Newly discovered email correspondence among FARC leaders has reportedly exposed a drug trafficking alliance between the rebel group and criminal organization the Urabeños, raising further fears of FARC elements criminalizing in a post-conflict scenario.
Email exchanges between several leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), including Felix Antonio Muñoz, alias “Pastor Alape,” reveal the guerrilla group’s drug trafficking ties to the Urabeños, reported Noticias Caracol. Pastor Alape is a member of the FARC’s ruling body, the Secretariat, and is currently a peace negotiator in Havana.
In one email, Roman Ruiz, a FARC commander who was killed by security forces in May, reportedly discusses with Pastor Alape about raising the price of a drug shipment being sold to the Urabeños. Another email exchange between guerrilla leaders makes reference to a “gift” from the Urabeños top boss, Dario Antonio Usuga, alias “Otoniel,” as well as a weapons transfer.
Other recovered emails show that the FARC provide security to the Urabeños in Colombia’s northwest region of Uraba, the criminal organization’s home base and a launching point for international drug shipments.
InSight Crime Analysis
If authentic, the emails provide further evidence of the FARC’s collaboration with the Urabeños. The rebel group is known to sell coca base to the Urabeños, and police intelligence sources in Medellin have previously confirmed to InSight Crime that the FARC’s 57th Front was involved in moving drug shipments into Panama on behalf of the criminal organization. Last year, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos even alleged that the FARC and the Urabeños coordinated an attack on police that left seven officers dead.
The FARC have also been known to maintain business relationships with other neo-paramilitary groups, known as BACRIM (from the Spanish, “bandas criminales”). As early as 2012, the FARC and the Rastrojos had formed an arms and drug trafficking alliance in southwest Colombia. More recently, the capture of a FARC finance chief in July revealed the guerrilla leader also had strong connections to a criminal organization operating in southern Colombia, near the Ecuadorian border.
The FARC’s growing ties to criminal groups would likely complicate a demobilization process, should the rebel group sign a peace agreement with the government. Elements of the FARC involved in drug trafficking would be loathe to give up their illicit earnings, and could find joining criminal groups such as the Urabeños a more appealing option than disarmament. The established relationships and open lines of communication that the recently discovered emails suggest exist between FARC leaders and the Urabeños make it easy to see how that type of transition could occur.