Police in the western coastal city of Buenaventura on Wednesday discovered a sizeable arms and munitions cache used by the Western Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
In total, authorities found more than 7,000 AK-47 cartridges, a mortar and shell, 50 fragmentation grenades and a rocket launcher. Police believe that a portion of the cache was meant to be shared with the Rastrojos crime organization.
According to the Colombian daily El Tiempo, these materials were found in the area near the El Pinal bridge, at the eastern entrance to the city. In a statement to the press, Rear Admiral Wills Hernando Velez, commander of the Pacific Naval Force, said officials had been monitoring the cache for some time. "The material was hidden in this place for the past ten days, as little by little it had been added to," he said. "Intelligence allowed [our] units to reach the site and make the seizure of the arsenal."
Admiral Hernando also cited the level of sophistication of the discovered arms as particularly worrisome to authorities: "This array has great destructive power. The rocket is a high-tech weapon that can be used against aircraft."
Buenaventura is a major shipping point for drug trafficking organizations on their way to the Unites States, and officials believe that the FARC meant to distribute some of the guns to the Rastrojos crime syndicate, a major player in cocaine distribution and an ally with the FARC in this business. The FARC also works with the Juarez and Tijuana Cartels in Mexico, while the Rastrojos have been linked to the Sinaloa Cartel.
The revelation comes just a week after officials uncovered a seperate bomb plot in the capital city of Bogotá, in which officials discovered nearly 20 kilos of explosives and a manuscript instructing attackers to attack police stations throughout the city. Although authorities did not officially link the latter plot to the FARC at the time, it was widely suspected be the work of the guerrilla group, which has come under an increasing amount of military pressure in recent months and is shifting towards high-impact, low-risk terrorist type activities such as bombings.
In September, the Colombian military killed the FARC's top military commander Jorge Briceño Suarez, alias "Mono Jojoy," in a much-publicized operation. In the context of the increased attacks, both the bomb plot and cache discovery could be part of a recent counter offensive by the FARC meant to take pressure off its embattled southeastern front where its top commander, Guillermo Leon Saenz Vargas, alias "Alfonso Cano," operates.