An article in Cali’s El Pais looks at how the FARC are increasingly using militia networks, rather than full-time regular guerrilla units, to launch attacks on the security forces. The militias are either tied to fronts (columns) of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), or part of the FARC’s clandestine political movement, the Movimiento Bolivariano (whose symbol is pictured to the left). They are made up largely of urban, part time rebels but do not have the military training of their rural counterparts. Able to camouflage themselves among the civilian population, militiamen provide fewer identifiable targets for the security forces. This report coincides with information received by InSight from Colombian intelligence sources that while the FARC official numbers have halved since 2002, to 8,000 fighters, the number of militiamen has increased to close to 10,000.
- Presidents Hugo Chavez and Juan Manuel Santos met in Cartagena to further bilateral trade and cooperation. While commerce and economic cooperation dominated most of the 16 agreements signed, there was discussion about drug trafficking. Santos, for example, confirmed that Venezuelan drug trafficker Walid Makled would be extradited to Venezuela, not the United States. Makled made some damning statements about the Venezuelan security forces this past week in an interview with Univision TV, and the United States has sought to prosecute him on drug charges. Venezuela has not only become a principal transit nation for Colombian cocaine, but it is also a refuge for many of Colombia’s top drug traffickers, among them Daniel Barrera, alias “El Loco,” and Luis Enrique Calle Serna, alias “Comba,” the top leader of the Rastrojos. Should tight cooperation between the security forces of Venezuela and Colombia become a reality, this will force the drug cartels to reduce their exposure in Venezuela and perhaps look elsewhere for havens.
- Honduran Defense Minister, Marlon Pascua, announced that the army will now be deployed in support of the police against organized crime and drug trafficking. Honduras has seen the arrival of Mexican cartels, which are adding to already record homicide rates, much of which is generated by street gangs, the so-called “maras.” The minister stated that the use of the army heralded a new strategy by the government to tackle rising crime and violence, the details of which will be announced in the coming days.
- The Washington Post did an article on how children are increasingly being killed as part of the Mexican cartel war. There is no limit to the drug related violence and children, even babies are used to “punish” rivals and to intimidate communities. It seems there are no codes of conduct between the Mexican organized crime gangs.