Colombia’s defense minister on Wednesday accused demobilizing FARC guerrillas of having surrendered coordinates of only two of the 900 weapon caches the rebels claim to have reported.
The minister did so weeks after the military claimed to have found a weapons cache in the southern Putumayo province, arsenal that was reported to UN observers, the FARC said.
Somebody’s not being honest
The claim raised suspicion the FARC had not surrendered the coordinates of all weapons caches. However, the alleged find was never confirmed by the three-party monitoring and verification commission that consists of UN, military and FARC representatives.
FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, a.k.a. “Timochenko,” claimed the cache was one of 900 it had reported to the UN and accused the military of using the cache to claim “false positives.” This was not confirmed by the UN.
Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas on Wednesday claimed it only had the coordinates of two weapons caches and would continue to look for allegedly unreported weapons caches.
While they cooperate with the surrender of coordinates, as the FARC has promised, these weapons will be surrendered to the UN as legal. If not, we will continue with our operations to seize illegal arms.
Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas
Villegas’ claim was also not confirmed by the UN.
What the UN says
UN Mission chief Jean Arnault told press at the end of March that “in the coming two or three days we will agree to a detailed timetable for this process with the FARC and the government.”
On April 5, Arnault told the UN Security Council that the UN mission had met with the FARC “to work on a detailed plan for systematic access to the caches, and in meetings this week the Colombian army has pledged its full cooperation with this endeavor.”
The UN chief said then it had already carried out several pilot operations together with the military and the FARC, making no indication the guerrillas had not complied with their obligated surrender of all their weapons.
The next step for the Mission is the collection of weapons and the destruction of unstable armament in a considerable number of arms and ammunition caches spread throughout vast areas of difficult access. Several such caches have already been visited and some explosives have been destroyed.
UN Mission chief Jean Arnault
While at the UN, Arnault made no statement on whether the FARC had effectively handed in the full list of their alleged 900 jungle weapon deposits.
The Mission met with the FARC today in Bogota to work on a detailed plan for systematic access to the caches, and in meetings this week the Colombian army has pledged its full cooperation with this endeavor.
UN Mission chief Jean Arnault
Twelve days later, the defense minister claimed the military found the weapons cache.
However, the seizure was never reported as an alleged violation of the FARC to the three-party verification and monitoring mission in charge of recovering the weapons caches.
Recovering 900 weapons and explosives caches from some of Colombia’s most remote and hostile territories is a logistical nightmare, particularly because illegal armed groups are equally interested in finding caches full of these free arms.
This is complicated by the apparent bickering between the military and the FARC, the parties that have been fighting each other for more than half a century.
Additionally, Villlegas in under tremendous pressure amid confirmed delays in the FARC’s demobilization and disarmament that fall under the government’s responsibility.
While Colombia’s peace process is five months old, none of the camps the guerrillas were supposed to demobilize and disarm in is ready.
Meanwhile, the military has been accused of trying to frustrate the process by offering bribes to guerrillas to abandon the process and has been criticized for failing to effectively provide security in former FARC territories.
The FARC on the other hand, has previously been resistant in surrendering the full list of members, also an obligation according to the November 24 peace deal.
When Colombia underwent its last DDR process, that with paramilitary umbrella organization AUC between 2003 and 2006, AUC founder Vicente Castaño allegedly ordered to keep some of the group’s arsenal as a security policy.