In the midst of increasing violence, homicides, threats from narcotrafficking and organized crime, Ecuador is facing the emergence of a possible guerrilla movement, which has the support of dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — a worrying development for the region.
Investigations of the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office into the group known as Land and Liberty Guevarist Movement (Movimiento Guevarista Tierra y Libertad – MGTL)are ongoing. The group has been involved in violent acts since 2019 and took part in the social protests of the last three years.
On May 19, authorities arrested eight MGTL members for alleged organized crime, human trafficking, and recruitment for guerrilla cells in an operation carried out simultaneously in the provinces of Imbabura, Pichincha, and El Oro, the Attorney General’s Office said via Twitter. During the operation, authorities also seized war material and doctrinal documents alluding to the now defunct FARC, Colombian magazine Semanareported.
According to investigations, the group led by Ernesto Flores had been recruiting young people in the provinces of Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Los Rios, Manabí,and El Oro since September 2020. Under the guise of “Faith and Political” training, the group offered courses in Leninist, Marxist, and Guevarist ideology, among others, as well as scholarships to study at a university in Argentina, the Ecuadorian newspaper Primicias reported. In reality, the young people were transferred to Colombia bound for Venezuela to be trained and indoctrinated in the camps of the narcoterrorist group Segunda Marquetalia, a FARC dissident group, with the goal of militarily strengtheningthe MGTL and creating a Latin American guerrilla.
The training allegedly carried out in the state of Apure, Venezuela, consisted of instruction in firearm handling, bomb-making, and high-value target selectionfor kidnappings, Primicias reported. Police in Ecuador and Colombia determined that at least 18 Ecuadorians had been transferred to Venezuela for this paramilitary training with the Segunda Marquetalia.
Semana reported the story of a young Ecuadorian woman who managed to escape from the training camp where she was being held. In her testimony the young woman, deceived with the promise of studies in Argentina, told Colombian authorities that she and her partner got tired of the lies with which they were recruited, the war life, and the fear of dying, and decided to escape to turn themselves in to Colombian authorities and become witnesses to receiveprotection.
“We made the decision to escape from that command […]. On April 14  we left the Cabuyarito mountain, where we were camping. At noon we asked permission from Efraín, who was the commander, to go swimming at the riverbank; there we left the gun and rifle behind, and left,” the young woman said, according to Semana.
On social networks, MGTL promotesitself as a revolutionary group with a Guevarist political agenda that seeks to generate a process to raise an“insurrection” of the “proletarian masses”through a “guerrilla struggle” in the countryside and the city.
According to information released by authorities, MGTL made contact with another FARC dissident group, the Border Command (CDF), formerly known as the Mafia. “It’s a guerrilla organization [the CDF] that also works with a Brazilian proto–mafia that is the Red Command, and that proto–mafia has been entering the national scene for some time now and has begun to change the dynamics of violence and insecurity in the province of Sucumbíos [Ecuador],” Colonel Mario Pazmiño, an expert on security and defense issues and former director of intelligence for the Ecuadorian Army, said.
For the director of Ecuador’s Strategic Intelligence Center (CIES), Fausto Cobo, it is no coincidence that MGTL always appears during social protests. In an interview with the Ecuadorian television network Teleamazonas, he said that “this is an insurrectional model, this group and other extremists are preparing themselves, some are in formation and others are already advanced in all that is armed training.” These groups, he added, are financed with narcotrafficking proceeds.