Security forces captured an alleged leader of the FARC's 48th Front in northern Ecuador, an area that has long been a key center of logistics for the rebels' Southern Bloc.
Wilson Tapiero, alias "Dumar" or "Trincho," was detained by the Ecuadorean military on Monday along with six others in the northeastern province of Sucumbios along the Colombian border. He is the alleged head of logistics for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia's (FARC) 48th Front and is wanted in Colombia on drug trafficking and terrorism charges, reported El Espectador.
Colonel Arturo Coral of the Ecuadorean Army's 4th Division stated, "[Tapiero] could be a fundamental part of Colombian illegal armed groups." The seven alleged rebels will reportedly be handed over to Colombian authorities on Tuesday.
The 48th Front, one of the FARC's wealthiest thanks to their involvement in the cocaine trade, has ties with drug gangs like the Rastrojos and the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel. The Front operates primarily out of their stronghold in the southern Colombian department of Putumayo, just north of Sucumbios, but top-level operators have been known to move deep into Ecuadorean territory. Last year, police arrested an alleged operative of the 48th Front in Ecuador's capital.
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The FARC have long used Ecuador as a rest and recuperation area for their fighters, as well as a source of weapons, medicine, food, and other basic supplies. The rebels have even maintained munition factories south of the border, a sign of just how comfortable they feel in Ecuador. As a result, Ecuador has faced many accusations that its security forces have demonstrated a willful blindess to guerrilla activities in their territory.
Colombia-Ecuador relations hit a low point after Colombia bombed a FARC camp in northern Ecuador in March 2008, killing Secretariat member Luis Edgar Devis Silva, alias "Raul Reyes." Even though the countries severed diplomatic relations, Ecuador still went through the motions of trying to push the FARC out of their territory, touting the dismantling of hundreds of rebel camps.
But Ecuador has shown recent signs of taking a tougher position against the FARC, deploying 10,000 troops to the Colombia border earlier this year. President Rafael Correa also admitted recently that the guerrillas could still have a signficant presence in Ecuador. But unlike the FARC encampments of old, which used to house hundreds of fighters at a time, the FARC must now rely on smaller, more mobile camps in an effort to avoid mounting pressure from both sets of security forces, according to an International Crisis Group report last year. This means tracking FARC presence has become much more difficult on both the Colombia and Ecuador sides of the border.