Colombia’s military is bribing demobilizing FARC guerrillas to leave the peace process and sell their arms if audio recordings obtained by conflict monitoring website Verdad Abierta are real.
If proven true, this would be a major attempt to sabotage the country’s ongoing peace process, in particular the transitional justice system that seeks to clarify the scores of human rights violations committed by both the guerrillas and the state.
The renowned website published transcripts of multiple recordings in which alleged members of the National Army’s 21st Infantry Brigade were offering incentives to guerrillas to abandon the peace process.
Instead the alleged military member offered full impunity in return for taking part in a regular demobilization program that does not require participation in a transitional justice system, and a program in which former guerrillas help dismantle drug trafficking rackets.
“It’s Carlos speaking, the commander, talking from the April 12 [military base]. Listen son, the benefits we offer are the following: you initially arrive here and will be offered food and shelter while your legal situation is being resolved. When I refer to the legal situation I mean that there will be no arrest warrants for rebellion, homicide, extortion, etc. Why? Because you will be taking part in the [Defense ministry demobilization program] GAHD, the “humanitarian service for demobilized,” which is a plan paid by the government. The state pays directly.
Alleged 21st Brigade member “Carlos”
According to Verdad Abierta, the same “Carlos” has also used social media to contact guerrillas who are demobilizing in Mesetas, a municipality in the coca-rich Meta province.
In a different recording, Carlos is heard saying that “if you bring more people this will benefit you accordingly. As in, if you bring two, three or four people, the demobilization plan will pay you for each person you deliver. The people are paid for each person they bring.”
The audio confirms accusations made by the FARC leadership that the military is purposely trying to sabotage the FARC’s participation in a transitional justice system, and local coca crop substitution and landmine removal programs.
The guerrilla leadership has claimed since February that the military is offering them incentives to demobilize outside the legal framework of the peace process.
Additionally, members of the military, dressed in civilian, illegally entered the FARC demobilization zone, according to the UN. According to the FARC this was done with the purpose of convincing FARC rebels to desert their ranks and sell their arms to soldiers.
Rebel chief “Aldinever Morantes,” who is demobilizing in Mesetas, told Verdad Abierta that “various [military] units have incited to demobilize through shenanigans and lies.”
These illegal incursions in FARC camps prohibited for members of the military allegedly stopped two weeks ago around the time UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez mentioned the military breach of protocol in a report to the Security Council.
The most frequent incidents concerned the exit of FARC-EP members from camps without proper coordination with the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, the entry of Colombian public security forces to areas near FARC-EP camps and the conduct of alleged political proselytism by FARC-EP members during movements outside of zones and points.
UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez
Nevertheless, the apparent bribery attempts have continued through social media and by phone with the help of guerrillas who already have accepted the military bribes and deserted, reported Verdad Abierta.
Two of those allegedly involved are former guerrillas “Alexis” and “Yurleni,” who reportedly deserted from the DDR camp in Mesetas in the second week of February.
“The  reintegration [program] is still in force, you know what I mean? If one demobilizes and they give you the guarantees, they give you clothing, education and healthcare. At this moment they allow family visits. Things are like that. Anyway, if you want to come, just say how and, well, we’ll pick you up.”
Deserted FARC guerrilla “Alexis”
The former guerrillas are using the inhumane circumstances in many of the demobilization camps — some not even at 10% of completion, according to the UN — to lure their comrades to demobilize outside the peace process under more luxurious circumstances.
I am good here, happy, because I don’t see how this peace is any good. How much time have we been there?! Like a month and a half and they’ve constructed nothing, they haven’t done anything. Where I am, I am well, my man.
Deserted FARC guerrilla “Alexis”
According to three different guerrillas interviewed by Verdad Abierta, they were offered $175 (COP500,000) for each guerrilla that abandons the peace process and reports at the 12th Brigade barracks in the town of Mesetas.
“They tell us that when we convert to become a political movement we won’t have the benefits offered by the government in the peace deal, that this is only while we are in the DDR zones, so the solution is to go where the other deserters are.
Demobilized guerrilla “Jean Carlo”
A guerrilla called “Rodrigo” said one of the deserters who is now in the 12th Brigade barracks in Granada, told him he would receive a monthly $215 (COP620,000), as well as housing and study, but that he had to help remove arms from the DDR camp and help convince other guerrillas to abandon the peace process.
According to Verdad Abierta, it is possible the guerrillas’ arms are sold by corrupt members of the 12th Brigade on the black market where FARC rifles would cost between $2,750 and $3,450 depending on the quality.
M-60 automatic weapons, among the FARC’s most powerful weapons, are worth between $27,500 and $34,500, Verdad Abierta reported.
The region around Mesetas is considered a high-risk area because, due to the military’s slow and inefficient incursion of FARC territory, paramilitary groups have effectively taken control in what used to be a FARC stronghold.
On Monday, alleged paramilitaries assassinated the second community leader in the region since the FARC peace deal came into effect.
The latest evidence further raises suspicion that members of the military continue to operate in collusion with the drug trafficking paramilitary groups they are supposed to combat and whose territorial expansion they were supposed to prevent.
The commander of the National Army, General Alberto Jose Mejia, has refused to talk to press ever since the peace process began on December 1. He has, however, talked to business leaders.
The military has refused to respond to the allegations and the evidence published by Verdad Abierta in spite of the website spending a week and a half trying to talk to numerous military commanders.