Ecuador dismantled 125 camps belonging to guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) during 2010, cementing the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Colombia and threatening the rebels’ logistical and drug trafficking operations.
The announcement was made by Ecuador’s new ambassador to Bogota, Raul Vallejo, during his first interview with the media since taking up his position. Ecuador has long been a key rearguard and support area for the FARC’s southern fighting division, known as the Southern Bloc. Rebel presence in Ecuador’s northern provinces was an open secret and the Ecuadorean security forces, like their Venezuelan counterparts, seemed to turn a blind eye to FARC activity.
That all changed in March 2008 when the Colombian air force bombed a FARC camp two kilometers within Ecuador, killing Luis Edgar Devia Silva, alias “Raul Reyes,” seen by many as the FARC second-in-command, who supervised the Southern Bloc and ran the rebels’ international relations. The bombardment prompted two responses from Ecuador. The first was the severing of diplomatic relations, which were only fully restored at the end of last year, the second concerted efforts by the Ecuadorean security forces to push the FARC out of their territory. In 2008, 170 camps were destroyed, in 2009, 121, and last year, 125.
With the death of Devia Silva, Milton de Jesus Toncel, alias “Joaquin Gomez,” took his place in the FARC’s seven-man ruling body, the Secretariat, and runs the Southern Bloc. Colombian intelligence reports indicate that he moves between the Colombian provinces of Putumayo and Nariño, and constantly flits across the border into Ecuador.
When in the year 2000 Ecuador adopted the dollar as its national currency the FARC were able to spend their narco-dollars without having to change or launder the money. So Colombia’s southern neighbor became the logistical and medical base for not only the FARC’s Southern Bloc, but for much of Western Joint Command, the FARC division that operates along Colombia’s Pacific coast.
Ecuador is also important for the FARC’s drug operations, with the 48th Front, based in Putumayo and the Ecuadorean province of Sucumbios, handling much of this. Ecuador has now become an important transshipment point for Colombian cocaine. The first fully submersible drug submarine was found in Ecuador in July last year, capable of carrying a crew of five and 10 tons of drugs.
View InSight Map: Drug Routes – Ecuador in a larger map