Arrest of FARC Gunrunner Points to Ecuador’s Illicit Arms Trade

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The capture of a FARC operative who obtained arms for the guerrilla group in Ecuador is the latest sign that the country is increasing cooperation with authorities in neighboring Colombia to crack down on rebel activity in its territory.

Working with Colombian intelligence, Ecuadorean police arrested Edilson Castro Lopez, alias “Chicanero” (pictured) near Quito on August 4. Chicanero is accused of managing arms purchases for the Joint Western Command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). According to El Tiempo, he oversaw arms trafficking operations through at least 175 points along the Ecuador-Colombia border.

He is believed to have orchestrated a recent shipment of 78 firearms destined for the FARC’s 6th Front in the southwestern province of Cauca, which was seized on July 27.

In addition to serving as a gunrunner for the guerrillas, officials claim that Chicanero is an explosives expert and has trained members of the FARC’s tactical units in manufacturing homemade bombs and landmines.

Chicanero was reportedly in Ecuador to undergo surgery on his knee, due to an injury which he received in a firefight with the Colombian military in 2005.

InSight Crime Analysis

The arrest of Chicanero is the latest sign of the changing security relationship between Ecuador and Colombia. While relations between the two have historically been rocky due to the FARC’s use of Ecuador as a safe haven, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has begun to crack down on guerrilla presence in the country. In January Correa sent 10,000 additional troops to the border, and Ecuadorean authorities have captured a number of high-level Colombian guerrillas this year.

This increased cooperation is not limited to arrests. On August 9, the two countries conducted a joint military raid on the Colombian border, seizing seven cocaine processing labs.

Still, the major challenge for both countries will be reining in arms trafficking. As Chicanero’s case demonstrates, Ecuador acts as a major source of weapons for armed groups in Colombia.

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