Military dismantles 9 coca production plants in northeast Colombia

(Photo: Colprensa)

A military campaign in northeastern Colombia led to the closure of nine hidden factories used for the production of cocaine paste which government troops claim were run by ELN and FARC rebels.

Troops from the National Army’s Second Division deployed in the Norte de Santander state, dismantled five plants used in the production of cocaine in the municipalities of El Tarra and Teorama which are suspected to have been run by Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group ELN.

The troops discovered materials and equipment used to produce cocaine on a huge scale including approximately 1925 kilos of chopped coca leaves , 490 gallons of gasoline, 410 gallons of coca in process, 310 kilos of cement, 300 kilos of fertilizer and empty cans and scythes.

A further bust was made in the municipality of Tibu, also located in the war-torn region of Catatumbo, where a further four suspected processing labs were found.

These labs, suspected to be run by guerrilla group FARC, contained  1,385 kilos of chopped coca leaf, 800 kilos of fertilizer , 660 gallons of coca syrup , 550 gallons of coca in process,  285 gallons of gasoline, 200 kilos of cement, craft colanders, scales and shovels.

The FARC is Colombia’s oldest rebel group and one of the longest surviving pioneers of drug trafficking activities since the 1970s. Drug trafficking has long fueled the guerrillas’ war against the state.

As part of the same operation an illegal warehouse with 3125 kilos of coca plant seeds allegedly belonging to Front 33 of the FARC was found in Campo tres, Tibu,  along with a seedbed with 10,000 coca plants in El Carmen, which has been attributed to the Camilo Torres Restrepo front ELN brigade.

The Catatumbo region is located in the northeast of Colombia on the border with Venezuela.

The area is a hotbed of the FARC and the alleged location of the guerrilla group’s supreme leader, “Timochenko.”

Catatumbo is also the home of rebel-turned drug trafficking group EPL which controls a large portion of the drug trafficking routes to Venezuela in that area.

Local police authorities have argued that said that an alliance is in place between the FARC, ELN, EPL, and criminal gangs to handle the drug business in Norte de Santander and surrounding areas in all parts of the process from crop production to final sale.

MORE: Colombia cocaine production

Government figures report a rise in coca production in the area of Norte de Santander since 2010, with roughly 6345 hectares of land being used to grow coca plants in 2013.

According to experts the coca leaf arrived in Catatumbo at the beginning of the 1980s with expansion of illicit crop growth seen all around the country.

It is suggested that Farc supported the initiative as a means of escaping poverty for the empoverished farmers who were unable to sell their products due to a lack of adequate infrastructure and roads in the area.



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