Colombia’s largest rebel group FARC may benefit from the recent killing of neo-paramilitary drug lord “Cuchillo,” newspaper El Espectador reported on Monday.
According to the newspaper, the death of Pedro Oliveiro Guerrero, alias Cuchillo, late last month made an end to the paramilitary rule of the underworld of Colombia’s eastern plains that started when the AUC took control of the region in the 1990s.
A police investigator told El Espectador that members of Cuchillo’s organization ERPAC have been meeting to assure a continuation of the drug trade, but have not been able to appoint a successor of their slain leader.
The FARC seem to benefit the most from this power vacuum in ERPAC, the newspaper wrote. Police sources estimate that some 600 of Cuchillo’s estimated 1,000-man army will integrate in the FARC’s 1st Front, active in the eastern department of Guaviare.
“We are on high alert, because if this happens, we will be facing a delicate situation because this front will go from having 200 or 300 men to almost a thousand and this will be a huge setback,” an anonymous senior police official involved in the operation against Cuchillo told the paper.
The possible merge does not come as as a surprise as ERPAC and the FARC, after years of heavy fighting, increasingly worked together in the years before Cuchillo’s death, El Espectador said.
“When Cuchillo came to the region he openly declared war to the FARC, which did not have the economic, military and personal strength of his organization, but later they ended up sharing routes and dividing territory. The regional boss was Cuchillo and the private armies of both merged,” the newspaper quoted an official.
The FARC’s 1st Front is part of the guerrilla’s eastern bloc and is held responsible for the captivity of most of the rebels’ hostages.