Upto the late 1980s, the United States military did not believe that a union between Colombia’s guerrilla groups and drug trafficking would take place, a declassified military document released by Brazilian newspaper Estadoa revealed on Tuesday.
Throughout that decade, the US military had become increasingly concerned by the activities of drug traffickers and guerrillas in Latin America. However, they also believed that “the connection [between drug trafficking and guerrillas] tended to fail because the ultimate goals were different.”
As far as the US believed in 1988, the extent of relations between guerrillas and drug traffickers would be one of mutual benefit. The drug trafficking groups were thought to be financially powerful and therefore used guerrilla groups such as M-19, or in Peru, The Shining Path, for protection.
While apparently unforeseen in the 1980s, drug trafficking helped the FARC to grow so big in the 1990s, that the Colombian state was about to collapse under the guerrilla pressure and the US felt it necessary to intervene and create Plan Colombia, a joint US-Colombian military strategy to combat the guerrillas and drug trafficking.
Despite this underestimation, nearly two decades later the FARC are reported to be responsible for 60% of drug trafficking from Colombia to the US with 50 guerrillas convicted of drugs charges by American courts.
According to the Sao Paulo based paper, the United States did not believe that groups such as the FARC and ELN would successfully be able to traffic drugs. At the time of the meeting between the different military commanders, Washington was more concerned with Panama, especially the links between drug trafficking and the then dictator General Manuel Antonio Noriega.
In spite of their established involvement in the drug trade, the FARC refuse to be called drugs traffickers.
In February, the leftist rebel group’s “foreign minister”, Rodrigo Granda, said that “we are not drug traffickers, we are an organization with clear political policy ideas and for this reason the government is obliged to sit down and talk with us. Colombia would not sit down with a group of drug traffickers.”