Brazilian and Colombian officials are warning that Brazil’s largest drug syndicate, the First Capital Command (PCC), has begun hiring members of the Marxist terrorist group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) following the signing of a “peace deal” to disarm the FARC.
Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas warned that PCC gang members have “been offering jobs to the FARC.” The Wall Street Journal notes that officials representing both governments met this week to discuss combatting the potentially deadly merger of the two narco-terrorist groups. Of particular concern are FARC terrorists operating in Colombia’s interior, near the border with Brazil, who have objected to a peace deal with the Colombian government and may continue their violent activities. The Journal report estimates that the number of FARC terrorists uninterested in putting down their weapons may be up to one out of ten guerrilla members.
Last week, Brazilian Defense Minister Raúl Jungmann issued public statements expressing concern over the number of FARC terrorists who do not want to participate in the group’s disarmament. “There are dissidents within FARC who are not willing to enter this peace process and there is a fear, justified or not, that part of this arsenal may migrate to our cities,” he told reporters.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has made a peace process with the FARC the cornerstone of his political policy, negotiating with FARC leaders hiding in Havana, Cuba, for years. The two sides agreed on a deal that would offer impunity for post-FARC terrorists and enable FARC leaders to establish a political party. Colombia’s constitution requires such a deal to be approved by a popular referendum; in October, Colombians voted against legitimizing the FARC, a group responsible for at leat 200,000 deaths in its half-century of existence.
Santos, newly equipped with a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, pushed the peace deal through as legislation following the “no” vote. In December, the Colombian Congress approved a variation of the deal, which according to Brazilian newspaper O Globo “provides for special legal treatment, amnesty and pardon to guerrilla members accused of political and related crimes” and allows the FARC to use its millions of drug profits to establish a political party.
Officials are hoping nearly 6,000 guerrilla members hand their weapons over to the government.
On Monday, Colombian officials announced that disarmament zones in the nation’s interior were only 30 to 35 percent ready for the process but that guerrillas were now encouraged to hand over their weapons and thousands had already handed themselves over to the government.
The government has not guaranteed that those who reject the FARC peace deal will not leave the country to accept drug trafficking labor from the PCC. These concerns are especially worrisome given the current state of the PCC: an all-out war with the rival Red Command (CV) gang. Most of this war has consisted in bloody massacres in Brazil’s prisons, featuring beheadings, dismemberments, and CV members roasting the flesh of PCC gang members on makeshift skewers.
Reports indicate that complacency from prison officials have largely aided these riots; guards have accepted bribes in exchange for allowing all sorts of illegal paraphernalia, from cell phones to firearms, to be present in Brazil’s notoriously overcrowded prisons. While prisons have hosted most of the worst of this violence, over 100 inmates remain on the loose after multiple riots permitted them to escape amid the chaos.
The PCC now finds itself with a more urgent need than ever for battle-hardened narco-terrorists to help them prevent the CV from successfully overtaking it as Brazil’s most lucrative drug gang.
Whether the FARC will successfully provide these services remain to be seen. InsightCrime, an organization that tracks terrorism in Latin America, suggests that the PCC may not be as successful recruiting disenchanted FARC terrorists as it may initially appear. “The FARC’s principal commercial alliance in northern Brazil currently sits with Família do Norte (FDN), not PCC,” InsightCrime quotes country risk analyst Lloyd Belton as stating. FDN is a regional gang with its base in Manaus, near the Colombian border, that has pledged allegiance to the CV. FDN members are believed to have conducted the New Year’s Eve riot in an Amazonas prison that has triggered the recent string of violence nationwide.