The suggestion is that the FARC does not yet have the AA missiles.