The Ecuadorean Armed Forces dismantled three paramilitary campsites near the border with Colombia and detected the presence of Colombian armed groups linked to narcotrafficking.
The operations took place in Putumayo canton, between August 27 and 30, 2020. The Ecuadorean Army reported finding ammunition, vests, tactical backpacks, magazines, awnings, antipersonnel mines, food supplies, and several logistics items on site.
They also found pamphlets printed with the logo of the illegal armed group Border Commandos (CDF, in Spanish). Ecuadorean senior military officials are aware that the CDF consists of dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish) who are attempting to regroup following the peace process, the Ecuadorean newspaper El Comercio reported on September 2.
“Authorities have detected ongoing infiltrations of Colombian illegal armed groups on the eastern end of the Sucumbíos border […] in Putumayo canton,” Army General Oswaldo Jarrín, Ecuadorean minister of Defense, told the press on August 31. “As far as we know, one of the groups is called Border Commandos […], which is trying to infiltrate Ecuadorean territory, probably looking for safe haven.”
According to the Ecuadorean news agency Análisis Urbano, the CDF is engaged in an ongoing confrontation with other FARC dissidents in the area to control cocaine trafficking into Ecuador, and has been gaining strength by recruiting children and young people, who are taken to work in cocaine labs.
“They use [minors] for two or three months and then rotate with other young people in exchange for financial benefits; however, there are some minors who have been taken to confrontations, who have been killed after refusing [to comply], or who had to move when trying to leave this group and report them,” Análisis Urbano said on September 14.
Another FARC dissident group that operates on Ecuador’s northern border is the Oliver Sinisterra Front, which was accused of kidnapping and murdering three Ecuadorean journalists from El Comercio in 2018, as well as carrying out the car bomb attack on the San Lorenzo police station in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, that same year.
Nueva Marquetalia, a gang that also operates in the region, is mainly fueled by young Venezuelan migrants who are recruited to join the ranks of this “narcoterrorist organization,” the Ecuadorean newspaper NotiMundo reported on September 3. Marquetalia, located in Tolima department, Colombia, is a rural area that is historically considered to be the FARC’s birthplace.
With U.S. Southern Command’s guidance, the Ecuadorean Armed Forces train in the jungle to strengthen their operational capabilities, “to neutralize the presence of armed groups in Amazon territory,” the Ecuadorean website Noticias Equinoccio highlighted on September 2.