Colombia: The Sat Phone Sting Hurts So Bad

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May 10, 2006: Fighting the FARC in the field is only one part of the war against the rebel organization. The other angle is threatening the senior leadership with extradition to the United States, where the judges cannot be bribed and long jail sentences are almost a certainty. The AUC organization was convinced to demobilize because of this threat to the senior leadership. The recent U.S. indictments of over fifty FARC leaders was considered the first step in using this tactic on FARC. In the past, FARC had enough clout to terrorize (or bribe) the courts to cancel extradition orders. No more. The current government has made the extradition orders work, and has made enough arrests of senior FARC people, to put real fear into the rest. But many FARC commanders still believe they can either win control of the country, or maintain control over some rural areas of the country. In other words, many FARC commanders would rather fight on, for now. It may be a long war.

May 9, 2006: In a major blow to FARC, a major distributor of Columbian cocaine in China was shut down, and over $100 million worth of cocaine seized. Three Colombians, a Venezuelan and five Chinese (including two from Hong Kong) were arrested. The U.S. and China cooperated in taking down this operation. A key tool was tracking money, which has made it more difficult for FARC to hide its illegal operations.

May 5, 2006: Several recent indictments of FARC officials make mention of overheard conversations. It turns out that this key source of evidence was the result of a covert operation that had an illegal equipment dealer, who was actually working for the U.S. government, selling "untraceable" satellite phones to FARC over the last two years. But the phones were not only traceable, they were being bugged by American intelligence agents. The FARC officials using the phones chatted away, leading to dozens of key FARC leaders being charged with serious crimes over the past few months. These charges have hurt FARC in Europe, where years of patient diplomacy had earned the terrorists the status of social revolutionaries, not drug dealers. That's changed now, with most European nations shunning FARC, and interfering with FARC efforts to buy weapons and other gear, or use Europe as a refuge.

 

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