FARC in Ecuador

FARC in Ecuador

Recently an emailed report entitled “New Study: Ecuador’s Growing Role with the FARC and Transnational Crime” has been going the rounds on the net and several readers have written with concern.

This report on Ecuador and the FARC seemed pretty out of date and inaccurate to me, but I am not an Ecuadorian military or political expert  so I wrote to friends all over Ecuador asking their opinion.  Here are some of their replies about the FARC and drugs in Ecuador.

A European businessman with an Ecuadorian family and businesses in many parts of Ecuador wrote this:

Gary, thanks..I know that many of your readers may share this guy’s view but to most I guess he is seen as too liberal or radical in his views…I guess he also believes that Obama is a communist or that there is no global warming as I have heard several times from people who come to visit us!

I know you have written about Correa yourself saying that you do not believe he is as radical as Chavez.  I agree..and I also think it is much more difficult to copy what Chavez is doing in Venezuela, even though they may be trying to do so. Both presidents are populists and it is probably just a matter of time before at least the people in Ecuador understand this.  There are already signs of confrontations within his party and the congress is now more and more in opposition to the president.

I am not very fond of Correa for many reasons..first of all because of his economic policy with huge government spending and higher taxes.  I believe this is bad for the country in the long term. Ecuador will have less private business,  less entrepreneurship, and as a result higher unemployment over time (especially if the Government receive less money from oil, taxes and foreign loans and cannot employ everybody as they try to do now..) .

I am also worried about his relationship with Libya, Iran, etc. But even Lula in Brazil welcomed the president of Iran last month and people here do not react to this the same way as most Europeans or Americans do.

There is no doubt that FARC has a presence in Ecuador, as they always have had.  This presence may be bigger now since Uribe is pushing FARC on many fronts and their only safe haven is probably Ecuador.  They do not fight in Ecuador but they used to use Ecuador to rest and now more and more as a place to produce Cocaine.

Another problem is the open boarder policy were everybody can visit Ecuador without a Visa (even though Colombians need a certificate from the police to cross the boarder) but I have not heard much about Mexican drug cartels in Ecuador so far.

I am still here and even though you hear about the rise in crime it is still much safer than most Latin American countries. Even my European homeland which used to be a really safe place now has serious problems with crime after many of the eastern Europeans countries joined the European Community.

And I am still doing business here and I guess most Americans that live in Ecuador still feel, as I do, that this is a good place to live.

An Ecuadorian Businessman who lives in Cotacachi wrote:

Dear Gary

The drug problem is widespread  throughout the American continent, most likely near the Oriente border with Colombia of coca crops there.   That area has always had armed clashes between the Ecuador military and the FARC revolutionaries.

The article, I want to tell you,  is very alarmist.  Thank God, Cotacachi is a far cry from all those problems.

An American businessman and journalist who has lived and worked in Ecuador for decades said this:

Gary,  The first rule that I learned as a journalist was: “consider the source”.  And with that Gaudy masthead that begins the article about Ecuador I am immediately suspicious of half-truths slanted far to the right and with the added tenor of hysteria I would not be surprised if these authors were to the right of Atilla the Hun.

It’s interesting that they mention documentation but never site it. Perhaps you should write for it under a fictitious name I would suggest, but I doubt you would get any closer to the truth than you are now because how can you document their sources?

This is what I know to be true. A year or so ago, maybe a little longer Correa was discovered to have had a clandestine meeting with a fairly high Farc Official in Ecuador. The press and the country were in an uproar for weeks and Correa claimed he was just being diplomatic and thumbed his nose.  Some accused him of taking money but nothing further transpired and soon his next scandal was upon him and the intellegensia was in an uproar about that.  I think it had to do with giving Government construction contracts to his brother but my time line could be wrong. That scandal ended with him taking back the contracts and he and his brother having a big public macho fight. Welcome to a banana republic right?

Now as to the Farc and Cocaine in Ecuador you know from your own experience that a sometimes tiny river the Auguarico or the Putumayo or the Sanmiguel are the only border between Ecuador and Colombia and for 30 years very small groups of FARC soldiers have been crossing  the border areas of Ecuador and losing themselves in the jungle where they can lose themselves and be safe. Most of the time the Ecuadorians don’t want to know about it. I only know of one case where they actually engaged the FARC who made the mistake of coming about 50 clics into the country and looking for food, forced the hand of a few soldiers in a little pueblo called Sacha De Las Joyas. This was about 18 years ago.

For years they have been sending their wounded soldiers all the way to Quito in Ecuadorian taxis from Lago Agrio to doctors who are either fulfilling the hippocratic oath or their hypocritical pocket, but it is something of a pipeline that everyone is vaguely aware of.  The doctors dress the wounds, the soldiers return across the border to Colombia.But it is one here… one there. Not batallions.

Almost the same can be said about cocaine, which to my knowledge has been a FARC staple produce right along those rivers on either side of the border that is convenient for the last thirty years. With the enormous strides made by the Mexican Mafia and the weakening of the FARC it is possible that the Mexicans have moved in, but I contend they would never raise the ire of the U.S. (and perhaps by extention Ecuador) by penetrating deep into the country for while FARC is still a presence no matter what Correa does, Ecuador holds strategic importance for America and I would think more so if, in fact the Mexican Mafia is moving in.

Since Correa is anti-American you may have a tough time  getting an official source that will debunk these allegations, but I think if you do look at their sources maybe you will find some or even one unsubstantiated claim that can lead you to dismiss the whole article. Make no doubt about Correa.  He is crazy enough to talk to Iran.  But he is also cagey enough to take credit for trying to form the largest National Park in the world with carbon credits of which Germany has apparently bought a $1 million not to drill for oil.

He also hasn’t said anything that I know of about his alliance with Chavez since Chavez devalued the peso by 50% two weeks ago.

I hope this has been of some help. I know it is hard to relay some  or any of the realities that I have mentioned here to your readers. I am sure many are skitish.  However there has been a tremendous resurgence of tourism in the country even while the recession lingers.  The  US state department travel advisory is unfair and meant to punish Ecuador for its anti-American stance rather than give accurate travel information. (I know this for a fact).

While small isolated cases of border incursions along the long unpoliced narrow waterways that divide the two countries have been a way of life for the two countries for more than thirty years. Many area in the huge Amazon area are unpoliced with any regularity, cocaine labs and small bands of FARC troops have briefly crossed to the Ecuadorian side. This is a way of life not an invasion from either group.

Neither side would risk the good fortune of their jungle isolation to raise the wrath of the Ecuadorian people which seems to treat these trespasses as nothing they wish to engage life and limb over, as long as the delinquents confine themselves to the hinterlands . Two thirds of Ecuador is Jungle and the Ecuadorians, except for one brief skirmish with the Peruvians many years ago, have not raised their guns in  anger in more than 50 years.  However  military service is mandatory in Ecuador and Ecuador has a large standing army, large enough to ward of any serious threats from isolated militia and small scale drug bandits should they feel the need has arisen.

See more replies at Ecuador FARC

These are just a few of the replies from those who know Ecuador have experienced Ecuador for many years and are living, working and investing there now.

Gary

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