A recent US court decision which found three Colombian FARC rebels guilty of drug trafficking charges, including a mid-level commander, will be watched closely by guerrilla leaders as they consider peace talks.
On March 6 a unanimous jury verdict in the US district court for Washington, DC, found that Jose Antonio Celis, Juan Diego Giraldo and Anayibe Rojas Valderrama, alias “Sonia” (pictured above) are guilty of conspiring to import and sell cocaine in the US via Panama. All are members of Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
According to prosecutors, before her capture in 2004, Rojas Valderrama was a leader of the 14th Front of the FARC’s Southern Bloc, which is one of the rebels’ richest and best-equipped divisions. This wealth likely stems from the fact that it is deeply involved in drug trafficking.
While several captured Colombian rebels have faced drug charges in the US, this is the first time that a Colombian guerrilla has been found guilty by a jury. The three have not yet been sentenced, but they will face between 10 and 30 years in US prison.
InSight Crime Analysis
InSight Crime spoke with Sonia in 2001, when she was in charge of the 14th Front’s drug running operations. At the time she gave nothing away about the FARC’s internal operations. It is thought that she maintained her quiet after being captured, refusing to co-operate with authorities. For this reason it is likely that she will receive a heavy sentence.
The case will likely be watched closely by the FARC leadership. Sonia faced an extradition warrant on drug charges, as do most members of the FARC’s Estado Mayor, the body which coordinates strategy amongst the blocs. As the possibility of peace talks appears less distant, they may be less willing to demobilize if it means they will have to do jail time in the US.