Colombian rebels appear to be increasing their recruitment of foreign nationals after an Ecuadorean was captured and a Panamanian surrendered to authorities.
An Ecuadorean boy, between 14 and 16, was captured by soldiers in the department of Guaviare after combat with the Seventh Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), El Tiempo newspaper reported. He said he had been recruited 18 months before and had been acting as part of the security rings around rebel positions. An Ecuadorean member of the FARC was also killed when the Colombian air force bombed the camp of Luis Edgar Devia Silva, alias “Raul Reyes,” two kilometers inside Ecuador, in March 2008.
Panamanian television interviewed a young man who had deserted the FARC in the Darien, the densely-jungled borderland between Colombia and Panama. He said that up to 60 Panamanians were in FARC ranks, most in the 57th Front which controls much of the Darien and exports drugs through both the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards.
There have also been confirmed reports of Venezuelans and Peruvians in rebel ranks, but the most famous foreigner in the FARC at the moment is the 32-year-old Dutch woman, Tanja Nijmeijer, alias “Alexandra,” (pictured above). She joined the FARC in 2002 and sprang to fame when her diary was found in 2007 in a rebel camp which had been overrun by the army. In the diary, she charted her frustration with the rebel movement and gave detailed account of life in the guerrillas, with occasionally shocking segments concerning promiscuity in the FARC. She recently released a video recording saying that she was in the FARC for life, until “victory or death.”
After the breakdown of peace talks in 2002, during which the then-president Andres Pastrana granted the FARC a 42,000 square kilometer safe haven, the guerrillas moved their rearguard areas to the frontiers, most especially those shared with Ecuador and Venezuela.
The Ecuadorean authorities have been working hard in the last two years to push FARC rebels out of their territory, and Venezuela has begun extraditing captured rebels back to Colombia. However, the border nations remain key rest and logistic areas for the FARC, and it is estimated that at least three of the FARC’s top commande structure, the seven-man Secretariat, are not on Colombian soil.
The recruitment of foreigners allows the FARC to deepen theior roots in other countries and in some cases move with less suspicion within Colombia.