Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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New NEFA Report on the FARC's International Support Network
Almost all terrorist organizations seek to establish international support networks that allow them to operate in countries and regions outside their home bases. The FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) are no exception.

In this new NEFA Foundation report, using internal FARC documents and interviews with former FARC leaders and others in Colombia, I outline the unusual and unexpectedly broad network the guerrillas had established. This paper is the third I have done on the political and military demise of the FARC, which, despite recent setbacks, remains the hemisphere's oldest and largest insurgency.

As I have noted before, the FARC, a designated terrorist entity by the United States and the European Union, is largely a rural-based group, but in many ways is the prototype of terrorist groups we are likely to see as state sponsorship for such groups is cut back.

The size and sophistication of the FARC international network was one of the biggest surprises of FARC documents that have been captured. It had long been assumed that, while the group had some times, it was a relatively isolated entity. That, however, is not true.

The FARC (along with the Taliban) are pioneers in the use of massive drug financing for their political ends. At the same time, the FARC is developing a (so far) unique model of support networks that includes state sponsors (Venezuela and Nicaragua, most notably), non-state supporter networks, and a concerted effort to share tactics, technology and experiences with other terrorist groups (the ETA of Spain and the P-IRA of Ireland, in particular).

Perhaps the most notable aspect of this relationship is the symbiosis between the different actors, and the reactivation of the old Marxist networks, in a much diminished form, in much of Latin America.

For example, the MIR of Chile, the Tupac Amaros in Peru, parts of the FMLN in El Salvador-specifically the Communist Party- and various groups under the umbrella of the Coordinadora Continental Bolivariana (CCB), are all in contact and cooperate with the FARC. The internal documents make clear that the CCB is funded and directed by the FARC, and its coordinating offices are in Caracas.

Rather than Cuba and the Soviet Union providing the financing, training and safe haven for operations for these groups, it is now Venezuela and Nicaragua, with the support of Iran. The documents show that the FARC often explicitly states that Cuban officials are not to be informed of transactions or meetings.

Iran, and increasingly Russia, are providing support to the regional state actors who support the FARC's political objectives of overthrowing the Colombian government and establishing a Marxist regime, that in turn are providing support to the FARC directly, or its proxies.

This network has been particularly useful as the FARC has sought desperately to acquire surface-to-air missiles, the documents show. The group asks for aid from the Libyan and Nicaraguan governments, discusses the issue with senior Venezuelan officials, and finally makes contact with two Australian arms merchants, through the member of the Communist Party in El Salvador.

While the Australians met with the FARC leadership numerous times, it seems the death of senior FARC commanders in March 2008 put a crimp in finalizing the transactions. The question is, until when?

The Latin American region, the United States and Europe all need to form a strategy for dealing with the network that is growing and rapidly expanding. So far, no one but the Colombians seem to sense any urgency in this matter.

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