The country’s war crimes tribunal issued an arrest warrant for the former commander of the elite Teofilo Forero guerrilla unit in April, almost a year after El Paisa went into hiding with the FARC’s former political chief, “Ivan Marquez.”
“People of San Vicente and other municipalities such as El Doncello and Puerto Rico traveled there to pay their fee, which has always been charged, it has never stopped,” one anonymous source said.
Many approached by the radio station, however, remain silent and walked away on hearing the first mention of El Paisa, reported Caracol.
One person who would not remain quiet is Mayor Humberto Sanchez, who is controversial because of his alleged corruption practices and stigmatization of local community leaders who were subsequently assassinated.
According to Sanchez, who once was kidnapped by El Paisa, the former FARC leader has taken up a leadership role in both dissident FARC factions and criminal gangs, and is extorting oil company Emerald Energy.
The mayor also said that the FARC members in the reintegration camp “don’t lift a finger without his order.”
The 84 guerrillas who reportedly remain in the reintegration camp — most of them left — tell contradictory stories about the former FARC leader, but many confirmed they are still in touch with their former reintegration chief.
We surrendered our weapons and he obviously continues to be the [reintegration camp] chief. It was him who started all the projects, it was him who found friends, and with the friends the ideas started coming, the fish farm, the tourism.
According to one anonymous former guerrilla, El Paisa delivered him a note stressing that “it’s important to remain committed to the boys’ reintegration.”
Whether the former FARC leader joined the dissident groups is no common knowledge among the demobilized guerrillas.
“There’s a 50% change he didn’t and a 50% chance he did,” one FARC member in Miravalle told Caracol. “The thing is that he doesn’t have any other alternative.”