Nijmeijer with FARC boss "Ivan Marquez"

The arrival of Dutch FARC fighter Tanja Nijmeijer in Cuba for peace talks with the Colombian government appears to be part of a broader attempt by the rebels to project a modern, international image.

Thirty-four-year-old Nijmeijer arrived in Havana on November 5, after reportedly flying from the town of Cucuta, on Colombia's border with Venezuela. A video uploaded to YouTube by FARC-linked press agency Anncol showed Nijmeijer arriving in the airport, where she is greeted by Luciano Marin, alias "Ivan Marquez," and Seuxis Hernandez Solarte, alias "Jesus Santrich," members of the rebels’ negotiation team. 

In a telephone interview with Colombian television station RCN, Revolutionary Armed Force of Colombia (FARC) top commander Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry, alias "Timochenko,” did not specify what role Nijmeijer would play once the rebels officially begin a second round of peace talks in the Cuban capital. Nijmeijer has worked as a translator for the FARC, as well as taking part in military operations. 

Nijmeijer is something of a celebrity in Colombia’s civil conflict and her story has been documented by various journalists over the years. She moved to Colombia in 1998 to work as an English teacher and later voluntarily joined the FARC. She had a romantic relationship with the nephew of the FARC’s military commander, Victor Julio Suarez Rojas, alias "Mono Jojoy." Her closeness with Mono Jojoy reportedly later protected her from being severely punished by the rebels after Colombia’s largest newspaper El Tiempo published extracts of her diary in 2007, which described her disillusionment with the guerrillas.

She is wanted in Colombia for rebellion and in the United States on terrorism charges for her role in the kidnapping of three US contractors in 2003. Interpol has issued a request for her capture. 

InSight Crime Analysis 

On October 15, the FARC publicly announced that they had requested Nijmeijer’s presence at the peace talks. It is not clear whether Nijmeijer formed part of the rebels’ initial list of negotiators, or whether she was a last-minute addition. The fact that she was able to move relatively smoothly to Cuba will likely contribute to building trust between the two negotiating teams. It also stands in contrast to the difficulty that the FARC have faced in getting another of their named negotiators to Cuba: political ideologue Ricardo Palmera, alias “Simon Trinidad,” who is currently serving a 60-year prison sentence in the United States.

Nijmeijer’s European background makes her stand out among the FARC’s thousands of female recruits (about a third of the guerrilla force is thought to be female). As one of the FARC’s few non-Colombian members, she has long been an object of fascination in Colombia, and has been the subject of unofficial biographies, TV specials, magazine covers, and a documentary. Sending her to Cuba looks like an attempt by the FARC to bring attention to their celebrity fighter, and emphasize the supposed international appeal of their cause. 

There are other indications that Nijmeijer’s deployment to Cuba was done out of concern over the FARC’s image. A video recently uploaded to a YouTube account (see below) shows Nijmeijer playing guitar, singing and rapping about her experience as a rebel fighter. She is accompanied by the musical trio who recorded a rap about the FARC’s expectations for the peace talks in early September.

In the song, Nijmeijer refers to Mono Jojoy’s death, implying that she lay in a ditch nearby during the air raid which killed the military commander.

She also makes reference to her appeal as a public face of the FARC, referring to herself as a “pretty girl” who decided to join the revolution.

The FARC have released several rebel-themed songs over the years, many of them in traditional Latin musical genres like vallenato and merengue (a more recently uploaded tune is a cumbia). The musical releases appear to be an attempt by the FARC to present a younger, more modern image of themselves, in contrast to the videos traditionally associated with the guerrillas, which depict older male leaders such as Timochenko sitting in a tent reading propaganda from a sheet of paper.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

The power of Colombia's elites is founded upon one of the most unequal divisions of land in the world. As of the early 21st century, one percent of landowners own more than half the country's agricultural land.1  Under Spanish rule, Colombia's agriculture was organized on the hacienda...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras is currently one of the most violent countries on the planet that is not at war. The violence is carried out by transnational criminal organizations, local drug trafficking groups, gangs and corrupt security forces, among other actors. Violence is the focal point for the international aid...

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Organized crime and the violence associated with it is the preeminent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean today. The region is currently home to six of the most violent countries in the world that are not at war. Four of those countries are in Central America...

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

In a new report based on extensive field research, InSight Crime and the Asociacion para una Sociedad mas Justa have traced how Honduras' two largest gangs, the MS13 and the Barrio 18, are evolving, and how their current modus operandi has resulted in staggering levels of violence...

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Transnational organized crime likes opportunities and little resistance. Bolivia currently provides both and finds itself at the heart of a new criminal dynamic that threatens national and citizen security in this landlocked Andean nation.

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Faced with the government's failure to rein in the criminals, communities across crime-besieged Mexico have been trying for years to organize effective civic resistance. Michoacan's vigilantes express the most extreme response by society to date, but other efforts have been less belligerent. In battle-torn cities along the...

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

If Uruguay's proposal to regulate the production, sale and distribution of marijuana is properly implemented and overcomes political and economic hurdles, it could be the most important drug regulation experiment in decades.