Two Colombian intelligence reports, published three months apart, show contradictions in the number of ex-FARC Mafia and their rate of expansion, although they both agree these splinter groups are growing.
According to an intelligence report seen by the newspaper El Tiempo this week, 1,749 ex-guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) can now be counted as dissident and have abandoned the peace process.
The report, which has been presented to Congress by the Ministry of Defense, shows that the number of former fighters abandoning the peace process is growing.
However, another intelligence report from October contradicts this report, stating that the FARC dissidents already number between 2,500 and 3,000 members across 10 departments. In comparison, the December report counts fewer dissidents but states they are spread across 19 departments.
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The Colombia government appears to be unclear about how many ex-militants have abandoned the peace process and where they are located, given the glaring contradictions in these two reports.
However, both intelligence reports reflect mounting concern about the growth of FARC dissidents. Of the more than 10,000 FARC soldiers who demobilized, thousands now once again represent a threat to national security.
Furthermore, according to the same El Tiempo report, criminal groups recognized by the Colombian state now number more than 7,200 people in total, with the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN) the largest with 2,206 men.
InSight Crime Analysis
Discontent in the peace process and a lack of opportunities when returning to civilian life may be driving former FARC members to return to their criminal roots. On top of this, a number of conditions laid out in the Havana peace agreements have been breached or modified, including a lack of protection for those who have demobilized, some of whom have been prosecuted.
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Added to this, Venezuela is providing an all too tempting breeding ground for criminal activity and the country’s population, driven to leave in droves, are being recruited in large numbers. FARC dissidents may already have made alliances with other groups in Venezuela, as indicated by the recent meeting between some of its members and the ELN in Apure to define drug trafficking routes and reach collaboration agreements.
The Colombian government is finding it difficult to accurately track the growth of these groups, in large part because it has proven next to impossible to follow their actions or their recruitment drives inside Venezuela due to the complex diplomatic relations between both countries and a total absence of bilateral cooperation.