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Publication Date



UM campus only

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


International Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Bruce Bagley

Second Committee Member

William C. Smith

Third Committee Member

Ramon E. de Arrigunaga


There is little solid research that explores counterinsurgency practices against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), not only from the standpoint of what is being done, but, rather, what should be done based on past COIN successes. Notable works on counterinsurgency in Colombia include the research of Tom Marks, who focused on operational strategy and tactics; Kevin Self, who professes the importance of controlling territory in defeating the FARC, by addressing the social and institutional ills within Colombia itself; and Dennis Rempe, who notes US involvement in shaping Colombia's COIN strategy. Using a comparative case study model, this thesis provides an analysis of Colombia?s counterinsurgency (COIN) strategies and tactics through the lens of successful and unsuccessful COIN operations in Iraq, Algeria, Malaya, South Vietnam, Thailand, Algeria and El Salvador over the course of the 20th and early 21st centuries. After all, no matter how successful a COIN force is militarily, their accomplishments will ultimately be fruitless if the conditions which fuel insurgency remains present. This paper begins by providing the historical context for the conditions which shaped the Colombian social order, which led to the revolutionary movement. It then follows the growth of the FARC, examining that organization?s strengths and weaknesses. The FARC is contrasted by outlining recent COIN transformation efforts within the Colombian government, to include little acknowledged failures and successes, strengths and weaknesses. An important focus is placed on Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez? Democratic Security Policy as the model for Colombia?s current COIN efforts. After next examining various ongoing factors contributing to the Colombian insurgency?to include institutional failures, illicit funding and the problem of paramilitary groups?this thesis examines past COIN efforts by other governments. Finally, after applying lessons learned from thee past COIN efforts?cross-referencing historically successful and unsuccessful tactics with tactics used and not used by Bogota in its fight against the FARC?I provide recommendations to the government of Colombia (GOC) on how to improve its COIN efforts. Although it is important to look at this problem set from an external standpoint, we must still factor in internal factors that have limited Colombia?s ability to emerge victorious, such as allowing porous borders, airspace and coastlines; placing a priority on killing or capturing the enemy and not on engaging the population; and the primacy of military direction of counterinsurgency; disregard of basic human rights; an insufficient judiciary structure; failure to halt financial support mechanisms; and the lack of an outlet for political inclusion . From this vantage point, we will be able to see that these elements?when properly implemented?have proven successful over time and may enhance GOC success and ultimately result in victory over the insurgency that has plagued their country for 40+ years


Alfonso Cano; Raul Reyes; Insurgency; Civil War; Democratic Security Policy; Fundamentals Of Counterinsurgency; Paramilitaries; Internally Displaced People; Uribe; Pastrana; Revolutionary Armed Forces Of Colombia; F.A.R.C.; FARC; La Violencia; Plan Colombia; Conditions For Revolution; Despeje; A.U.C.; AUC; United Self Defense Forces Of Colombia; Manuel Marulanda; Colombian Military Transformation; Terrorism; Latin America; Colombia; Sureshot; Tirofijo; Zona De Despeje; The Utility Of Amnesty; Isolate The Conflict Area; Local Area Service; Establishing Civilian Security; Sufficient Force Levels; Bogota; Illicit Funding; Outlet For Change; Lack Of Development; Inequality; Institutional Failures; COIN