Author Biography

Thomas Cook is currently an analyst with Global Defense Technology and Systems and works in the field of Counterterrorism. Mr. Cook received a Bachelor's of Arts in Political Science and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master's of Science in Intelligence Management from Henley Putnam University. He currently resides in Northern Virginia and can be reached at: tcook08@gmail.com.



Subject Area Keywords

Gangs and criminal organizations, Governance and rule of law, Latin America, Narcotics trafficking, Small wars and insurgencies, South America


The FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) transformed from a traditional guerrilla group into a full-fledged insurgency because of its ability to effectively convert the proceeds derived from illegal narcotic trafficking into operational funds. Those financial capabilities allowed the FARC to challenge government authority in large swathes of the Colombian state. The FARC moved into the drug trade, initially controlling production territory and subsequently engaging in trafficking, which allowed the organization to increase its war-fighting capabilities. This paper only scratches the surface of the mechanism by which the FARC utilized its coca revenue in order to fund its community reinvestment programs, engage in large scale military buildup, and buy political support throughout the region. The exploration of the financial side of the FARC adds to our understanding of how insurgencies become successful. Based on open source information, Threat Finance and financial investigative techniques are underutilized in foreign policy, law enforcement, and intelligence. The critical role played by financing in the rise of the FARC suggests that Threat Finance efforts can be most effective when used to track terrorist and criminal networks. American law enforcement and intelligence agencies should be given bigger budgets and tasked earlier to shut down or disrupt financial networks of foreign insurgencies, such as the FARC.