As Colombia's government and the FARC rebels accelerate towards a final peace agreement, a former police commander working with the government's negotiating team said the guerrilla group promised to cut all ties with the drug trade.
Choosing his words carefully during a press conference on January 15, retired General Oscar Naranjo Trujillo said that the FARC has promised to break any "connections" it has or "has had" with drug trafficking, reported El Espectador.
General Naranjo, who previously served as the director of Colombia's national police, assured critics of the peace process that an agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) would still hold the rebels responsible for their involvement in the drug trade, reported Caracol.
General Naranjo's comments followed on the heels of President Juan Manuel Santos' announcement that he had directed government peace negotiators to begin discussing a bilateral ceasefire with the FARC as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense released statistics for 2014 showing that Colombian authorities seized over 166 tons of cocaine last year and eradicated 11,700 hectares of drug crops.
InSight Crime Analysis
The FARC and the Colombian government seem to be quickening the pace of the peace negotiations, but the guerrilla group's agreement to cut drug trafficking ties is likely a promise it cannot keep.
As emphasized by General Naranjo's comments, the FARC have used drug trafficking to finance their insurgency, which has now lasted for over 50 years. Although the FARC have never officially admitted to anything beyond taxing coca crops and other drug trade activities in their territory, evidence points to their participation at various levels of the drug trade. InSight Crime believes the rebel group earns over $200 million from activities connected to drug trafficking.
Given the profits at stake and the degree to which certain FARC fronts are entrenched in the drug trade, an eventual peace agreement would likely see the FARC fragment as some factions criminalize and others disarm. According to InSight Crime investigations, the Ivan Rios Bloc, which operates in the Antioquia, Cordoba and Choco provinces, is among those at greatest risk for criminalization.
The rebel group's ability and willingness to completely disengage from the drug trade is also complicated by political considerations. Coca farmers are one of the FARC's bases of support, and it seems unlikely the guerrilla group would simply hand coca growing regions over to the neo-paramilitary groups known as BACRIM.