Guatemala has extradited a woman reported to have served as a link between Colombia's rebels and international drug trafficking organizations, suggesting that an individual FARC unit has developed its own export routes and may be looking to go it alone if a peace agreement is signed.
Sonia Cruz Quiceno, alias "La Mona," was captured in Guatemala City on February 16 and extradited the following day to face drug trafficking charges in the United States, reported El Tiempo.
Cruz is believed to be a senior figure in the 36th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Official sources have linked her with the Mexican cartels of the Zetas, Knights Templar and Sinaloa, as well as Colombia's Urabeños, descended from the rebels' paramilitary enemies.
According to Siglo 21, the United States issued an extradition order for Cruz last October. After evading a Colombian police attempt to arrest her in November, Cruz entered Guatemala legally in December, using her own passport, reported El Tiempo.
Cruz had previously spent three years in a US jail after being arrested in 2006 and extradited to face money laundering charges.
In a December report by El Tiempo detailing the links between the guerrillas and the Urabeños, Cruz was identified as not only responsible for laundering money for the Urabeños -- apparently legalizing up to $10 million at a time -- but also coordinating drug shipments.
InSight Crime Analysis
The details of Cruz's activities appear to place her as the lynchpin of an international drug smuggling operation involving the 36th Front. Colombian police sources told InSight Crime last year that they were investigating cocaine export routes run by the 36th Front that supplied Mexican cartels.
What is striking about this case is that the 36th Front appears to have been cooperating with the Mexicans and Urabeños without involving any other FARC units or commanders. This suggests the 36th Front is engaging in independent drug production and export, and heightens concerns the front could criminalize in the event the guerrillas sign a peace agreement following ongoing negotiations with the Colombian government.
InSight Crime has previously identified the 36th Front as at particular risk of criminalizing due to its role in the drug trade and problematic relationship with the organization's command structure. While the front is one of the FARC's most active and wealthy, its leader, Ovidio Antonio Mesa Ospina, alias "Anderson" or "Carranza," has had disciplinary problems in the past and remains outside the Central General Staff, which forms the backbone of the FARC's command structure. Under Anderson's leadership, the 36th Front has broken both Christmas ceasefires introduced by the guerrillas in 2012 and 2013, suggesting little respect for the FARC's seven-man ruling Secretariat.
SEE ALSO: FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization
Anderson's rebelliousness and close relationship with the Urabeños raises the possibility of his becoming another Megateo -- a guerrilla commander who refused to surrender when his rebel group, the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), demobilized in 1991. He has since become one of Colombia's foremost drug traffickers, keeping his rebel unit together and setting himself up as a local Robin Hood along the border with Venezuela.