An alleged FARC rebel cell involved in arms and drug trafficking has been dismantled by authorities in Costa Rica, in a case that illustrates the depth of the guerrillas' involvement in the drug trade and possible extent of their activity outside Colombia.
Initial reports said five Colombians and a Nicaraguan were arrested on November 1 -- although one of the reported Colombians was subsequently confirmed to be Costa Rican -- as part of a sting that saw 492 kilos of cocaine and 35 firearms confiscated, reported EFE. The group used a legitimate armory in San Jose as a front for importing weapons and drugs, which were smuggled to Mexico, reported La Nacion.
The group formed "part of a FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) cell," Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Unit (OIJ) told La Nacion.
According to La Nacion, the group's activities were originally detected by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which passed on the information to Costa Rican authorities. The arrests were made after two undercover agents from the OIJ infiltrated the group and negotiated the purchase of the subsequently confiscated drugs and weapons. The Colombians were legal Costa Rican residents through marriage to locals, authorities said.
InSight Crime Analysis
The FARC admit to taxing drug production and trafficking in their areas of influence, but reject accusations of direct involvement in the drug trade. There is significant cause to doubt those claims, and arrests such as these far outside Colombia's borders illustrate the group's activities are clearly not limited to an armed insurgency.
SEE ALSO: FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization
The rebels are said to maintain up to 70 percent of their assets outside of Colombia, including in Costa Rica, and have been linked indirectly to trafficking rings in Costa Rica through drug sales in Panama. They have also been linked to the Sinaloa Cartel on various occasions.
The claim they were involved in receiving and sending drugs through Central America is further evidence of an active role in the supply chain and could put pressure on the group as they discuss peace with the Colombian government, having previously claimed during negotiations to have no involvement in drug trafficking.