The capture of a former FARC leader in Colombia has revealed how he tried to falsely enlist drug traffickers within the country's peace process, registering them as guerrillas having laid down their arms in order to grant them legal protection.
Luis Eduardo Carvajal, alias Rambo, was an influential leader among the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) prior to his capture in July 2018.
He is known to have charged millions of dollars to drug traffickers in order to register them as former FARC members with the Colombian Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz – JEP).
SEE ALSO: Coverage of FARC Peace Process
The most important of these cases concerns Olindo Perlaza Caicedo, alias Olindillo, who paid 1 million dollars to Rambo to benefit from the JEP’s non-extradition guarantee for crimes committed by the guerrillas prior to the 2016 peace agreement. Olindillo was captured last week.
By April 2019, the JEP had identified and expelled 43 individuals proven to have claimed false ties to the FARC, turning their cases over to the Attorney General's Office.
Colombia's High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Ceballos, said that an investigation by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Colombian police had found some of the "largest drug traffickers in the world" hiding within the JEP system, Red Noticias reported.
Rambo, a former commander of the FARC's Daniel Aldana mobile column, is now facing extradition to the United States on charges of obstructing justice.
InSight Crime Analysis
The fear of drug traffickers unrelated to the FARC obtaining protection under the JEP has been a long-term source of concern. While drug trafficking is booming in Colombia and the country is producing more cocaine than ever before, those behind the drug trade are increasingly keeping a low profile.
At least six drug traffickers were found to have been included on the initial listings of FARC members within the JEP. They were all involved in the production, processing and shipping of cocaine overseas. And entering the JEP allowed them a window of opportunity to continue their criminal activities without legal persecution.
These targets were rapidly identified, expelled from the program and are being investigated by the Attorney General's Office. Some have already been captured, had their assets seized and are facing extradition.
But the involvement of individuals such as Rambo shows how those with the right underworld connections were able to turn this into a business opportunity.
One drug trafficker, Segundo Villota, managed to obtain fake intelligence reports, falsified battle plans from the FARC's Eastern Bloc and even a doctored organization chart to try and prove he was a former guerrilla fighter.
These efforts appear to have largely been unsuccessful. The JEP appears to have moved swiftly in verifying these individuals' status, expelling them and arresting them, if possible.
A number of drug traffickers who failed to enter the JEP are now facing extradition to the United States, sending a stark message about the severity of the sanctions any others could face.