FARC’s weapon caches present a difficult challenge for the United Nations
Though it has been widely reported in Colombian news that the FARC terrorist group has been disarmed, it was revealed today that the 7,132 arms delivered to the government this past Tuesday represent only 50% of the FARC’s arms. It is estimated that there are more than 949 camps containing countless additional arms still hidden throughout the country.
Jean Arnault, chief of the UN mission in Colombia, said today that 77 weapons caches have already been found and extracted, and that the U.N. expects to complete the process before September 1st. Still, many were skeptical.
Eccehomo Cetina, journalist and author of “The FARC’s El Dorado: The secret bank of the guerrilla in the jungle”, claims that the terror organization still has three types of caches, weapons caches, money caches and storage caches. He does not believe that the 949 camps include the money caches.
The director of the Security and Peace Studies Centre, Néstor Rosania, also supports the existence of money caches, as the FARC stopped using bank accounts and turned to cash after the Treasure Department of the United States started tracking their accounts. Rosania indicated that the weapons caches that have not yet been found include weapons types that have still not been delivered, including heavy weaponry and explosives, some of them handcrafted.
Cetina further explained that the amount of money that the guerrilla group owns is very difficult to determine due to how they manage their assets. He said that each front ran their individual operations and had their own “independent bank”. Unsurprisingly, not all of their weapons caches in these camps were registered to their Secretariat and some commanders also underreported their assets. It is likely that FARC leaders and negotiators themselves do not know the extent of the group’s weapons and money caches.
The U.N. must not only find these weapon caches but access them. Some of these caches are located in remote jungle regions of Colombia, while others are in contested territory where FARC dissident groups, and rivals, claim territory, according to John Marulanda, a security and defense consultant.
Marulanda also expressed his doubts that the arms surrendered represent anything other than a fraction of the total arms. Of the known weapons, some are still missing, including those that Vladimiro Montesinos sold to the FARC, as well as the Russian anti-aircraft arsenal shown in one video recorded by the guerrilla group.
Colombia’s President, Juan Manuel Santos, has however been quick to claim victory in the weapon delivery. He answered Marulanda’s claims and said that, “Since I became Minister of Defense eleven years ago, thousands of weapons from caches have been confiscated. Therefore, declaring that the FARC surrendered has additional arms is incorrect.”
Despite the reply, Marulanda still doubts the process, according to comments he made to Colombian newspaper El Colombiano.
“Some reports say that every combatant carried a rifle and a grenade. If the FARC still had 7,000 soldiers at the time of their surrender, and if we multiply this number by two, then that’s 14,000 weapons. However, the current reports are not even close”, he alleged.
Rosania admitted that it is virtually impossible to dismantle extract every cache.