Géner García Molina, better known as 'John 40,' exemplifies the transformation the FARC's structure underwent after it entered the drug trafficking business. Since the guerrilla group disbanded after the 2016 peace process, John 40 has maintained a lavish lifestyle, connecting cocaine leaving southern Colombia with buyers in Venezuela. He is now also the financial backer for the FARC dissidents led by Miguel Botache, alias "Gentil Duarte."
The dissident went from being a young man with communist ideals and faith in the insurgent struggle to an extravagant drug lord with a taste for horses, who only wore imported military clothing and handled billions of pesos a year. The power and wealth he has amassed through drug trafficking have made him a top priority target for Colombia, and a key part of the plan to reunite the FARC dissidents.
John 40 was born in the municipality of San Martín in the department of Meta on August 23, 1963. He is the grandson of Roque Molina, alias "El Diablo," one of the peasants who took up arms in the 1960s with alias "Tirofijo" in Marquetalia in the department of Tolima.
His criminal career began in the 1980s when he joined the 31st Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) after spending two years as a secretary in the Communist Youth (Juventudes Comunista - JUCO). In the beginning, John 40 used the name of Francisco Javier Builes to cover up his actions. But as he gained importance within the guerrilla organization, his real name came to light.
Shortly after joining the guerrillas, he learned the trade of drug trafficking thanks to Tomás Molina Caracas, alias "El Negro Acacio," who by then was the FARC’s drug czar. In 2006, John 40 was already considered one of Meta department’s drug lords. With extravagant clothes, jewelry and gold watches, luxurious vans and a satellite phone that never left his side, John 40 was acquiring the characteristics of what would be the guerrilla’s most important drug lord. His power in the region was such that as commander of the 43rd Front, he was believed to move up to 100 tons of coca per year, receive billions of pesos for drug trafficking transactions and control almost 5,000 hectares of coca.
In 2006, the Colombian government, supported by the United States, implemented operation "Emperador," which gathered 3,200 uniformed men in Meta with the sole objective of capturing John 40.
His criminal power increased in 2007, when Negro Acacio died after a military bombing. The FARC Secretariat ordered him to take control of the coca business in the south of the country. As a result, John 40 went on to handle all of the drug trafficking in the departments of Meta and Guaviare, which not only increased his power within the FARC, but also increased his lack of discipline and excesses.
In 2008, the Colombian government bombed his camp, leaving him severely wounded and striking the structure of the 43rd Front. Due to this, in 2010, the FARC Secretariat carried out a "revolutionary trial" against John 40. He was accused of a growing lack of discipline, "bad" drug trafficking practices and weakening his front. The results of this war council weren’t clear, but some sources said that John 40 was under the direct orders of a member of the Secretariat. On the other hand, other sources indicated that there were no reprimands against the 43rd Front’s commander, and that he instead fled to Venezuela after the bombing.
John 40 surfaced again in 2012 when men under his command clashed with the military in the jungles of the department of Guainía. That same year he was identified as having founded the "Acacio Medina" Front in the municipality of Maroa across the border in Venezuela.
With the beginning of the peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC Secretariat, John 40 was considered the main financier of the Eastern Bloc, mainly due to his control over the commercialization of cocaine in Colombia’s border regions with Venezuela and Brazil, and his ties with drug traffickers from both countries.
By 2015, John 40 was named as one of the commanders who would not participate in the FARC’s demobilization process. In fact, the National Anti-Narcotic and Money Laundering Directorate (Dirección Nacional de Antinarcóticos y Lavado de Activos) accused John 40 of continued involvement in criminal activities in Meta.
His distancing from the peace process was confirmed in 2016, when he announced that he would not demobilize with the guerrillas. Soon after, the FARC Secretariat officially expelled him from their ranks along with four other commanders. By December of that year, the national authorities identified John 40 as a high-value target, while Interpol issued a red alert against him.
Until recently, John 40 was believed to be one of the key operators in Gentil Duarte's plan to bring together FARC dissident factions into a single fighting force. In mid-2018, he was sent by Duarte to the Catatumbo region of Norte de Santander to lead the 33rd Front, coordinate the purchasing of coca paste in that region and regain control of drug trafficking route into Venezuela.
When he belonged to the FARC, John 40 controlled international cocaine shipment routes from Meta and Guaviare. He was in charge of relations with drug buyers in Colombia’s border regions with Brazil and Venezuela, and guaranteed them that at least 100 tons of cocaine would be trafficked per year. His profits were counted in the billions of pesos, making him one of the main economic suppliers of the FARC’s Eastern Bloc.
The power of John 40 gave him the label of one of the FARC’s greatest drug lords. It was even said that he controlled his own town in the rural area of the municipality of Puerto Rico in the department of Meta.
John 40 also meddled in different structures to launder dirty money from cocaine trafficking. He shaped a network of frontmen through which he bought estates and luxurious properties in the main capitals of the country, while he built bars, hotels and clubs in Meta with drug money.
After the demobilization of the FARC, John 40 managed the commercialization of Colombian cocaine into Venezuela through alliances with drug trafficking groups in that country. During his time in Catatumbo, he also made contact with FARC dissidents in that region and sought to avoid their recruitment by other groups such as the ELN or the Urabeños.
Authorities have accused him of recruiting minors and taking them to training camps on the Venezuelan side of the border, particularly in the states of Amazonas, Táchira and Apure. He is known to have around 500 men under his command in Venezuela, mostly in the state of Amazonas.
Finally, he has been linked to the exploitation of gold and coltan from Venezuela and is believed to have links with drug gangs in Brazil.
In May 2021, he openly declared himself to be aligned with the Segunda Marquetalia, one of the principal factions of dissident FARC guerrillas in Colombia and Venezuela.
When John 40 commanded the 43rd Front, his area of control lay in the department of Meta. Currently, he moves between the Colombian department of Guaviare and the Venezuelan department of Amazonas.
Colombian authorities have reported that dissidents under his command use the departments of Vichada and Guainía to cross into Venezuela, where they maintain a cocaine stockpile in the Yapacana mountain range.
Allies and Enemies
John 40's main allies were long believed to be Miguel Botache Santillana, alias 'Gentil Duarte,' and Néstor Gregorio Verá, alias 'Iván Mordisco,' leaders of the 7th and 1st Fronts respectively. Beyond being one of the main financial backers for these two fronts, John 40 was thought to have become a strong ally of Duarte in his mission to unite the FARC dissidents.
However, in May 2021, he appeared in a video produced by the Segunda Marquetalia to commemorate the 57th anniversary of the FARC's existence. This seemingly innocuous appearance confirmed that John 40 had switched sides from Gentil Duarte to Iván Márquez and marking one of the more important power plays since the end of the FARC.
In so doing, he likely made an enemy of Gentil Duarte and Iván Mordisco, and became a solid ally of Márquez's commanders, including Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias “Romaña,” and Hernán Darío Velásquez, alias "El Paisa."
John 40's importance within Colombia's criminal landscape has rapidly increased in recent years as he controls important drug trafficking routes along the Venezuelan and Brazilian borders, while he has also become crucial in creating alliances with foreign cartels.
While his role is more criminal than ideological, his controversial history within the FARC guerrilla group, his former partnership with Duarte and his current alliance with the Segunda Marquetalia has made him a crucial part of the plan to unite the dissidents.
It is currently unclear what relations Gentil Duarte and his allies maintain with another faction of ex-FARC Mafia, led by influential commanders Luciano Marín Arango, alias ‘Iván Márquez,’ Seuxis Pausías Hernández Solarte, alias ‘Jesús Santrich,’ and Hernán Darío Velásquez, alias ‘El Paisa,’ who declared their return to arms in August 2019.