Colombia’s FARC rebels on Thursday were accused of hiding weapons from a UN-observed disarmament program after the military found a major weapons cache in the country’s southern jungles.
According to Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas, the weapons cache found in the Putumayo province belonged to the demobilized 48th front of the FARC that is currently in a demobilization, disarmament and reintegration program after a 52-year war with the state.
The minister claimed the find weeks after the FARC had surrendered a list of weapons caches to United Nations observers, who are coordinating the logistical operations to pick up these weapons.
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Shortly after, conservative US news network Fox News cited a Colombian intelligence official, who claimed the FARC was hiding weapons, and had not included anti-aircraft missiles in their arms inventory, a potentially major breach of the peace process.
This was not confirmed by the defense minister, who made no indication the weapons cache had not been registered with the UN.
The guerrilla group said the military was falsely accusing its former enemy on the battlefield of foul play.
“There are 900 weapons caches ready to be picked up together with the UN. This timetable will be delayed because of the government’s lack of compliance,” FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, a.k.a. “Timochenko” said on Twitter.
The FARC leader implied the military could be delaying the coordinated recollection of weapons “with the intention of making 900 hits which will give them promotions, vacations and ammunition for the enemies of peace.”
The United Nations did not immediately respond to media requests to either confirm or deny the confiscated weapons had been registered by the FARC.
If the weapons prove to be unregistered, the guerrillas might be trying to keep weapons as a security policy in a similar way paramilitary group AUC did when agreeing to peace with former President Alvaro Uribe.
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However, if Military Intelligence is making false claims on US national television without the minister’s or the military leadership’s consent, it would add to evidence that elements within the military are trying to intentionally sabotage the peace process.
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The military has come under fire for its allegedly slow and inefficient entry into abandoned FARC territory, effectively creating a power vacuum that has spurred post-FARC violence.
Meanwhile, the FARC has been resistant in surrendering its full membership list, indicating that the guerrillas are not voluntarily complying with DDR agreements made in the peace process.
Either way, the three-party monitoring and verification commission that is comprised of the government, the UN and the FARC, have yet another potentially explosive issue to deal with in a peace process that has been chaotic at best.
Many of the camps where FARC guerrillas were supposed to begin demobilizing in December are still not ready and, in spite of a mutual commitment to the 180-day disarmament deadline that ends on June 1, the delays could in the worst case scenario result in the UN’s mandate running out of time while the FARC is only partly disarmed.