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

Blood from Stones

Visit Douglas Farah's
author page at

Press Releases

The FARC and the Quest for Surface to Air Missiles
The Miami Herald today reports that the Colombian FARC has likely already fulfilled its long-time goal of purchasing surface to air missiles to be used against U.S.-supplied helicopters in Colombia.

The FARC has long placed a very high strategic priority on acquiring SAMs, going back to at least 2003. The commanders officially requested money from Libya and Nicaragua at that time to purchase the weapons because the insurgency was being so badly hurt by helicopters acquired by the military and police.

The helicopters allowed the military and police to extend their supply lines, increase mobility and pursue the FARC and other groups from the air, something that helped fundamentally shift the dynamics of the war.

It is not a good weapon to have in the hands of a terrorist organization that derives its revenue from cocaine trafficking, kidnapping and extortion. The FARC is on the ropes militarily, and one of the few things that could give the group an immediate boost is the acquisition of SAMs. Other terrorist groups have acquired the missiles, including radical Islamist groups that tried to down an Israeli jetliner.

The information on this case originates in a Peruvian court case, where 12 men are on trial for the illicit sales.

The Peruvian prosecutors' records detail the sale of at least four Russian-made Strela and Igla ground-to-air missiles between May and October 2008 and another three in 2009, ``each one for the sum of 45,000 US dollars.''

They were sold by Jorge Aurelio Cerpa, a Peruvian air force official, and were delivered to Freddy Torres, an Ecuadorean who had been buying weapons for the FARC since 2007, according to the records. They and nine others were arrested and charged with collaboration with terrorism, and several have confessed.

Note the transnational nature of the arrangement. From corrupt Peruvian officials to a FARC middleman operating in Ecuador, to the FARC. Again, an Ecuadoran and Ecuador appear as vital pieces in the FARC's strategic resupply network, as outlined in the recent paper I co-authored titled Ecuador at Risk: Drugs, Thugs, Guerrillas and the Citizens' Revolution

It was not a one-off deal by Torres, but part of a long string of sales he helped engineer in order to keep the FARC well armed and lethal.

Peruvian army and police officers also sold Torres hundreds of hand grenades for up to $60 apiece, 40-50 heavy machine guns for $19,000 each and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, according to the records, first published by the La República newspaper in Lima.

Torres, who was arrested Dec. 19 on Peru's northern border with Ecuador, was paying $150,000 to $200,000 for arms deliveries ``every 15 or 20 days,'' a copy of the records provided to El Nuevo Herald showed.

The case shows how diversified the FARC has become in its acquisition of weapons, and how broadly it casts its net. One can only assume that, while the black market is being worked, the supplies from friendly governments, particularly Venezuela, continue to flow as well.

All of this bodes ill for the conflict in Colombia, already in its 44th year. With new cocaine routes being opened to Europe via West Africa and the expansion of the Mexican cartels southward to deal directly with the FARC, the revenue stream to the organization is unlikely to diminish any time soon. And that could mean decades more of costly and bloody conflict for Colombia.
A New Indictment for Viktor Bout and His American Accomplice
The Downward Spiral in Latin America
Maintained by Winter Tree Media, LLC