Emails Show Colombia’s FARC Intensifying Extortion Despite Peace Talks

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Emails from computers seized by Colombia’s security forces have revealed a massive FARC extortion plan targeting the mining and petroleum industries, indicating that despite ongoing peace negotiations the guerrilla group remains concerned about its finances.

The emails detail an extortion scheme developed by the leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC) Southern Bloc in May 2013 to solve the guerrilla group’s economic problems, reported El Tiempo. According to one document that was decrypted by police investigators, the Southern Bloc planned to take a 20 percent cut of gold, emerald, and ballast production. In addition, the rebels planned to extort oil, transport, and construction companies, charging the oil industry $5 for every barrel extracted and $1 million for every oil well drilled.

According to El Tiempo, investigators have stated that terrorist activity has intensified because of the extortion plan. In particular, they cited guerrilla attacks on oil infrastructure in the southern province of Putumayo. Authorities are also investigating whether other FARC divisions have adopted the Southern Bloc’s plan after alleged guerrillas burned several semi-trucks in the northwestern province of Antioquia on September 26. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Revelations of the Southern Bloc’s ambitious extortion plan come at a time when the guerrilla group should theoretically be winding down its operations. The FARC entered into peace negotiations with the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba in 2012, and in spite of setbacks both parties have reached agreements on land reform, political participation of the guerrillas, and the illegal drug trade.

The fact that Southern Bloc leaders met in May 2013 to develop a financial strategy suggests the FARC division is either concerned about its finances in case peace negotiations prove unsuccessful, or plans to continue its illegal activities regardless of the outcome in Havana.

SEE ALSO: 50 Years of the FARC: War, Drugs, and Revolution

The Southern Bloc is heavily involved in the illegal drug trade, overseeing coca cultivation and cocaine production near the border with Ecuador. The bloc did not initially have a representative at the negotiating table, and sources close to the division’s leaders told InSight Crime in 2013 that the Southern Bloc was not invested in the outcome of the peace talks.

The Southern Bloc is not the only bloc that has encountered financial difficulties. According to El Tiempo, communications seized from Eastern Bloc leaders have mentioned losing cash stashes and having to sell off cattle to make ends meet. 

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