E-mails: FARC Planned to Buy Illicit Arms from Neighbors

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On Saturday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos released a series of intercepted emails between leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in which they communicated plans to purchase black market weapons from other countries in the region.

According to El Colombiano, the email was sent from the computer of guerrilla leader Víctor Julio Suarez Rojas, alias “Mono Jojoy,” which was captured after his death last September in a military campaign.

Suarez allegedly wrote about his organization’s efforts to purchase weapons on the country’s border with Ecuador, and mentioned the borders with Venezuela and Brazil as sources of ammunition.

Citing the emails in a speech on economic development, Santos called them “an indicator of how important it is to have good relations with one’s neighbors,” going on to praise the neighboring governments for recent border security efforts.

The praise comes just five months before Venezuela is set to open a Kalashnikov rifle factory with the assistance of Russian arms company Rosoboronexport. According to the Colombian daily El Espectador, production will start in May 2011, and the factory will produce between 20,000 and 30,000 rifles per year.

Because the rifle’s relatively low cost, durability and ease of use make it a weapon of choice for insurgencies and criminal gangs across the globe, the deal has many analysts worried that some of the weapons could fuel the conflict in Colombia. According to a 2003 study published by the RAND Corporation, “Although there is no definitive evidence at this point that links the administration of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to a deliberate policy of arming Colombia’s guerrillas, it is possible that sympathetic individual members of the Venezuelan military have supplied both weapons and ammunition [to the guerrillas].”

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