José Manuel Sierra Sabogal, alias ‘Zarco Aldinever’

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José Manuel Sierra Sabogal, alias “Zarco Aldinever,” is a former FARC commander who served with the 51st, 52nd, and 26th fronts in the departments of Meta, Cundinamarca, and Boyacá. He ultimately became one of the top commanders of the FARC’s Eastern Bloc. 

Zarco Aldinever has joined a new dissident force made up of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) commanders, including Luciano Marín, alias “Iván Márquez,” who announced their return to arms in August 2019.

History

Sierra Sabogal is a native of Villavicencio in the department of Meta. He joined the guerillas in 1990, when he was just 14 years old.

He began training at a camp known as “Hernando González Acosta,” founded in 1984 by Manuel Marulanda Vélez, alias “Tiro Fijo,” and Jorge Briceño, alias “Mono Jojoy.” At the camp, which schooled him in arms and ideological teachings, Zarco Aldinever earned the trust of Mono Jojoy.

In 1998, along with Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias “Romaña,” Zarco Aldinever participated in a large-scale kidnapping orchestrated by the FARC, which took place along a national highway that connects Bogotá and the Eastern Plains.

Zarco Aldinever’s ties to Mono Jojoy led to him become part of the FARC’s leadership. As commander of the infamous 53rd Front, he was in charge of the central Meta department, a FARC stronghold. He also had influence over a rural area south of the capital of Bogotá, where he was responsible for recruitment efforts and extortion.

After Mono JoyJoy’s death in 2010, Zarco Aldinever was seen as his successor within the Eastern Bloc. He also established a friendship with Hernán Darío Velásquez, alias “El Paisa,” and the pair worked together on the FARC’s cocaine trafficking operations. 

Zarco Aldinever took part in the peace process between the Colombian government that began with a peace agreement in 2016. He — along with Alberto Cruz Lobo, alias “Enrique Marulanda,” — was in charge of the Mesetas reintegration camp in Meta, where he oversaw the demobilization of 500 fighters. 

In late 2018, however, he left the reintegration camp, ending his participation in the peace process. About the same time, El Paisa also went missing. 

Zarco Aldinever later reappeared in a 2019 video announcing a new dissident force composed of ex-FARC leaders. A Colombian general speculated that Zarco Alidinever was operating in the Venezuelan state of Apure.

Criminal Activity

As the commander of various fronts in Meta, Zarco Aldinever was charged with taxing coca and cocaine production and controlling smuggling routes. He allegedly participated in the 1999 attack against the Army’s mobile base in Gutiérrez, Cundinamarca, which left 18 soldiers dead. He was also involved in the 2011 kidnapping and murder of college student Edson Paez Serna. 

Additionally, Zarco Aldinever has various criminal cases pending, including for extortion and assaults in the towns of Cabrera, Venecia and Gutiérrez and the rural areas of Sumapaz. He also has been charged with multiple attacks against public security forces in Meta and Cundinamarca.

Geography

During his time with the FARC, Zarco Aldinever tried to retake areas of Cundinamarca that the group lost control of in 2007. His base of operations was the border between the mountains of Sumapaz and the department of Meta. He also helped the group spread into the regions of Meta, Cundinamarca and Boyacá.

Allies and Enemies

Zarco Aldinever was a protege of Mono Jojoy and maintained close ties with him until his death. He commanded the Eastern Bloc with Jaime Alberto Parra Rodríguez, alias “Mauricio el Médico,” and was a close associate of El Paisa. 

In 2012, a criminal network was discovered in the Plains that included the FARC’s 53rd Front, Mexican drug traffickers, and allies of alias “Romaña.”

 Zarco Aldinever had ties to other guerrilla leaders, including Ferley Rondón Marín, alias “Robin,” who participated in various campaigns (El Billar in Caquetá, Puerto Rico in Meta and Algeciras in Huila) until he was killed in 2013. 

Zarco Aldinever also counted on longtime FARC fighter Jaime Aguilar Ramírez, alias “Dionisio Rayo,” an explosives expert and political advisor who was arrested in 2013.

Perspectives

Thanks to his experience with the Eastern Bloc, Zarco Aldinever stands to become a force for the ex-FARC Mafia in the Eastern Plains, although his former area of operations is currently controlled by other criminal groups. 

He has deep knowledge of the FARC’s drug trafficking operations and routes in the departments of Meta, Cundinamarca and Boyacá. Additionally, his long command within the FARC sets him up as a likely leader in the new dissident force. 

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