By Richard McColl
An official report by the Colombian Attorney General’s Office has revealed that dissident FARC guerrillas are in control of much of the country’s coca growing regions.
In total, the number of dissidents, formerly in the rank and file of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is believed to be around 500, although the number presented by the Attorney General is disputed by the Colombian Armed Forces, who say it is actually close to 700.
While the FARC officially signed a peace accord with the Colombian government in 2016 and began demobilizing and reintegrating into society in 2017, various dissident groups located in the traditionally conflictive coca growing regions of Meta, Cauca, Caquetá, Valle and Guaviare have gone rogue as criminal gangs looking to control strategic corridors into the neighboring countries of Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela for the transhipment of cocaine.
“If we go over some of the FARC’s history, they have always been present in this corridor of the Farallones and in the municipalities of Jamundí and Cali in Valle,” said Col. Pablo José Blanco, commander of the third army brigade located in this region of southwestern Colombia, to El País newspaper.
Homicides have increased in 25 of the 48 municipalities where FARC dissidents are active.
The Attorney General’s Office has outlined that what was formerly the FARC’s “First Front” is now the largest and most powerful dissident group which is run by aliases ‘Iván Mordisco’ and ‘Gentil Duarte’. With an estimated 205 men under their command, this group is located in the towns of Calamar, El Retorno and Miraflores in Guaviare, La Pradera in Amazonas and Taraira in Vaupés. From here, they are trying to control huge swathes of coca cultivations which are believed to cover 7,102 hectares, according to the Integrated Monitoring System for Illicit Crops, or SIMCI, part of the UN Office on drugs and Crime.
Perhaps illustrating the complexities of the problem, on Oct. 8, seven coca farmers were killed in a confrontation with the police and army in Tumaco, Nariño on the Colombian pacific coast. It is believed that here, in the region around this strategic port, there are more than 20 small dissident groups angling to control the lucrative coca trade and that the government’s proposal to manually eradicate coca and promote substitute crops is more complicated than it seems.
There are those who do not believe that the FARC has ever ceased their role in coca production and commercialization, despite this being a key point on the peace accord’s agenda.
“What cannot happen is that the FARC becomes a legal political party, and we hope this happens, but it leaves behind a strategic rear-guard which is narco-military and controlled by the dissidence,” said presidential candidate and former vice president German Vargas Lleras in an interview with Caracol TV on Tuesday.