The FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) was founded in 1964 and is the oldest guerrilla movement in Latin America.
The FARC is often described as a Marxist organisation and its supporters profess revolutionary ideals, such as land reform and combating poverty. In practice, the FARC's current activities focus on cocaine dealing, kidnapping, extortion and violent attacks.
The FARC is on the blacklist of terrorist organisations compiled by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.
The rebels have abducted thousands of people in the hope of exchanging them for jailed FARC fighters. One of their most prominent hostages was the French-Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was freed in 2008 after six years in captivity.
Dutch woman Tanja Nijmeijer joined the FARC voluntarily in 2002. Initially she worked as an interpreter and translator, but she later became a guerrilla fighter.
In recent years, the rebels' power has declined dramatically. The FARC has been dealt a number of blows by the Colombian Army, with the backing of the United States. Growing numbers of guerrillas are deserting: of the estimated 27,000 militants who belonged at one point, there are now only around 7,000 left.
Human rights organisations are asking the FARC to enter into a dialogue, but so far the rebels have shown no willingness to lay down their arms, halt the kidnappings or free their hostages.
Over the past 24 hours, Radio Netherlands Worldwide has published parts of the extensive interview Botero did with Tanja Nijmeijer shortly before her camp was attacked by the Columbian army. In it, she says she misses the Netherlands, but does not want to be rescued. The Colombian journalist is convinced she is still alive.
Jorge Enrique Botero is working on a documentary about Tanja Nijmeijer. He has good contacts at the FARC, but an interview with the Dutch guerrillera took months to arrange. Eventually, members of the FARC took him into the jungle. After walking for 11 days, Botero finally reached the camp and met 'Holanda', as Tanja has been nicknamed by the FARC.
“There had been so much speculation about her, I almost believed I was facing a phantom. I had been told so many times that she was dead. At first I thought she was Colombian. She spoke Spanish with the accent of a person from the region of Caquetá, which is primarily inhabited by day workers. People who were forced to flee the violence in other parts of the country.”
In the interview with Botero, Nijmeijer openly discusses her support for the FARC. The journalist did not get the impression that Nijmeijer was under pressure from the guerrilla movement. After her diary was found in 2007, reports appeared in the media suggesting that Nijmeijer was being held against her will. However, Botero believes she was speaking “from the heart”.
“All those stories about her have been manipulated. So many things were made up. In particular, after her diary was found, in which she complained about some aspects of daily life in the guerrilla. This was intended to support the notion that she had in fact been abducted by the FARC, which is not born out by the facts.”
Botero interviewed Tanja Nijmeijer three weeks before the Colombian army attacked her camp. Senior FARC leader Mono Jojoy, who was also Nijmijer’s former commander, was killed in the attack. The attack was followed by widespread media speculation about her possible death.
“A few days after the attack I pulled out all the stops to find out whether she was still alive, and eventually I received confirmation that she was.”
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide