HomeNewsBriefFARC Front Commander Talks Peace Talks, Drugs
BRIEF

FARC Front Commander Talks Peace Talks, Drugs

COLOMBIA / 22 FEB 2016 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

Local Colombian newspaper El Colombiano has obtained privileged access to the FARC's 18th Front, a sign of how the rebel group is reopening its doors to the media as the deadline for the peace talks with the government draws near.

El Colombiano produced a series of informative videos and articles after spending time with the 18th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), including an interview with a member of the front's leadership, Élmer Arrieta, alias "El Flaco." 

The 18th Front is allegedly known for its aggressiveness and is mainly located in the northern part of Antioquia state. This area has been hard-hit by the conflict, with a high rate of displacement, landmines, and drug production and trafficking. 

On the topic of the peace process with the Colombian government, Arrieta stated, "All of our members support peace. We believe in peace."

The insurgents do not merely follow their leaders blindly, the commander clarified. Rather, they can identify with the developments in Havana, Cuba, because they receive updates "daily." One video following the daily lives of the front members depicts them watching recordings emitted from Cuba explaining the developments of the peace talks.

When asked about the main fear that guerrillas have regarding the peace talks, Arrieta replied, "The most concrete problem is paramilitarism. Guerrillas are fearful of all the massacres that happened in the past. Now [the paramilitaries] are threatening civilians, guerrilla members and their families in various areas."

SEE ALSO: FARC News and Profile

The commander added that the 18th Front -- along with all of the FARC's blocs -- is strictly loyal to the superior command. Currently, the orders from above are to reduce the intensity of the conflict, stop buying weapons and ammunition and halt military training. Arrieta affirmed that skirmishes between the security forces and the front have reduced significantly.

Arrieta reiterated the FARC's declarations that the group's involvement in the national drug trade is very much hands-off. "For us it's banned to buy coca, be moving coca ... We've always lived off the fees, a voluntary fee from a farmer, a shop owner."

16-02-22-infografia-18th-Front

Infographic by El Colombiano

InSight Crime Analysis

The interview with Arrieta draws attention to certain issues that have long been plaguing the ongoing peace talks between the rebel group and the government.

One major concern is that taking the FARC out of the picture will not properly deal with the other actors in the Colombia's armed conflict, including other guerrilla groups and "criminal bands" ("bandas criminals" - BACRIM). These descendants of right-wing paramilitary groups are thought to be a threat to the security of disarmed former guerrillas and civilians loyal to the group, and with reason. In his comments, Arrieta was probably making a reference to the "massacre" of the Patriotic Union (Union Patriótica - UP) political party, which was set up by the FARC in 1985. Around 4,000 candidates, members, and supporters of the party were murdered by paramilitaries and their allies in the security forces.

SEE ALSO:  Colombia News and Profiles

This dark history seems to be repeating itself with the Marcha Patriótica (Patriotic March - MP), a left-wing party potentially supported by the FARC which by 2014 had seen 48 of its members killed over two years.

While Arrieta clearly sticks to the FARC's public rhetoric when speaking of the front's commitment to the peace talks, in reality there is a far greater likelihood that certain dissident guerrilla factions will refuse to lay down their arms should a peace deal be reached. A number of fronts who are known to be involved in highly lucrative activities, especially drug trafficking, may well choose to criminalize in order to keep a grip on their networks.

El Colombiano's access to this typically "silent" front is a sign of increasing openness towards the media by the rebel group after years of relative seclusion. Different FARC fronts have recently welcomed reporters from The New York Times and the Associated Press into their camps.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 28 DEC 2012

Lorena Henao Montoya, known as the "Widow of the Mafia," was murdered after assassins on a motorcycle strafed her car…

COLOMBIA / 11 JAN 2018

Reporting by InSight Crime in 2017 revealed how organized crime managed to infiltrate local politics in Latin America as well…

COLOMBIA / 28 FEB 2018

A deadly ambush against Colombian soldiers blamed on the ELN shows the rebel group's internal divide around its ongoing peace…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Collaborating on Citizen Security Initiatives

8 JUN 2021

Co-director Steven Dudley worked with Chemonics, a DC-based development firm, to analyze the organization’s citizen security programs in Mexico.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Deepens Its Connections with Universities

31 MAY 2021

A partnership with the University for Peace will complement InSight Crime’s research methodology and expertise on Costa Rica.

THE ORGANIZATION

With Support from USAID, InSight Crime Will Investigate Organized Crime in Haiti

31 MAY 2021

The project will seek to map out Haiti's principal criminal economies, profile the specific groups and actors, and detail their links to elements of the state.

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.