Colombia: FARC-paramilitary collaboration?

Colombia's FARC guerillas may be working under the table with their supposed bitter enemies in the ultra-right paramilitary groups. E-mails released by authorities on Aug. 5 reportedly reveal that the FARC and Los Urabeños paramilitary have been collaborating to traffic drugs and weapons. In one of the undated e-mails, a FARC fighter known as "Ruben Manteco" wrote to "Pastor Alape"—one of the FARC's top commanders and a representative in Havana for peace talks with the Colombian government. The message refers to a gift offered the FARC by "Otoniel," the notorious Urabeño warlord. According to the e-mail exchange, Otoniel sent $170,000 as a good-will gesture to prove his reliability as a business partner. Alape instructed Manteco to accept the gift, adding that he should pursue negotiations on arms deals once Otoniel's confidence was established. Another e-mail exchange discusses plans for FARC-Urabeño collaboration in drug trafficking. In that exchange, "Roman Ruiz," a FARC commander killed in an army offensive earlier this year, suggests to Alape that the guerillas raise the price on cocaine exports. Other e-mails indicate the FARC has been providing security to the Urabeños during their drug operations while also helping to broker deals.

The revelations come amid an ongoing government crackdown on Los Urabeños—although Otoniel remains at large. Colombia's National Police in July seized properties totaling $30 million that were said to be under the control of the Urabeños—bringing the total of narco-tainted properties seized from the gang to $74 million. The crackdown, dubbed "Operation Agamemnon," has focused on the northwestern region of Antioquia, including Colombia's second city Medellín, and on the Caribbean port city of Barranquilla, Atlántico. Authorities also claimed the arrest of Nelson Hoyos Sepúlveda, AKA "Zeta 5"—a regional commander of Los Urabeños in Córdoba. He is the most prominent among 353 detained in Operation Agamemnon, with more than 14 tons of cocaine reported seized. (El Colombiano, Medellín, Aug. 7; El Colombiano, Colombia Reports, Aug. 6; Colombia Reports, July 15)

Cross-post to High Times and Global Ganja Report