THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
October 07, 2008
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s powerful drug cartels are buying cocaine directly from Colombia’s main rebel group, a senior Colombian defense official said Tuesday at a conference here on crime.
The finance chief of a unit of the Colombian rebel group, known as the FARC, which works along the Ecuador-Colombia border, is the main contact with the Mexican gangs that buy drugs from the rebels, said Sergio Jaramillo, Colombia’s deputy defense minister.
“We are particularly worried about the strengthening connections between Mexican cartels and the FARC,” Mr. Jaramillo said. “The Mexican cartels are buying directly from the FARC.”
He identified the finance chief as Oliver Solarte, a member of the 48th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or the FARC, which operates on the border.
Mr. Jaramillo declined to provide more details, saying he did not want to compromise intelligence reports. He spoke at the beginning of a two-day security meeting of the Organization of American States.
Ecuador broke diplomatic relations with Colombia in March over a cross-border raid by Colombian troops on a FARC camp in which a senior rebel leader and 24 others were killed. The camp was located in an area where the 48th Front operates.
Mr. Jaramillo said the FARC controlled most of Colombia’s cocaine trade, although right-wing paramilitary bands and other organized-crime groups were also involved.
The FARC in recent years has often operated on the Ecuadorean side of the highly porous jungle border. It smuggles arms and other supplies into Colombia and smuggles out much of the cocaine that finances the rebels’ insurgency.
American officials say, however, that Venezuela has become the FARC’s preferred route for cocaine smuggling.
José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, said drug trafficking, kidnapping and other forms of organized crime were among the greatest threats to the region’s stability.