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

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

The United States -- which through its antinarcotics, judicial and police attaches was very familiar with the routes used for smuggling, and especially those used for people trafficking and understood that those traffickers are often one and the same -- greeted the new government of Elias Antonio...

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.

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 FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

Ricardo Mauricio Menesses Orellana liked horses, and the Pasaquina rodeo was a great opportunity to enjoy a party. He was joined at the event -- which was taking place in the heart of territory controlled by El Salvador's most powerful drug transport group, the Perrones -- by the...

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.