Colombian rebel group FARC has made a number of alliances with criminal groups, including former enemies, in order to protect joint interests in illegal activities like drug trafficking or illegal mining, according to NGO Fundacion Ideas para la Paz (FIP). So who is trafficking what and where?
The leftist rebels have categorically denied affiliations with “structures of state terror”, analysts have agreed that individual FARC units do work together with groups like “Los Urabeños” and “Los Rastrojos” in what officials have called a “deadly cocktail.”
Reports prepared by the International Crisis Group, the former National Commission for Reparations and Reconciliation (CNRR) or the OAS, have described the shaping of such alliances, and were compiled by the FIP.
The majority of the joint ventures were allegedly created after 2006, when paramilitary organization AUC was demobilized and groups emerging from the paramilitary organization took over the AUC’s drug trafficking routes. At the same time, the FARC was under heavy military pressure, possibly forging more pragmatical rather than ideological partnerships.
These are the regions where the local FARC units are allegedly collaborating with criminal organizations.
The authorities reported that the drug trade in this part of the country is in the hands of a criminal alliance between FARC’s fronts number 6, 30 and 57 along the Pacific Coast, and drug trafficking organization “Los Rastrojos” that is particularly strong in the southwest of the country. In the area around Tumaco, a town in the far southwest corner of the country, the FARC allegedly have integrated former members of the Rastrojos.
Northwest Colombia (Uraba / Nudo de Paramillo)
In 2013 and 2014, the Urabeños and the FARC’s 5th and the 18th fronts formed alliances over drug-trafficking operations: FARC focused on the cultivation of coca leaves and its primary processing in the Bajo Cauca region. The Urabeños were responsible for crystallization of cocaine and sending the cocaine to and over the Caribbean.
Caribbean Coast (Cesar / La Guajira)
In Cesar and La Guajira, the FARC’s 59th front allegedly shares illegal coca plantations with both the Urabeños and the Rastrojos.
Venezuelan border (Catatumbo)
The FARC’s 33rd front, active along the Venezuelan border in the Catatumbo region, allegedly works together with “Los Rastrojos” to secure both organizations’ interest in the local drug trafficking routes to Venezuela. Other important players in this area are the ELN guerrilla group and the EPL, a drug trafficking organization led by former rebel “Megateo.”
Ecuadorean border (Putumayo)
In the southern state of Putumayo, the FARC’s 48th front is thought to traditionally have links with different local criminal structures. The guerrillas and the Rostrojos have seemingly agreed a non-aggression pact following years of bloody combat.
Central Colombia (Meta / Guaviare)
The FARC 7th front, active in a large area covering the south of the Meta state and the northern part of the Guaviare state, is alleged to deliver drugs to groups that used to be long to ERPAC, a neo-paramilitary group that split in two after a failed attempt to demobilize in 2011. These drugs are subsequently taken to Venezuela.