Officials inspect the seized marijuana

The arrest of a Colombian Army major with 79 kilos of marijuana, following the discovery of another shipment of the drug on a military plane, points to the existence of a marijuana trafficking ring run by corrupt elements of the armed forces.

According to El Espectador, Major Edinson Javier Garcia was detained at a checkpoint while traveling on the Pan-American Highway in the western province of Valle del Cauca on December 18. Upon searching his vehicle, officials found seven large packages of marijuana, 79 kilos in total.

In a statement to the press, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said that a criminal investigation had been opened into the incident, and that Garcia had been stripped of his rank.

Prosecutors say that the incident is linked to the seizure of 29 kilos of marijuana on a military plane in Cauca province on December 13, when six soldiers were arrested.

InSight Crime Analysis

The possibility that there is a drug cartel within the Colombian Army severely undermines the institution. While the first seizure could be considered as a one-off, the arrest of a commissioned officer may point to the existence of a more organized trafficking ring. If Garcia, who was reportedly nearing a promotion to lieutenant colonel, was actively involved in selling or transporting the drug, it is not improbable that other high ranking military officials had some knowledge of the criminal venture.

Garcia's arrest comes at a sensitive time for the reputation of the Colombian armed forces. Military involvement in drug trafficking is under scrutiny after a former head of the army's intelligence agency was convicted in early December of drug ties and sentenced to 13 years in prison. Ex-intelligence chief Pauselino Latorre previously headed the 17th Brigade, the same division that those arrested in the December 13 incident belonged to.