SEMANA/Judicial | 1/6/2009 12:00:00 AM
The world of the FARC (Part II: America)
The FARC, Colombia's main guerrilla group, has a presence in nearly 30 countries around the world. In this new installment, SEMANA magazine presents the links between the rebel group and countries in South America, Central America and North America. These revelations were found in the computer of "Raúl Reyes".
SEMANA tracked what has happened with these revelations and found a lot of information that until now had not been publicly revealed. In the last few months, Colombian authorities have dedicated themselves to untangle the impressive web of support networks that the FARC has created in more than 30 countries. With time, and after the Interpol certification, the authenticity of the information from the computer has been confirmed. Until now, although there have been controversies about the interpretation of some of the found messages, no data from the computer has been contradicted.
In most of the countries, thanks to the information from the computer, judicial investigations have begun and in Spain, Canada and Costa Rica this information has been key in several arrests.
The following are some of the places in America where the FARC has extended its tentacles, according to the computer of “Reyes.”
Guerrilla support networks were found in several Canadian cities. Their task was to launch propaganda campaigns against the Colombian government and to raise funds for the FARC. Information sharing between Canada and Colombia has led to the capture of, among others, alias “Sara,” a coordinator of these types of cells in Canada.
With the information from the computer the authorities were able to be conclude that the guerrilla group has two ways of operating in Mexico. One relatively visible way involves student groups at the Universidad Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM) and other types of militants. The other is clandestine, with its own operative structure called Milicias Insurgentes Ricardo Flores Magón, in honor of a local revolutionary, which is coordinated by alias “Aleida” and alias “Fermín.” Alliances with the feared Tijuana cartel for the purpose of drug trafficking and with left-wing politicians who gave political and financial support to the FARC were also uncovered. With that information, the Procuraduría of Mexico, the attorney general’s office, has initiated criminal investigations.
The “Reyes’” files revealed the presence of FARC members and the holding of several meetings between Colombian guerrillas and the so-called Coordinadora Continental Bolivariana in the Dominican Republic. The Coordinadora brings together illegal armed groups, designs strategies for them and trains cadres in political and military matters. Meetings between FARC members and the Peruvian Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru (MRTA) have been documented.
The information found and corroborated essentially shows that Cuba became a place of refuge and help for FARC members and their families. Several children of the FARC Secretariat lived and studied in Cuba.
Political, military, and economic ties between the FARC and the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN) have been documented. The former subversive, now involved in politics, helped the FARC purchase arms and munitions in El Salvador. Similarly, Salvadorans put the FARC in touch with arms dealers in order to acquire surface to air missiles.
The FARC made financial donations to political campaigns in Nicaragua. Help for the guerrillas, such as protection and asylum for known FARC members, from certain sectors of the Nicaraguan government has been verified. There are indications of arms delivery to the FARC, principally guns and a large amount of munitions acquired in Nicaragua.
There is evidence of a large number of FARC members in Costa Rica, as well as support networks that have the backing of political sectors in the country. Thanks to information gained from the computer of “Reyes,” Costa Rican authorities found a stash where the FARC had half a million dollars. That country’s Fiscalía,, the prosecutor general’s office, is investigating whether important politicians, union members and businesspersons have FARC links. Properties and “businesses” of the guerrillas have been detected in Costa Rica.
The computer of “Reyes” showed that FARC heads used Panamanian territory to hold meetings with the purpose of fundraising and money laundering. A meeting in Panama City between guerrillas and sympathizers from Sweden, Finland, Italy and Denmark has been corroborated, for example. Those sympathizers gave almost a half million dollars to the FARC. Additionally, key arms trafficking contacts have been documented.
One of the most revealing revelations of the Reyes archives was the support in money and in arms as well as political support that for years sectors of the government of President Hugo Chávez have offered the FARC. Similarly, it was revealed that men very close to Chávez gave assistance to the guerrillas. The director of military intelligence and the one from the DISIP (political branch of the police) were among them. They were in charge of strengthening relations with the FARC inside and outside of Venezuela. The presence of guerrilla camps in Venezuela was also confirmed.
Another of the most surprising secrets that the computer brought to light is the “non-aggression pacts” between the FARC and the Ecuadorian government. That is at least how one of the guerrilla heads described it in an email summing up a meeting with an Ecuadorian minister. The Ecuadorian government has denied it. FARC financial support for political campaigns in Ecuador was also revealed, as were arms sales- especially explosives - to the guerrillas. Ecuadorian territory served as a refuge for guerrillas like “Simón Trinidad” and their families, and FARC “political activities” were also allowed.
Emails found in the computer showed the permanent presence of FARC members in Peru. They provided consulting and training to guerrilla factions in that country, such as a splinter group of the Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru (MRTA) and the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR). Thanks to the information from the computer, the Peruvian police found evidence that the FARC used, for example, the city of Iquitos as a source of recruitment, arms and drug trafficking and as a rehabilitation center for injured guerrillas.
A man captured by the police, Gonzalo Guerra Siquihva, admitted having given 1,000 pistols and thousands of cartridges for AK rifles to the guerrillas. In March 2002, FARC guerrillas met in Huallaga, in the central Peruvian jungle, with members of the Sendero Rojo, a holdout of the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) that operates in the coca producing zone. The FARC provided them with 50 guns. The Peruvian police and Fiscalía are advancing several investigations.
Links between the FARC and the popular rural leader Felipe Quispe were revealed and documented, as well as the presence of subversives in Bolivian territory with the purpose of political indoctrination. In addition there is evidence of the presence of Bolivians in Colombia receiving FARC military training.
Information from the computer show that alias “Roque” headed FARC support efforts in Chile. This refugee convinced even the Chilean Communist Party to send people to Colombia in order to receive militia training from the guerrillas. Logistical support for the guerrillas by members of the Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodríguez (FPMR), the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR) and the Mapuche indigenous movement was also discovered. Additionally, emails between FARC members and a low-level government official who worked in the presidency of Chile were found, forcing him to resign.
There is abundant information, confirmed by the police and Argentine intelligence services, that FARC member Javier Calderón, alias “Alfonso Lesmes,” held meetings in which he offered help to leftist groups in the country. In exchange he was able to consolidate support networks that enabled pursued guerillas to stay in Argentina as asylum seekers or as refugees. Calderón and other guerrillas, according to documents, held meetings in Argentina with Colombian mafia capos in hiding.
The computer document showed not only the large presence of FARC members for arms and drug trafficking in Paraguay, but also consulting that they provided in the kidnapping and the subsequent assassination of Cecilia Cubas, daughter of a former president. At least three more kidnapping cases have been documented in which the FARC participated together with the leftist group Patria Libre.
The “Reyes’” computer corroborated the systematic work that the FARC has had in Brazil, principally through Francisco Cadena, alias “Cura Camilo (“Priest Camilo”). Large donations of money to the FARC by left-wing groups and unions were confirmed. In addition, it was shown that Brazil is an important arms trafficking route and there was confirmation of FARC guerrillas’ strong links with Brazilian and Colombian drug traffickers. A large part of the information found has been of great use for the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN).
It was confirmed that support cells coordinated by “Cura Camilo” from Brazil and ‘Javier Calderón” (from Argentina) were set up in Uruguay. Drug trafficking money laundering operations are also being investigated.