Arms Seizure Underscores FARC-Rastrojos Alliance in Southwest Colombia

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Police seized a massive arsenal of weapons in southwest Colombia that they say was obtained as part of a deal between the FARC guerrillas and the Rastrojos drug gang, underscoring the alliance between the two organizations.

Colombia’s police intelligence branch Dijin discovered a van in the city of Cali containing some 160 rifles — including AK-47s and M16s –, four grenade launchers, 25 handguns and over 6,000 rounds of ammunition, among other weapons and communications equipment.

The vast arsenal was apparently heading to the nearby department of Cauca, where it would have formed part of a narcotics-for-guns deal between the 6th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Rastrojos, reported El Espectador.

National police chief General Oscar Naranjo stated, “this is one of the most important blows in recent months against arms trafficking to terrorist groups and criminal gangs.”

InSight Crime Analysis

This latest seizure provides more evidence of an alliance between the FARC and the Rastrojos in Colombia’s southwest. The two groups have been known to cooperate in other parts of the country, but as recently as 2011 they appeared to be fighting each other in Cauca. This dynamic has now changed, and earlier this year the navy discovered 1.5 tons of cocaine allegedly belonging to the two groups in the department of Nariño.

In the prototype example of a deal between “criminal bands” (BACRIM) and guerrillas in southwest Colombia, the Rastrojos and the National Liberation Army (ELN) consolidated a partnership in the region in 2006.

As InSight Crime has reported, ideological differences between the BACRIMs, which grew out of the paramilitaries, and their old enemies the guerrillas are largely irrelevant in the face of business deals between groups. In this arms seizure, for example, the FARC would have provided the narcotics — either coca or marijuana, both of which the 6th Front cultivates on an enormous scale — and the Rastrojos the arms and cash.

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