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ANALYSIS

FARC Run 'Marijuana Cartel'

COLOMBIA / 11 JAN 2011 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

The rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have become the principal dealers of marijuana in the country, diversifying from cocaine, according to experts.

An article in the newspaper El Colombiano outlined the FARC’s increasing involvement in the marijuana trade, especially along the Pacific Coast.

The biggest seizure of the year was ten tons of marijuana found in the eastern province of Meta in October, property of the FARC’s 26th Front. However the majority of seizures are between one and four tons, and occur along the Pacific seaboard, especially in the department of Cauca, a marijuana-growing center. Cauca saw three tons decommissioned in August and on December 27, after fighting with FARC rebels another ton was uncovered. Both of these seizures were traced back to the FARC’s 6th Front, which controls much of the area where the drug crops are grown and supplies the local market in the nearby city of Cali.

While not as lucrative as cocaine, marijuana can be easily sold on the domestic market, ensuring that the FARC’s cash flow is constant and avoiding the need to change narco-dollars into Colombian pesos.

Much of the marijuana trade is controlled by the FARC’s Joint Western Command, under Jorge Torres Victoria, alias "Pablo Catatumbo," which has presence in the departments of Nariño, Cauca, Valle del Cauca, and into Tolima.  This is now one of the most militarily active FARC Blocs or fighting divisions with plenty of money thanks to income from cocaine, heroin and now marijuana.

Domestic consumption of many types of illegal drugs is growing in Colombia and with it urban violence has increased over the last two years.  This is partly due to the successful dismantling of several international cartels which exported drugs, and improved interdiction.  This means that while drug production remains relatively steady, less is being exported, leading to a saturation of local markets, which is feeding domestic consumption and the rise of street gangs and urban violence.

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