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Mexico, Central America and South America: The presence and activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) (2006 - June 2008)

Publisher Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 21 July 2008
Citation / Document Symbol ZZZ102781.FE
Cite as Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Mexico, Central America and South America: The presence and activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) (2006 - June 2008), 21 July 2008, ZZZ102781.FE, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a7040951e.html [accessed 17 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Articles published in the Mexican newspaper El Universal and on Cubaencuentro, a public affairs website based in Spain, outline the results of a special investigation into the activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) conducted by the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, in cooperation with La Nación in Argentina, O Globo in Brazil, La Nación in Costa Rica, El Comercio in Ecuador and Peru, El País in Uruguay, El Universal in Mexico, and El Nacional in Venezuela (Cubaencuentro 14 May 2008). The investigation revealed that FARC has a [translation] "network of more than 400 legal, clandestine and semi-clandestine organizations, from Argentina to the United States" (El Universal 11 May 2008; see also Cubaencuentro 14 May 2008). According to the Spanish daily El País, FARC is part of the Bolivarian Continental Coordination group (Coordinadora Continental Bolivariana, CCB), an organization created by FARC that, in practice, it controls (11 May 2008). The CCB has branches in 17 countries, including Germany and Switzerland (El País 11 May 2008).

FARC reportedly uses Peru and Brazil as sources of soldiers, weapons and coca (Cubaencuentro 14 May 2008). In Costa Rica, Venezuela and Mexico, where it has the support of some parts of society, it launders money from drug trafficking (ibid.). In Ecuador where FARC has camps, it carries out some financial activities (ibid.).

Venezuela

In a news release dated 3 June 2008, Human Rights Watch (HRW) states that e-mails found on laptop computers belonging to FARC that the Colombian security forces seized in March 2008 suggest that representatives of Venezuela's government "appear to have offered assistance to the Colombian guerrillas, including safe havens, weapons procurement, and possibly even financial support." The news release further states that HRW did not have direct access to the electronic files and that the Venezuela government "categorically denied" providing safe havens or financial support to the rebels (HRW 3 June 2008).

According to an Associated Press (AP) article dated 27 February 2008, FARC [translation] "is finding it increasingly easy to hide in Venezuela, where both its presence and its influence have strengthened" (see also VOA 3 June 2008). The article also states that FARC members [translation] "rest, recover from their injuries, train, buy weapons and uniforms, and produce cocaine" in Venezuela, even in some non-border areas (AP 27 Feb. 2008).

According to the Washington Post, FARC has been involved in kidnappings in Venezuela, carrying out some themselves and paying criminal organizations to carry out others (13 Feb. 2008). The Christian Science Monitor reports that, according to data from the government of Venezuela, 382 people were kidnapped in 2007, and most of the kidnappings occurred near the Colombian border (15 Feb. 2008; see also AP 8 Mar. 2008). The sources do not specify the extent of FARC's responsibility in those kidnappings. According to the AP, kidnappings in Venezuela are on the rise, and four out of five kidnappings occur in the border areas of Táchira, Zulia, Apure and Barinas (8 Mar. 2008). In Táchira state, a gubernatorial candidate stated that Colombian rebels had kidnapped 68 residents for ransom (Los Angeles Times 24 Feb. 2008). According to the candidate, the current government was "doing nothing to stem the wave of kidnappings" (ibid.; see also The Christian Science Monitor 15 Feb. 2008).

A former FARC member told the Washington Post that "corrupt units of the National Guard permit [FARC] to operate inside Venezuela [and that the] rebels ... work with criminal gangs and rogue policeman to identify targets for kidnapping" (13 Feb. 2008).

A Venezuelan Jesuit priest is quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying that members of his parish in El Nula-San Camino have been victims of extortion, kidnappings and killings by FARC (24 Feb. 2008). According to the Jesuit priest, the "rebels extort a 'war tax'," such as a cow or 20 US dollars a month, from farmers and business owners in the parish (Los Angeles Times 24 Feb. 2008). The Jesuit priest stated that people who do not pay are killed, and approximately one person in his parish is killed each month, generally for failure to pay (ibid.). The Jesuit priest also stated that FARC previously came to his parish to rest, but that they have now settled there (ibid.).

In Zulia state, Alfonso Marquez, the Mayor of Machiques, stated that FARC members had seized land belonging to indigenous groups (ibid.).

Mexico

According to information provided by Colombian and Mexican intelligence services and published by the Mexican daily El Universal, FARC carries out operations against the governments of Colombia, Mexico and the United States (US) from Mexico City (El Universal 10 May 2007). According to El Universal, Colombian intelligence services have information that FARC has offices where their supporters meet in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Toluca (10 May 2007; see also Diario crítico de Ecuador 11 Mar. 2008 and El Universal 11 May 2008). According to El País, four pro-FARC organizations operate in Mexico and are directed by two secret cells funded by the FARC secretariat (11 May 2008). FARC's presence in Mexico is also reported by the Catalan daily La Vanguardia and the Mexican daily El Norte in articles linking FARC to the Basque separatist organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) (La Vanguardia 31 May 2008; El Norte 1 June 2008).

However, the leader of Colombia's diplomatic mission to Mexico stated that "the Bogota government has no knowledge of 'offices of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) in Mexico, nor in any other country in the world'" (NOTIMEX 5 Jan. 2008). Mexico's Ministry of Public Security (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP) reports that it has not noted any strucutral ties between FARC and drug trafficking in Mexico (EFE 18 May 2007).

Panama

The Panama-Colombia border is a forested area where Colombian guerrillas reportedly take refuge (EFE 24 Feb. 2008). According to Latinnews Daily, Panamanian authorities and citizens living in border areas have reported that FARC regularly crosses the land and sea borders (25 Feb. 2008). In addition, the Panamanian authorities stated that six Colombians who belong to FARC's Front 57 were arrested by the police after a gunfight in Panama (EFE 24 Feb. 2008; Latinnews Daily 25 Feb. 2008).

Ecuador

According to a 10 June 2008 article published by the United Nations (UN) News Centre, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) condemned the kidnapping of three Colombians in Ecuador. According to information obtained by the UN News Centre, [translation] "a group of armed men, apparently from Colombia, wearing uniforms and masks led an armed incursion in San Martin on 26 May" (UN 10 June 2008). The source does not specify whether FARC committed the kidnappings.

On 1 March 2008, a FARC encampment in Ecuador was bombed by Colombian armed forces and then attacked by soldiers; Raúl Reyes, the FARC [translation] "number two," died in the attack (AFP 1 Mar. 2008; Reuters 1 Mar. 2008).

According to the results of a special investigation on FARC's activities published by El Universal, a retail store owner acted as a liaison for FARC until she disappeared (11 May 2008).

Paraguay

In a speech to the press in June 2006, the Colombian Minister of Defence stated that there was every reason to believe that FARC is operating in Paraguay (Global Insight 8 June 2006; see also NOTIMEX 22 June 2006). According to the Minister of Defence, the guerrillas are "not operating for military purposes but giving criminals advice on explosives" (Xinhua News Agency 23 June 2006; AFP 23 June 2006). According to an article published in Portuguese on the website of the Brazilian newspaper Correio Braziliense, Paraguayans have taken part in training offered by FARC on kidnapping (31 Aug. 2006).

Peru

FARC also reportedly operates in Peru (Latinnews Daily 6 Apr. 2006; see also Reuters 4 Mar. 2008). According to an AP article dated 1 June 2008, border populations reported the arrival of combattants dressed in civilian clothing and of FARC deserters in Peru. The AP reports that the Peruvian government strengthened its border security fearing that FARC members might cross into Peru (3 June 2008). According to another AP article, the national police captured two FARC members on 19 March 2008 in the Peruvian city of Iquito, on the Colombian border (19 Mar. 2008).

Bolivia

In 2006, the Colombian Defence Minister stated that FARC members were providing training on explosives (Xinhua News Agency 23 June 2006; AFP 23 June 2006) and on hostage taking in Bolivia (ibid.).

Further information on the presence of FARC in other South and Central American countries could not be found within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 1 March 2008. "Raul Reyes, numéro deux des Farc, tué par l'armée colombienne en Équateur." [Accessed 4 June 2008]
_____. 23 June 2006. "Miembros de las FARC operan en Bolivia y Paraguay." (El Nuevo Herald [Miami]/Factiva)

Associated Press (AP). 3 June 2008. "Perú: no hay pruebas de tráfico de armas de Perú a Colombia." (AP Spanish Worldstream/Factiva)
_____. 1 June 2008. "Perú refuerza seguridad en frontera con Colombia." (AP Spanish Worldstream/Factiva)
_____. 19 March 2008. "Capturan a dos miembros de las FARC en Perú." (AP Spanish Worldstream/Factiva)
_____. 8 March 2008. Fabiola Sanchez. "Wave of Kidnappings Plagues Venezuela." (Sun-Sentinel) [Accessed 3 June 2008]
_____. 27 February 2008. Fabiola Sanchez. "Les rebelles colombiens trouveraient refuge et armes au Venezuela." (cyberpresse.ca) [Accessed 25 Feb. 2008]

Correio Braziliense [Brasilia, in Portuguese]. 31 August 2006. "Misiones in Argentina Reportedly New Base for Paraguay-Brazil Drug Trade." (BBC Monitoring Americas 6 Sept. 2006 / Factiva)

The Christian Science Monitor [Boston]. 15 February 2008. Sibylla Brodzinsky. "Venezuelan FARC Victims to Chavez: 'What About Us?'" (Factiva)

Cubaencuentro [Madrid]. 14 May 2008. "La larga mano de las FARC." [Accessed 5 June 2008]

Diario crítico de Ecuador. 11 March 2008. Kate Joynes. "Colombia entrega pruebas de vínculos de las FARC en México." [Accessed 4 June 2008]

EFE. 24 February 2008. "Panamá captura a seis guerrilleros de las FARC tras un enfrentamiento marítimo." (El mundo.es/ Factiva)
_____. 18 May 2007. "México vive la mayor ola de violencia de toda su historia por la 'narcoguerra'." (Lavanguardia.es) [Accessed 6 June 2008]

Global Insight. 8 June 2006. Kate Joynes. "Paraguay Wins Colombian Security Support." (Factiva)

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 3 June 2008. "Venezuela: Clarify Relationship With Colombian Guerrillas." [Accessed 4 June 2008]

Latinnews Daily. 25 February 2008. "Panama Clashes with FARC." (Factiva)
_____. 23 October 2006. "Ecuador and Colombia: Farc Accusation Riles." (Factiva)
_____. 6 April 2006. "Chile: Colombian Ambassador Claims FARC Presence." (Factiva).

Los Angeles Times. 24 February 2008. Chris Kraul. "Colombia Rebels Have Foothold in Venezuela: Border Area Residents Accuse them of Killings and Extortion. Chavez Denies Giving the Leftist Guerrillas Free Rein." (Factiva)

El Norte [Monterrey]. 1 June 2008. Luis Méndez. "Resurge grupo ETA en México y Venezuela." (Factiva).

NOTIMEX [Mexico, in Spanish]. 22 June 2006. "Acusan a FARC de entrenar grupos ilegales de Paraguay y Bolivia." (Factiva)
_____. [Mexico, in Spanish]. Edelmiro Franco. 5 January 2008. "Colombia's Relations with Mexico 'Excellent' – Foreign Minister." (BBC Monitoring Americas 6 Jan. 2008 / Factiva)

El País [Madrid]. 11 May 2008. Maite Rico. "Las FARC crean células clandestinas para su expansión internacional." [Accessed 25 June 2008]

Reuters. 4 March 2008. Patrick Markey. "Bush Backs Colombia over Venezuela 'Provocation'." [Accessed 3 June 2008]
_____. 1 March 2008. Patrick Markey. "Colombia Says it Kills FARC Commander in Ecuador." [Accessed 4 June 2008]

United Nations (UN). 10 June 2008. UN News Centre. "Le HCR condamne l'enlèvement de réfugiés colombiens en Équateur." [Accessed 10 June 2008]

El Universal [Mexico]. 11 May 2008. "Una expansión silenciosa." [Accessed 4 June 2008]
_____. 10 May 2007. Doris Gómora "Detectan apoyo de FARC para izquierda mexicana." (Factiva)

La Vanguardia [Barcelona]. 31 May 2008. "Otros encuentros con las FARC en México o en Colombia." (Factiva)

Voice of America (VOA). 3 June 2008. "US Urges Colombia Neighbors to Combat Rebels." (Factiva)

The Washington Post. 13 February 2008. Juan Forero. "Venezuelans Grow Bitter over Abductions."

Xinhua News Agency. 23 June 2006. "Colombia Says FARC Rebels Operating in Bolivia, Paraguay." (Factiva)

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites including: Asamblea Permanente de la Sociedad Civil por la Paz , Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular, Civil Wars, Colombian Human Rights Network, Colombian Support Network, Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó, Democracy and Security, Derechos Human Rights, Equipo Nizkor, Fundación Ideas para la Paz, Fundación Instituto para la Construcción de la Paz (FICONPAZ), Human Rights First, Instituto Latinoamericano de Servicios Legales Alternativos (ILSA), Instituto Popular de Capacitación, International Security, International Social Security Review, Journal of Conflict and Security Law, Movimiento de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado, Security Journal, Security Studies, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Terrorism and Political Violence.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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