Peruvian law enforcement agencies are working to monitor, act, and dismantle dissident groups of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), present along the Peruvian border area, Peruvian Navy Admiral Jorge Moscoso Flores, former head of the Peruvian Armed Forces’ Joint Command, told Diálogo on December 18, 2022.
In November, Peruvian newspaper La República reported that FARC dissidents are crossing borders into Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia to carry out narcotrafficking-related activities along the Putumayo River. According to the daily, the criminals are members of the Border Commandos and the Carolina Ramírez Front.
The Putumayo is a long river in the Amazon that originates in Colombia and flows into the Amazon in Brazil. Along its course, the river forms a natural border that divides Colombia from Ecuador and then from Peru. As such, the Putumayo is a strategic point for narcotrafficking as it is part of the geography of four countries.
According to La República, FARC dissidents enter Peru for long periods of time to further coca leaf cultivation and the production of cocaine paste and cocaine hydrochloride, which is then sold to international organizations.
“These criminal groups operate in areas of Putumayo and are mainly dedicated to illicit narcotrafficking, capturing local inhabitants and taking advantage of the conditions of poverty and extreme poverty of these localities,” Adm. Moscoso said, adding that other crimes carried out include extortion of cattle ranchers, merchants, drivers, and peasants, and forced recruitment of minors.
On November 29, Colombian Minister of Justice and Law Néstor Osuna said that joint actions at the international level will help stop coca trafficking in areas such as Putumayo. “We will work with Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, and Panama. Narcotrafficking is a multi-crime problem, it requires an international criminal process. International collaboration is essential,” he told Peruvian newspaper El País.
For Pedro Yaranga, a Peruvian expert in security and narcotrafficking, FARC dissident groups use various localities in Putumayo as their centers of operations. “Their main commercial activity is narcotrafficking, and the vegetation of the area and the conditions of poverty and lack of work in the zone favor them,” he told Diálogo.
According to Ricardo Soberón, executive director of Peru’s National Commission for Development and Life without Drugs (DEVIDA), the Putumayo region has seen an increase in coca leaf production, which is difficult to address due to the high costs involved.
Yaranga for his part said that the Peruvian Armed Forces are coordinating with their counterparts in Ecuador and Colombia to exchange information on the movements of FARC dissidents. “The monitoring of these groups allows us to know if there is a greater number of people in these organizations, to know with what type of weapons they mobilize, the number of women and children, in addition to knowing their economic activities,” he said.
Yaranga also said that the Peruvian-Colombian border faces several threats, such as drugs, arms, and human trafficking; illegal mining; illegal logging; smuggling; money laundering; and contract killing, among others. “Specifically, in the Putumayo area there is evidence of the presence of paramilitary groups, other violent groups and also criminal groups from Brazil,” Yaranga added.
“Some crops and processing facilities for cocaine hydrochloride operated by Colombians are in Peruvian territory,” Yaranga said, noting that the armed groups have broadened their operations by opening up cultivation areas, recruiting young people for the crops, capturing informants to maintain control of the area, and sowing fear and distrust in the communities. “One way the Colombian guerrillas recruit is by delivering money or collateral to the parents of young people who are taken to coca leaf crops.”
According to Adm. Moscoso, the heads of the Joint Commands of the armed forces of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, are keeping a close eye on the situation in Putumayo, and meet periodically to evaluate regional security and defense issues. “The fight against narcotrafficking, terrorism, transnational organized crime, and illegal mining,” is a priority, he said.
Moscoso concluded by saying that the information gathered allows authorities to detect and keep track of the movements of Colombian armed groups in Putumayo and establish military strategies to confront and curb their operations. “We are in a patient process of information gathering, which is led by officers with mastery of the territory and experts in dealing with narcoterrorism.”