Ecuador FARC Thoughts


Numerous readers have forwarded a spammed email they have read about the FARC, drugs and Iran in Ecuador.

The email leads to a report entitled  “Ecuador at Risk: Drugs, Thugs, Guerrillas and the Citizens Revolution”

I won’t comment much on the email or the report itself since it seems quite slanted, aimed more at alarming than informing and…  lacking in balance… completeness and fact.  However, I have added the url for the report at the end of this message if you wish to read it.

But readers have concerns so let’s take a look and start with the FARC.

I am perhaps more familiar with the impact of the FARC in the Amazon… than most, because the FARC directly affected us.

A number of  years ago Merri and  I invested in opening an Amazon Jungle Lodge  at the request of a small group of Amazonians.

We built the lodge to help a small community of Amazonians who wanted tourism rather than oil revenues to support them.  I managed to take just one group to the lodge.   Then we lost our entire investment when it was rumored that the FARC was in that area.   Learn more about that journey at Amazon trips.

Yet my opinion is that this problem with the Farc is minor and strictly limited to remote parts of the Ecuador Colombia Amazon border.

My opinions on the FARC and Iran are below, but since I am no expert on military and security affairs I asked over a dozen of my friends and contacts across Ecuador for their opinions and any facts they could garner on this subject.

I have replies from Cuenca, the coast, the Amazon, Cotacachi, and Guayaquil that we’ll share.

The first reply was from a US expat who lives in Cuenca. He wrote:

Hi Gary – I haven’t been able to find anything locally about the veracity of this article. Have you found anything through your contacts down here?

The fact that this friend could not find anything is telling in itself.  The reality as far as daily life is concerned… the FARC in Ecuador are a non event. I am reminded of a similar situation in Thailand in the late 1960s and early 1970s… the years I lived and worked all over Asia.  Everyone knew that there was a war going on and that it was not safe around the border because the Viet Cong used to cross it freely. The solution was… we avoided the border.  Heck it took a real effort to get to the border anyway. Forget it!  Life went on… busy… happy…. safe… except the crazy Bangkok traffic created enormous risks.

Plus this article about Ecuador and the FARC seemed especially badly timing since the FARC have been so seriously weakened as a force.  There are even realistic hopes they will soon disband as evidenced in a Reuters article “Catholic Church seeks talks with Colombia rebels”.

Here is an excerpt: BOGOTA (Reuters) – A Roman Catholic Church official on Friday proposed a meeting in Europe with Colombia’s main guerrilla leader to discuss handover of hostages and possible negotiations to end Latin America’s oldest insurgency.  Previous attempts to bring the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, to the table have failed over conditions for the release of the captives it holds in jungle camps and demands that the rebels end hostilities before talks begin.  Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon said the plan to seek talks with the FARC was approved by President Alvaro Uribe, whose U.S.-backed army offensive has battered the guerrilla group to its weakest level in decades.

This site has also shared information in the past about the Colombian bombing of the FARC inside Ecuador territory at Ecuador Border Tensions

Plus we have looked at potential benefits of Iran Ecuador relations at  Ecuador Iran.

Drugs?  Drugs are everywhere… globally. My experience has been that there are far more drugs being created near our homes in North Carolina and Florida than anywhere expats live in Ecuador.

Shortly after arriving at our new home near Mt. Dora, Florida… a police officer explained that another small town in central Florida is named the meth capital of Florida.

A December 2009 WFTV.com article entitled “Lake County Deputies Busting More Meth Labs” outlines the problem.

This story says: LAKE COUNTY, Fla — The number of meth labs busted in Lake County nearly doubled this year because deputies say they are cracking down on the problem.  In 2009, Lake County’s drug unit dismantled 54 methamphetamine labs compared to just 24 in 2008.  Investigators say the higher number of busts is a good sign their efforts are working.  “In Lake County, the sheriff’s office has devised a team that does nothing but concentrate its efforts on the meth labs,” said Sgt. Glen Hall with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.  Investigators believe the poor economy and easy access to meth ingredients cause meth labs to pop up across the country.”

The area around our home in North Carolina may be even worse.

A 2004 map from North Carolina’s  State Bureau of Investigation shows that the counties around our house were among the  worst (Ashe county yellow and Wautauga County red) in the state.

ecuador-crime

A 2004 article in the Mountain Times “Four Meth Labs Found Over The Last Month In Ashe” confirms this problem when it says:  Several meth labs have been found over the past few weeks bringing the total for Ashe County up to approximately 10 labs, compared to only two labs found last year at this time, according to Detective Chris Miller of the Ashe County Sheriff’s Department.

News in the area suggests that  the problem had not disappeared by 2008. Here’s an excerpt from a July 2008 article in the Jefferson Post:  Sheriff James Williams believes he started making good on his promise to clean up drugs in Ashe County when his office conducted an investigation that nabbed 15 suspects who were charged with possession of various illicit drugs including marijuana, opium, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

At the conclusion of the day, investigators believed that the operation was a success as it conveyed a clear message to drug users and distributors that they better sleep with one eye open because the sheriff’s office would be looking for them.

The year of 2008 proved to be an especially busy year for deputies and Sheriff Williams. Earlier in March, an investigation led by the sheriff’s offices in Ashe and Wilkes counties resulted in the region’s largest methamphetamine seizure and bust.

Ashe and Wautauga Counties are not the only ones with this problem.   A July 2009 article at Methlabhomes.com entitled “North Carolina Meth Labs are rising” says:  Meth labs in North Carolina are increasing. In fact, drug enforcement agents have already made 102 meth lab busts statewide so far this year. That is a 52% increase over this same time last year.

What should we expect… these wonderful mountains in North Carolina have a wild streak and have always been famous for the creation of illicit substances. Before drugs the big problem was moonshine.

The story of Thunder Road came from moonshining as a way of life in the Blue Ridge and Appalachians. Moonshiners turned corn mash into “mountain dew”. They built cars to outrun the revenuers that influenced the rural south and were the roots of stock car racing and NASCAR.

This problem by the way has not disappeared either.  Last October, an hour and half away from us in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, State Alcohol Law Enforcement agents (the revenuers) seized 929 gallons of moonshine in a still bust… the biggest haul in memory.  Wow that’s a lot of ethanol!

So to say Ecuador has a drug problem would normally stifle a yawn. In this case the reaction is more because Ecuador is tough on drugs.  They do not execute drug dealers as they do in Singapore, but Ecuador is the only country I know that checks you for drugs when you enter AND exit the country.

I am sure there is a drug problem… like everywhere, but I have never seen anyone using drugs in Ecuador.

As you will see below…others who live in Ecuador agree.

Here is reply to my question about this article from an Ecuadorian  businessman in Quito.

Gary here are a few of my thoughts on these problems:

The FARC has indeed increased its presence in the Colombian-Ecuadorian border, but you can’t really claim that Ecuador is allowing that to happen (if they freely cross the border it means that Colombia is responsible as well). The border is pretty much in the Amazon, meaning that anyone could easily cross between the trees. The Ecuadorian government received criticism that it was allowing the FARC to come in and out with no resistance so the military presence in the region has increased. Now Ecuadorian military units patrol the border at day and night.

There is no exact number on how many drug labs there are in the Amazon, but the Ecuadorian government has destroyed many of them in the past years, and they burned thousands of tons of drugs.

The government also created a special commission to go over the drug related accusations that it was facing after Raul Reyes was killed by a Colombian bombing in Ecuadorian territory. The commission found that there were ties between some government former employees and members of irregular groups, but found that the government was not in direct contact neither with the FARC or any other “irregular group” (they don’t call them terrorists).

The conclusion was that few bad apples actually were talking to the FARC, but they claimed that it was for humanitarian reasons. Non of the implicated former employees are in jail right now and the commission is just that, so whatever they found is just for common knowledge.

The Ecuadorian police has confiscated and arrested hundreds of people this past years fighting drug traffic. It seems at times that the Ecuadorian government on the other hand is not that committed to that, but then again there is no proof or at least, not proof that will be legally strong enough to arrest any government employee or former employee.

So people can claim that the Ecuadorian government is suspicious of  being permissive toward the FARC, but since many arrests have been made and also we still collaborate with the US in fighting drug related issues, Ecuador had it’ s ATPDA renew for one more year, meaning that the US government still believes that Ecuador is fighting along it’ s side.

However there are issues out there that are not conclusive and lead to believe that some connection may be between government employees and the FARC. Things are even more complicated since the FARC also said that they had nothing to do with the Ecuadorian government, and the computes seized in several occasions by Colombia have no conclusive information either.

Bottom line, there is a feeling that something fishy is going on mainly because the FARC is a leftist movement and this is a leftist government, so ideology plays a big role, linking several government ex-funtionaries to FARC related issues. But there is also a big military presence in the border taking over the security and occasional fights that ended up in FARC members being killed by the ecuadorian military. Also the police captures hundreds of drug related people and thousands of tones of drugs each year.

My personal thought is that the government is not collaborating with the FARC but some people that it has relations with are. And it seems not to be that upfront in going after it’ s former members on trials leaving that sour taste that is somehow involve, which I don’t think it is.

The hard thing is to prove that this is actually happening, and it particularly hard because our judiciary system is deficient, so yes we are suspicious but there is nothing conclusive and the commission that I told you about found no friendly government policies toward the FARC, it found few people that had ties, but then again unless the Ecuadorian judicial system indicts any of them, it is just talk, it won’t be true unless someone proofs it in court.

So I think that unless the US government issues a statement accusing Ecuador of wrongdoing, we will still enjoy the ATPDA and we will still be considered to be a friend of the USA as well.

About the ties with the Iranian Central Bank I think it may be more out of desperation since Correa talked nasty about the IMF and other international financial institutions and renegotiated our foreign debt as illegal, taking a big chunk in discounts. This means that no one will lend money to Ecuador.

My opinion is that Ecuador is a wonderful country. It has some political problems yes. It has some drug problems yes. It has some economic problems yes.  What country does not?   On the plus side, the wonderful weather, excellent soil and agricultural background of the culture means there is always plenty of food.  The strong indigenous roots allows for a more natural lifestyle and the friendly nature of the people of Ecuador means that any turmoil is likely to remain peaceful.

Read more thoughts from readers about Ecuador, drugs and the FARC here

and at FARC in Ecuador

Gary

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Read Catholic Church seeks talks with Colombia rebels

The email report entitled  “Ecuador at Risk: Drugs, Thugs, Guerrillas and the Citizens Revolution” is at http://www.strategycenter.net/research/pubID.221/pub_detail.asp


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