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Indigenous Revolutionary Armed Forces of the Pacific (FARIP)

Note: This is not the official flag of the FARIP, but rather a substitute containing the flag of Colombia (as this is the country they were active in).

Insurgency Overview

The Indigenous Revolutionary Armed Forces of the Pacific (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Indígenas del Pacífico: FARIP) was a Colombian guerrilla organization founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia: FARC). Between its foundation in 1987 and its dissolution in 1996, the FARIP operated within several Indigenous communities of the Pacific region of Colombia.

The Colombian Pacific is a sparsely populated region of lowland rainforests and mangrove swamps located west of the Cordillera Occidental, the westernmost arm of the Colombian Andes. Four Colombian departments are located primarily or partially within the Pacific region: from north to south, these are Chocó, Valle del Cauca, Cauca, and Nariño. Demographically, this region is primarily populated by Afro-Colombians and various Indigenous ethnic groups.

Due to the prevalence of ethnic and racial lines of difference in this poor and underdeveloped region of Colombia, the formation of several guerrilla groups in this region during the acceleration of the Colombian conflict in the 1980s occurred along those same ethnic and racial lines. When the FARIP formed in Chocó in 1987, it was consolidated as an explicitly Indigenous guerrilla, recruiting from several Indigenous populations in the Colombian Pacific. This ethnic character differentiated the FARIP from other guerrillas based in the Colombian Pacific, which were either multiethnic or Afro-Colombian in composition (“Alerta en Chocó” 1996; Arocha 1999, 105; “El territorio fue la primera víctima” 2022; “Un manifiesto para la paz” 2023).

Ideologically, the FARIP presented itself as a territorial defense force fighting on behalf of the Indigenous populations of the Colombian Pacific (“Alerta en Chocó” 1996; Arocha 1999, 105; Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica 2022, 54). However, what began as an organization ostensibly oriented towards the defense of Indigenous territories quickly transformed into an armed group in the style of other Colombian guerrillas, quickly investing in cocaine production and oil exploitation along the Pacific coast—two of the primary sources of income for most armed groups in the Colombian conflict, whether through direct control or the extortion of existing operations (Rangel Suárez 2000).

During its nine years of existence, the FARIP carried out several armed actions and assassinations in its zone of operation, often in coordination with allied guerrilla groups such as the FARC and the ELN. When its support base of Indigenous communities eventually turned against the FARIP due to the detrimental consequences of the group’s activities in the region, the group voluntarily disarmed and disbanded in 1996, partly through the intervention of Colombia’s foremost Indigenous civil society organization: the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia: ONIC) (Comisión de la Verdad 2022b, 97).

History & Foundations

The FARIP was founded in Chocó in 1987 following the recruiting efforts of the 34th Front of the Northwestern Block of the FARC, a unit based in Chocó and neighboring Antioquia that commanded a fighting force of several hundred soldiers as of the mid-1980s. The FARC, historically the largest and most powerful left-wing guerrilla in Latin America, was not an explicitly Indigenist organization, but some of its divisions did include Indigenous militants. These elements made efforts to radicalize the Indigenous communities inhabiting their areas of operation, particularly in the Colombian southwest, including in the Pacific (Bonilla Montenegro 2021, 220)

The FARC was also, however, known for targeting and abusing Indigenous communities in its zones of control, which also extended to the treatment of Indigenous soldiers within FARC ranks (Andrés Barahona 2011; María González 2013). The emergence of the FARIP was the result of Indigenous recruits’ split from the FARC in protest over the abuse they suffered at the hands of non-Indigenous militants (Comisión de la Verdad 2022a, 222). Despite this split, the FARIP was logistically supported by the 34th Front through the provision of munitions and training. Both groups also carried out several armed actions in conjunction, such as the seizure of the municipal seat of Riosucio. Similar relations were maintained with the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional: ELN), another nominally left-wing guerrilla operating in the region (Comisión de la Verdad 2022b, 95).

When the FARC began recruiting among the Indigenous communities of Chocó, they appealed to locals’ fears concerning their territorial autonomy in the face of a planned government megaproject: the Atrato-Truandó Interoceanic Canal, which would have connected the Colombian Pacific with the Caribbean coast, but which was never completed (Comisión de la Verdad 2022b, 64). After the construction project was approved by the Colombian Congress in 1987, state actors began displacing Indigenous communities living along the planned canal route; the FARIP formed in the context of local resistance to these processes of dispossession. This and other threats to Indigenous territorial autonomy provided the primary rationale for the recruitment efforts of the FARIP. 

However, the presence of the FARIP had the effect of “deepening the existing tensions in the context of the extractive processes” taking place in the north of Chocó, particularly when the group began carrying out acts of violence (ibid., 96). The public opposition to the FARIP that manifested as a result of such consequences would ultimately prove their downfall, resulting in their disarmament and disbanding in 1996 (Comisión de la Verdad 2022b, 97).

Objectives & Ideology

As an offshoot of the FARC, an ostensibly left-wing guerrilla that has its historical roots in the peasant movement of the 1960s, the Marxist-Leninist ideology of Colombia’s foremost guerrilla may have constituted the ideological basis of the FARIP—a link also suggested by this group’s retention of the “revolutionary” moniker in its name. 

However, the Marxist-Leninist ideological stratum borrowed from the FARC was likely of less importance to the militants of the FARIP than the specifically Indigenous ethnic component of the organization, which appealed to local Indigenous communities’ concerns regarding territorial autonomy and their frustration with the discrimination experienced at the hands of both other guerrilla groups and the Colombian state (Comisión de la Verdad 2022a; 2022b). In this sense, the FARIP was of Indigenist ideology, advocating for the territorial autonomy of the Indigenous populations of the Pacific through violent opposition.

Political & Military Capabilities

Figures vary widely as to the size of the FARIP at its height. In 1996, the group was reported to include 60 Indigenous militants in the vicinity of the Baudó and Juradó rivers, both along the Pacific coast of Chocó (“Alterta en Chocó” 1996). Another source estimates up to 1,000 members active in Chocó and the border zones of the neighboring departments of Antioquia, Risaralda, and Valle del Cauca (Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica 2014, 276). At its height, the FARIP’s zone of operation may have extended as far as Colombia’s Caribbean coast via the municipality of Urabá (Comisión de la Verdad 2022a, 222)

It is unknown how well-armed and well-trained the FARIP was at its height. Still, it was at least capable of carrying out armed attacks in coordination with other guerrillas, as well as engaging in extortion, illicit economic activities such as coca cultivation and cocaine production, and the occasional targeted assassination. Unlike other guerrillas like the FARC and the M-19, the FARIP did not make the transition to electoral politics upon its disbandment.

Like the FARC and other armed groups, the FARIP is known to have engaged in the forced recruitment of minors, including children as young as 10 (“Alerta en Chocó” 1996; Supúlveda López de Mesa 2008, 260). The forced recruitment of child soldiers is characteristic of various armed groups involved in the Colombian conflict (Comisión de la Verdad 2022a; Hurtado 2023).

Approach to Resistance

The FARIP forms part of the tradition of left-wing guerrillas in the Colombian conflict, deriving from the lineage of groups such as the FARC and the ELN, both of which were characterized by hierarchical command structures, military tactics, terrorism, extortion, “revolutionary taxes” (i.e., extortion), kidnapping, and the direct or indirect control of valuable economic resources, both legal and illicit. The FARIP engaged in all of these activities to varying extents.

Relations & Alliances

The first affiliation of the FARIP was with the 34th Front of the Northwestern Block of the FARC, a cell that historically operated primarily in the departments of Chocó and Antioquia. Despite emerging as a breakoff from the FARC, both groups continued to act as allies, coordinating their efforts logistically and strategically (Comisión de la Verdad 2022b, 95).

The FARIP also maintained links to the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación: EPL), which was also active in the Colombian Pacific in the 1980s and 1990s. One report indicates that the two groups coordinated their extortion activities (“Alerta en Chocó” 1996). Several EPL dissident organizations active in the Pacific, such as the People’s Revolutionary Army (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo: ERP) and the Guevarista Revolutionary Army (Ejército Revolucionary Guevarista: ERG), also maintained relations with the FARIP. They may have also acted in coordination with the Afro-Colombian guerrilla Benkos Biohó, another Pacific-based organization with an ethnic basis (Arocha 1999).

Though there is no evidence of direct interaction between the two groups, the most direct point of reference to which the FARIP might be compared is Colombia’s first Indigenous guerrilla, a group known as the Quintín Lame Armed Movement (Movimiento Armado Quintín Lame: MAQL). Founded in 1984 and demobilized in 1991, the MAQL was the first modern Indigenous guerrilla group in Latin America (Ibeas Miguel 2009). Representing various Indigenous communities of southern Colombia, the MAQL operated throughout the department of Cauca, though in the interior highland zones and not in the Pacific lowlands of the department. Like the FARIP, the MAQL emerged as a “self-defense group” (autodefensa) in a context of Indigenous dispossession at the hands of both the Colombian state and other actors in the Colombian conflict, including left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, and narcotrafficking groups. 

Although both guerrilla groups have disappeared, the impulse towards autonomous self-defense felt by various Indigenous groups in different parts of Colombia has not—for the situation of violence against Colombia’s Indigenous population has not diminished (Hurtado 2023; Prensa Colombia 2020; Villa 2020). Today, groups like the Indigenous Guard (Guardia Indígena), organized by Indigenous civil society organizations such as the ONIC and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca: CRIC) constitute nonviolent alternatives of autonomous self-defense—and the best means that many Indigenous communities today have of defending themselves (Wallis 2019).

Works Cited (Chicago-style)

“Alerta en Chocó por guerrillera indígena.” 1996. El Tiempo. April 9.

Andrés Barahona, Carlos. 2011. “FARC harasses indigenous Colombians.” InfoSur. May 12.

Arocha, Jaime. 1999. Ombligados de Ananse: Hilos ancestrales y modernos en el Pacífico colombiano. Santa Fe de Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

Bonilla Montenegro, Julián Darío. 2021. “Participación de las Comunidades Epistémicas en la Conformación del Acuerdo de Víctimas en el Marco de Justicia Transicional entre el Gobierno Colombiano y las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.” PhD diss. University of Barcelona.

Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica. 2014. Región Caribe, Antioquia y Chocó. Nuevos escenarios de conflicto armado y violencia: Panorama posacuerdos con AUC. Bogotá: Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica.

———. 2022. La guerra vino de afuera. El bloque pacífico en el sur del Chocó: Una herida que aún no cierra. Informe N.º 14, Informes sobre el origen y la actuación de las agrupaciones paramilitares en las regiones. Bogotá: Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica.

Comisión de la Verdad. 2022a. Resistir no es aguantar: Violencias y daños contra los pueblos étnicos de Colombia. Tomo 9, Hay futuro si hay verdad: Informe final de la Comisión para el Esclarecimiento de la Verdad, la Convivencia y la No Repetición. Bogotá: Comisión de la Verdad.

———. 2022b. Colombia adentro: Relatos territoriales sobre el conflicto armado. Tomo 11, Hay futuro si hay verdad: Informe final de la Comisión para el Esclarecimiento de la Verdad, la Convivencia y la No Repetición. Bogotá: Comisión de la Verdad.

“‘El territorio fue la primera víctima del conflicto’: informe Comisión Interétnica.” 2022. El Espectador. June 17.

Hurtado, Pedro. 2023. “Guerillas Affect Colombian Indigenous Communities.” Díalogo Américas. April 21.

Ibeas Miguel, Juan Manuel. 2009. “Génesis y desarrollo de un movimiento armado indígena en Colombia.” América Latina Hoy 10: 37–48.

María González, Lina. 2013. “Los diálogos de La Habana no son un alivio para nosotros.” Desinformémonos. May 19.

Ortiz Lancheros, Carlos Alfonso. 2022. “Entre la fragilidad de la paz y la persistencia de la guerra: el caso de la subregión del Bajo Atrato, Chocó, Colombia.” Ratio Juris 17, no. 34 (January–June): 319–342.

Prensa Colombia. 2020. “¿Cómo viven el conflicto armado los pueblos indígenas en el Pacífico?” Colombia Informa. September 21.

Supúlveda López de Mesa, Rodgrido Iván. 2008. “‘Vivir las ideas, idear la vida’: Adversidad, suicidio y flexibilidad en el ethos de los emberá y wounaan de Riosucio, Chocó.” Antípoda 6 (January–June): 245–269.

Rangel Suárez, Alfredo. 2000. “Parasites and Predators: Guerrillas and the Insurrection Economy of Colombia.” Journal of International Affairs 53, no. 2 (Spring):  577–601.

“Un manifiesto para la paz en los territorios.” 2023. Colombia Visible. April 27.

Villa, William. 2020. “The end of the illusion for Indigenous peoples in Colombia.” Debates Indígenas. November 1.

Wallis, Hanna. 2019. “On patrol with the Indigenous Guards of Colombia.” Al Jazeera. December 23.

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