FARC dissident leader “Guacho” has become a public enemy in both his home country Ecuador and Colombia after being accused of extreme violence in both countries.
Guacho, whose real name is Walter Arizala, was born in Esmeraldas, the Ecuadorean province that borders port town Tumaco in the southwest of Colombia. It is uncertain how old the former FARC mid-level commander is.
He reportedly joined the Colombian guerrillas in 2007 after being recruited by a guerrilla called “Tachuela.”
According to Ecuadorean authorities, he became one of the explosives experts of the FARC’s Daniel Aldana front, which demobilized near Tumaco last year.
Additionally, he helped manage the profitable drug trafficking routes of the former guerrilla units in the coca-rich area around the port town.
Throughout his guerrilla career, Guacho has only operated in Tumaco and the jungles on the Ecuadorean side of the border.
By the time he took part in the FARC’s 2016 ceasefire, Guacho had become a unit commander, he told RCN Noticias in 2017.
The mid-level commander initially agreed to take part in the peace process, he said, but lost confidence in both the government and his guerrilla superiors.
Guacho abandoned the peace process in late 2016 “not because we did not agree, but there was inequality between the mid-level commanders and the rank-and-file guerrillas.”
According to Guacho, “only the top-level commanders will benefit” from the deal between the FARC and the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos.
The FARC was divided not only because many of its members were totally absorbed by drug trafficking, but also because its militia structures or support networks in Tumaco had not been able to integrate and acted more like a criminal subcontracting structure. In addition, many fighters lost confidence in the government because of the death in combat in 2015 of Oscar Armando Sinisterra, a.k.a. “Oliver,” the third in command of this structure with great respect among the troops, especially because of his role in the attack on the Tumaco police station in 2012. Hence the name of the Oliver Sinisterra Front.
Fundacion Ideas para la Paz
Together with an estimated 80 other former FARC members, Guacho formed the Oliver Sinisterra Front, named after a local guerrilla commander who was killed in 2015.
Two rival guerrilla factions, the Gente del Orden and the Guerrillas Unidas del Pacifico, rearmed in the same region.
Analysts believe that the three groups now have more than 500 members and can count on the support of coca farmers who oppose the government’s attempts to reduce drug trafficking.
Guacho and his men “depend entirely on drug traffickers from the region and Mexican emissaries,” according to the Fundacion Ideas para la Paz, which is monitoring FARC dissident groups.