FARC, Rastrojos Are Friends and Enemies: Naval Commander

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Colombia’s main criminal groups and leftist guerrillas along the Pacific Coast have aligned to traffic drugs in certain areas but are battling for control of these drugs in others, says the top commander of Colombia’s Navy.

Vice Admiral Rodolfo Amaya told newspaper El Pais that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the drug trafficking group known as the Rastrojos have allied in the northern part of the Pacific Coast to move drugs, whereas in the southern part they are constantly fighting for control of these routes.  

He added the various groups have close to 700 operatives operating along the coast and move some 140 tons of cocaine to port for export per year. The powder is being moved in smaller quantities, he says, but much of it still goes via “narco subs,” which transport drug shipments from Colombia to Central and North America. These groups, Amaya says, have personnel “who know how to build” these submarines.

Most of these subs do not sink very deeply below the waterline, although fully submersible subs have also been found. Last year, Colombia reported seizing eight such vessels, while the Navy reports discovering 82 in the past 10 years. The vessels have also been found in Honduras and in Venezuela. Colombia recently found one such “narco sub” adrift in the Pacific Ocean (see video below). It was reportedly capable of smuggling up to four tons of cocaine.

InSight Crime Analysis

While his statements on the confusing nature of these criminal-guerrilla relationships rings true, InSight Crime has found little evidence to support his assertion that these groups build their own subs. During a research trip to Colombia’s southwest in 2012 — which included field work in Nariño, where several semi-submersibles have been discovered and where the Rastrojos and FARC are present — numerous officials and investigators refuted these claims.

This work, it appears, is usually contracted out to specialists who do not belong to any specific group. It is typically negotiated by a middleman, or “super fixer,” who often does jobs for several illegal organizations at the same time. And it is financed by large scale cocaine brokers and international distributors. The rebels and the Rastrojos focus on protecting the coca base and cocaine as it moves to port, not transporting it further north. 

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