According to the ‘rebels-turned-narcos’ premise, increasing involvement in the illicit drug industry causes insurgent groups to lose sight of their political aims, as they shift their focus to profit-making. The (former) Colombian rebel group, the FARC-EP, became a paragon for this idea.

Drawing on primary research, we argue that the FARC-EP’s involvement in the illicit drug economy was itself political. Their involvement included governance activities, which are by their very nature political. Furthermore, these activities formed part of the FARC-EP’s political project, aimed at ensuring the reproduction of the peasant smallholder economy. Our argument challenges the rebels-turned-narcos premise more broadly by showing why involvement in the illicit drug economy, on its own, is insufficient evidence to posit the depoliticisation of an insurgent group.

Citation: José Antonio Gutiérrez D. & Frances Thomson (2020) Rebels-Turned-Narcos? The FARC-EP’s Political  Involvement in Colombia’s Cocaine Economy, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, DOI: 10.1080/1057610X.2020.1793456

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