Colombia: new anti-FARC "joint task forces" announced
The Colombian armed forces have created three new "joint task forces" aimed at targeting the core of the FARC guerilla army, reports Caracol Radio. A main aim of the task forces —which will coordinate the National Police with the army, the air force and the navy—will be to target the guerilla group's middle men, who are crucial to the financing of the rebel army. The task forces will focus on the departments of Cauca, Nariño, Norte de Santander and Arauca, where the FARC's presence is strongest. Their creation marks a first step in the implementation of a new strategy around territory control, requested by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in August to improve the armed forces' fight against illegal groups. The four task forces will report directly to armed forces commander Alejandro Navas, who has promoted the integratation of the security forces. (Colombia Reports, Dec. 12)
Video reveals FARC training of child soldiers
In a propaganda coup for the Colombian government, a video was released by news station Noticias Uno on Dec. 12 showing slain FARC commander "Mono Jojoy" training children to fire guns and assemble explosives in 2010. After analysis by Colombia's intelligence agencies, authorities said the video revealed that children were subjected to long hours of training in infiltration of combat zones as well as ambush techniques, among other guerilla tactics. Some of the images depicted adolescents learning to arm and disarm firearms while others showed them being taught how to handle grenades and activate landmines in the jungles of Meta and Guaviare.
Last month, the Colombian government launched a public awareness campaign entitled "Stop, I want to be free," which was aimed at parents whose children might be at risk of becoming child soldiers. According to Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón, about 13% (3,120) of 24,000 guerrillas who have defected from the FARC were recruited when they were minors. (Colombia Reports, Dec. 12)
New York court sentences FARC guerilla to 11 years
A federal judge in New York sentenced a FARC guerrilla to 11 years in prison on Dec. 8 for conspiring to financially support a terrorist organization. Jorge Abel Ibarguen Palacio AKA "Turbo" pleaded guilty in February to collaborating with the FARC. Federal Judge William Pauley said, "Today's sentence marks a new successful conviction of a FARC member and a new blow against this dangerous terrorist organization." Turbo was detained in 2008 in Panama alongside Yaleir Banol-Ramos AKA "Diana"—who also pleaded guilty to supporting the FARC, receiving a 15-year sentence from the same judge last September. The pair were extradited to the US in April 2009 after being caught by Panamanian border police with guns, explosives, communications equipment, FARC uniforms and cocaine. They were identified as members of the FARC's 57th Front, which operates in the Colombian department of Chocó, bordering Panama. It is alleged to specialize in drug trafficking and obtaining guns, weapons, uniforms and other objects for the rebels. (Colombia Reports, Dec. 8)
See our last posts on Colombia.