Car Bomb a Hint that Colombia’s Guerrilla Tactics Spreading to Ecuador

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Authorities are blaming FARC dissidents for a car bomb near the Colombia-Ecuador border, a sign that former rebels may be looking to expand their presence in this porous border region.

The bomb, which exploded January 27 in front of a police station in the strategic port town of San Lorenzo in Ecuador’s coastal Esmeraldas province, injured 28, El Universo reported.

Ecuador officials said the attack was carried out by dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), El Universo reported January 29.

Shortly after, Colombia Attorney General Néstor Martínez also linked the car bombing to a “FARC dissident of Ecuadorean origin, alias ‘Guacho,'” El Universo reported separately.

SEE ALSO: FARC News and Profile

Officials in Ecuador declared a state of emergency in San Lorenzo after the explosion, and have since reinforced security along the country’s northern border with Colombia, according to two Defense Ministry press releases.

The FARC have long had a presence in Ecuador, and the guerrillas’ 48th Front used northern Ecuador as a key logistical center for the rebels’ Southern Bloc in the past.

InSight Crime Analysis

The authorities’ conclusion seems quick but correct: a car bomb, aimed at a police station is the rebels’, or in this case, former rebels’ modus operandi.

Ecuador has long served as a transshipment nation for cocaine trafficking given its geographic location between Colombia and Peru, two of the world’s main coca-producing countries. But recent multi-ton cocaine seizures and the arrest of Washington Prado Álava, alias “Gerard” or “Gerald,” — often referred to as Ecuador’s “Pablo Escobar” — suggest that the country’s role in the drug trade is evolving.

With Colombia’s criminal world fragmented and criminal economies now up for grabs following the FARC’s demobilization, the recent violence along the Colombia-Ecuador border suggests that FARC dissidents are trying to take hold of this strategic border region in an effort to solidify their control over the cross-border drug trade.

SEE ALSO: Ecuador News and Profile

Following the demobilization of the FARC in 2017, dissident members of the guerrilla group started to form criminal groups in Ecuador to continue with illegal activities previously controlled by the rebel group, primarily drug trafficking. The dismantling of a drug lab along the Colombia-Ecuador border in June 2017 provided further evidence that dissident rebels were maintaining drug trafficking activities in the border region.

Expect violence like this to continue. Guacho, the FARC dissident allegedly behind the car bomb, has been linked to other bloody confrontations in areas strategic to the cocaine trade in the past.

*This article was written with assistance from Sergio Saffon.

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