Authorities in Colombia have arrested a group of soldiers accused of providing arms to the FARC, raising questions over both the sources of the guerrilla group’s weapons and the extent of the problem in the armed forces.
On April 29, Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office announced the detention of seven soldiers and six civilians for allegedly smuggling weapons and military supplies to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), criminal organizations known as BACRIM (from the Spanish for criminal bands), and common criminals, reported El Universal.
According to El Espectador, the arrests were the result of an investigation that began in September 2013 following the capture of an individual carrying 8,000 rounds of ammunition that belonged to the army’s First Brigade and were allegedly destined for the FARC’s 10th Front.
Investigators determined that the group — which consisted of 20 people — began trafficking weapons in 2012. Seven of these individuals were active service military, while three were retired soldiers. Another nine members of the network were affiliated with the FARC.
To remove the weapons from military stockpiles, the soldiers issued false reports indicating the loss of supplies. In two years, the group stole an estimated 100,000 cartridges, 1,000 grenades, 30 rifles, and 10 machine guns. In addition to working with the FARC’s 10th Front, the network also allegedly smuggled weapons to the 6th Front and Teofilo Forero mobile column.
InSight Crime Analysis
The discovery of an arms trafficking ring involving members of the Colombian military raises concerns that other soldiers could also be selling military supplies to guerrilla groups and criminal organizations.
In the past, the FARC have demonstrated a high degree of resourcefulness in securing arms, with neighboring Ecuador serving as an especially important source of weapons for the group. The FARC have also reached out to international arms dealers in order to purchase weapons, and even allegedly tried to obtain a $100 million loan from former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in order to buy surface-to-air missiles, according to e-mails recovered from the computer of deceased FARC commander Luis Edgar Devia Silva, alias “Raul Reyes.” Some FARC fronts, including the 6th Front, have also exchanged drugs for weapons with criminal groups like the Rastrojos.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Arms Trafficking
Although widespread animosity towards the FARC among Colombian soldiers would presumably limit the extent of weapons sales to the group, the fact that the soldiers involved in the most recent scandal were allegedly trafficking weapons to the Teofilo Forero Column is a disturbing development for the army. This column is considered to be the FARC’s elite unit and was responsible for the 2003 Club El Nogal bombing in Bogota as well as a number of assassination attempts targeting Colombian officials — including former President Alvaro Uribe.