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| 5/20/2009 12:00:00 AM

Ecuadoran Town a Hub for Drug-Running Rebels, Colombia Says

May 20 -- The townspeople in this tiny frontier outpost, deep in the rain forest hugging Colombia's border, say theirs is a quiet, law-abiding community of shopkeepers, subsistence farmers and fishermen., 103294

Authorities in neighboring Colombia, though, contend that Puerto Nuevo is the thriving nerve center for an elite Colombian rebel unit that helps keep a 44-year-old insurgency alive by trafficking cocaine through Ecuador's ports. That unit, the 48th Front, has moved operations here, Colombian officials say, eluding Colombia's U.S.-backed military and creating a nettlesome problem for President Álvaro Uribe's government.

The man behind the strategy, according to Colombian intelligence officers and former guerrillas, is a rebel operative named Oliver "The Fatman" Solarte. He is not a ranking commander, but those who have worked for him say he has become an indispensable cog in the moneymaking apparatus of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, as the rebel group is known.
 
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