A Colombian informant, who reportedly played a key role in the stealth operation to pass a guerrilla commander a pair of orthopedic boots that led to his death, is now complaining that the US State Department still owes him some $5 million in reward money.
The informant told Semana magazine that he played the decisive role in the police operation that killed Victor Julio Suarez, alias "Mono Jojoy," the commander of the Eastern Bloc of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Mono Jojoy is best known for pushing the guerrillas to become more involved in mass civilian kidnappings and aggressive military operations, before he died in an air raid in September 2010.
The informant sold medication and other supplies to the FARC faction commanded by Mono Jojoy in Colombia's Eastern Plains. He was also responsible for securing Mono Jojoy's diabetes medication, after the guerrilla commander became sick in his later years, and, more importantly for law enforcement officials, his shoes.
Those shoes were orthopedic boots. People with diabetes have reduced circulation in their feet and suffer more from open sores and wound infections, doctors say. The boots helped resolve that issue for Mono Jojoy.
The informant told Semana that after the FARC asked the informant for these special shoes, he passed the information to the intelligence agents who furnished him the boots. Embedded in them was an electronic tracking device that later allowed the Colombian Air Force to target and kill Mono Jojoy in a bombing campaign. When they couldn't find his body, they used the device to unearth him.
The informant told Semana that while Colombian security forces paid him the $2.7 million in reward money, the US State Department still owes him the $5 million promised for intelligence leading to Mono Jojoy's capture or death. When Semana inquired about the case, the State Department referred it to the US Embassy in Colombia, which declined to comment.
The informant did receive money from the US. The CIA paid him $100,000, and the DEA paid $111,300 following the air raid, Semana reported. But, according to the informant, they told him this was all he could expect to receive.
The informant's US-based lawyer confirmed that story with InSight Crime. Joaquín Perez, who has also represented infamous Colombian paramilitaries and drug traffickers, also sent a letter to the US Ambassador in Colombia asking him to reconsider.
InSight Crime Analysis
The story reveals the level of sophistication that Colombian intelligence has reached and why security forces have killed and captured so many high value targets in recent years, including four top FARC leaders.
The chip installed in Mono Jojoy's boots was a risky and expensive proposition, but one that paid huge dividends. Mono Jojoy was the equivalent of Colombia's bogeyman. And his death, almost more than the death of any other rebel leader, meant the FARC was very vulnerable. Such an event was unthinkable just five years earlier.
Insider information has also played a key role in the arrest of other Colombian criminals, most recently Urabeños leader Henry de Jesus Lopez, alias "Mi Sangre." He was captured in Argentina in October, reportedly thanks to an informant who is expected to receive a $1.2 million reward.
These attacks have played a role in forcing the FARC to rethink their position and sit down at the negotiating table.
The contrast between how the Colombian and US governments have handled the payments is also striking. The Colombian government appears just and understanding; the US appears crass and heartless. More importantly, it just seems like good policy to pay, especially in cases like these.
Informants run high risks in passing even the most basic information to the authorities. The promise of a significant monetary reward may prompt some to become confidential informants.
But, as seen with the case publicized by Semana, the risk is that the informers who believe they have not received their just rewards could publicly complain. This could then discourage others from sharing intelligence with the security forces. Colombia seems to understand this better than the US right now.