“Megateo,” the leader of a dissident faction of the officially demobilized EPL and heavily involved in drug trafficking in the northeast of Colombia, said he is interested in joining peace talks currently held with the FARC.
In an interview published in weekly Semana Sunday, the guerrilla-turned-drug lord admitted to being involved in the drug trade, kidnapping and extortion. The money coming from these criminal activities however, is “a way to finance the war” against the state, Megateo said while not hiding two massive gold rings, one encrusted with diamonds, the other with emeralds.
The 37-year old Victor Ramon Navarro, Megateo’s real name, has been with the EPL since he was a child and was no older than 15 when his rebel group officially demobilized in 1991. Since then, he has become one of the main players in the drug trade in the northeastern Catatumbo region, government and analysts claim alike.
In the interview, the EPL leader confirmed commanding “between 70 and 100” fighters under the name of the former EPL’s Libardo Toro front.
However, Megateo rejected being called a “narco-guerrilla,” claiming that term was “slanderous.”
The EPL commander additionally rejected being an irrelevant player in Colombia’s armed conflict; “If we were irrelevant and the organization wasn’t vigorous, why would there be nine billion pesos [or 4.7 million dollars] on my head?” asked Megateo rhetorically.
In spite of admitting to drug trafficking and extortion, the EPL commander insisted on being an insurgent and willing to talk to the government.
“In order to have peace, all leftist organizations must be taken into account,” said Megateo about ongoing peace talks with Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, in Cuba.
“I wish that in these accords the ELN [, Colombia’s second largest rebel group,] and EPL were [involved] to jointly come up with proposals. We don’t want to hide anything and we would like an open dialogue,” the EPL leader added.