More than two tons of marijuana, destined for export, have been traced back to the rebels of the FARC, revealing that cocaine is not the only money spinner for the Colombian guerrillas, who seem to be expanding their criminal portfolio.
The army seized the 2.3 ton consignment of marijuana in a truck in the city of Cali. The truck had come from the municipality of Caloto in the mountains behind Cali, a stronghold of the powerful 6th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The drugs were due to travel on to the city of Buenaventura, the biggest port on the Pacific Coast, and then be exported abroad, the military said.
The drugs were valued at over $2 million, a price that would triple once exported abroad.
According to the military's Apollo Task Force, which operates along the Pacific coast, more than 300,000 marijuana plants have been seized along with 25 tons of marijuana, during army and navy operations.
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While the FARC have been in the cocaine business for decades, the 6th Front, based in the province of Cauca, has specialized in marijuana, turning it into a major stream of revenue for what is one of the most belligerent guerrilla units in the country. In July, the army discovered and destroyed six marijuana plantations in Corinto, Cauca, each under makeshift greenhouse roofs with lighting provided by generators. Intelligence gathered from FARC deserters indicate that the 6th Front has now embraced the cultivation and sale of marijuana.
The domestic marijuana market is booming, and Cauca has now become notorious for the production of a strain of marijuana known as "cripi," which is much more potent, and commands a higher price than regular types of the drug. The Ministry of Justice estimates that 640 tons of marijuana are consumed in Colombia each year, and that 70 percent of Colombia's marijuana production feeds this domestic market.
Marijuana shipments have been tracked going into neighboring Ecuador and Venezuela, whereas from the port of Buenaventura drug shipments can be moved to almost any part of the world. What is not clear is whether the FARC are simply selling the marijuana to buyers in Cauca, or getting involved in transportation, distribution or exportation of consignments and thus maximizing their profits.