Andean Abyss: Nation Hostage to the FARC

Insurgencies, like governments, need resources to operate, but the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the world’s leftist movements largely on their own. In their 2010 book about Colombian hostages, journalists Victoria Bruce, Karin Hayes, and Jorge Enrique Botero describe how Colombia’s revolutionary FARC insurgency turned to the drug trade for financing—contributing by the mid-1990s both to its development of a kidnapping industry and to the rise of the autodefensas that later merged into the FARC’s right-wing AUC enemy:

The FARC … controlled many of the coca-growing regions in central and southern Colombia, while the cartels managed much of the cocaine production and trafficking. The guerrillas operated by taxing the cartels and drug producers for protection and services. … This economic alliance began to collapse when the leaders of the cartels … began investing their newfound wealth in property, primarily large cattle ranches which placed them firmly in the ranks of the guerrillas’ traditional enemy—the landowning elite. … In turn, the guerrillas began a policy of kidnapping and extortion of the cartel members. For protection and retaliation, the drug lords organized and financed their own paramilitary armies. – Hostage Nation: Colombia’s Guerrilla Army and the Failed War on Drugs, p.50


Map from official Colombian sources showing intensity of FARC guerrilla activity during the period covered by the game. Western Meta and Caquetá Departments are a hotbed containing the sites of famous captures of both Colombian presidential candidate Betancourt and of three US DoD contractors.

Lady FARC guerrillas pose during peace talks with the Government in the demilitarized zone of western-Meta/Caquetá, not far from the locales of the later Betancourt and US contractor seizures.

FARC Kidnapping, Cartels and Government Victims, and AUC Growth

The FARC held hundreds of hostages at a time—a large-scale ransoming enterprise for them and a tragedy for the country that developed into a political issue and cause of hatred for the guerrillas. Andean Abyss depicts the enterprise through a kidnapping “special activity” that the FARC faction may add to its terror operations. It also depicts the impact of FARC hostage-taking on politics and military affairs through a series of event cards.

In the game, FARC can use underground Guerrillas (red cylinders) to terrorize local populations into opposing the Colombian government. If the terrorized region has a drug cartels base (green disc) or is a city or line of communications—and if FARC guerrillas outnumber local police (light blue cubes)—FARC may kidnap as well to forcibly transfer a die roll’s worth of resources (or a drug shipment) in ransom from the Cartels or Government faction to FARC. As reaction to FARC kidnapping historically contributed to growth of the right-wing “paramilitaries”, a particularly costly kidnapping (a die roll of “6”) mobilizes a local AUC guerrilla unit or base.

Defense Against Kidnapping

To avoid a grievous drain of resources from the counterinsurgency, the Government will have to protect the populace from FARC kidnappers with police patrols of the country’s roads and cities. The Cartels often can better afford the drain, but it may at some point have to turn on the FARC parasite, relocate to FARC-free areas, or just pay off the FARC player. The latter option illustrates how Andean Abyss explores the multifaceted relations among the contenders for control of 1990s Colombia through varied avenues for player diplomacy.

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Andean Abyss on Vassal: Terror in FARC’s Meta stronghold includes kidnapping from a Cartels base; nearby, FARC has infiltrated the urban area of Neiva, outgunning the police to kidnap off the Government.


Andean Abyss Kidnapping

Andean Abyss playtest cards depicting major historical events surrounding FARC hostage-taking.