COLOMBIA: STATUS OF DRUG - AND INSURGENT- RELATED ACTIVITY IN PUTUMAYO AND CAQU

Created: 3/27/1998

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Intelligence Report

Office of Asian Pacific and Latin8

Status of Drug- and Insurgent-Related Activity inand Caqueta Departments

Summary

* Similar protests in response to planned eradication efforts in these

areas are likely, and the next Colombian president will have to weigh the potential political and security repercussions of these protests against progress on eradication. |

Most, if not all, of the fronts of the FARC's Southern Bloc probably participate to some degree in narcotics-related activities,!

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Coca Cultivation and Transportation

by the aerial eradication program inamount of coca

being grown in Guaviare Department and thrust Colombia into first place as the worlds largest coca cultivator, surpassing Peru for the first time. |

The Caqueta coca growing area, which encompasses someH ectares, is located in the southwestern portion of Caqueta Denartmeiif^AriesQmatcd^^^

hectares of coca were under cultivation therehe area is drained by two major river systems, the Caqueta and Caguan, which provide the primary means of transportation in the area. The most centrally located town in the growing area is Trcs Esquinas, connected to the departmental capital of Florencia only by riverilometers of dirt

The eastern part of the Caqueta growing areaemote and sparsely populateddense tropical rain forest with limited transportation and communicationis the predominate crop. Tbe coca fields in this area are generallyfields are notthose seen in the western pan ofbecause of the area's

remotenessthere have been no

corroborated reports of large plantation-style coca cultivation along tbe lines of that found near Miraflorcs,by large coca fields cultivated and harvested by resident workers housed in communalregion would be conducive to this type of activity. |

The western part of the Caqueta growing area is more populous than the eastern pan and enjoys better transportation and communication systems. While there is dense coca cultivation in the region, the area alsoreater diversity of Licit crops and contains large areas of cattle ranchii

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actor that significantly complicates the precise application of aerial herbicide. Soon after spraying started in this area last July, for example, some farmers filed legal claims citing damage to legitimate crops, prompting Bogota to allow only Colombian pilots to spray in this area to avoid any anti-US backlash if American pilots were thought to have destroyed the wrong cropsj

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layo Department along the border with Ecuador.

The Putumayo coca growing area is the smallest of Colombia's three primarylocated in the southwestern

iof Putuni;

patterns in this area differ significantly from those in most of Caqueta and Guaviarc in that coca is not the dominant agricultural crop; subsistence crops of com, beans, and grains are widely grown. Also unlike Guaviarc, this area has an established peasant population and has not been subject to large numbers of transients who enter the area in pursuit of illicit wealth from coca cultivation. |

Overall, Caqueta and Putumayo are among Colombia's most sparsely populated departments, and together have lesseople, according to the last census taken in Colombiaach department has less thanersons per square mifc and features terrain ranging from tropical jungle to heavily forested mountains with peakseters. Their economies are based mostly on agriculture, livestock, and some miniog-and in Putumayo, on oil production and relatedtbe lack of infrastructure to transport goods results in inefficiencies in ail sectors.

Coca Growers. maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam

estimates varyeople.0 people in Putumayo and Caqueta were estimated to have participatederies of peasant protests overinstigated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombiathe fall and summerccording to press reports, but it is doubtful that all tbe protesters were directly involved in coca cultivation. Several factors probably account for the large numbers of residents involved in coca cultivation,ack of alternative employment, depressed socioeconomic conditions, and coca's wage advantage; farmers and laborers can generally earn moremoney in the coca industry than in any other comparable agricultural endeavor.^

Alternative Development. II local campesinos are interested in growing alternative crops, anfflogoTa^asreponeaTy increased funding for its alternative development programuccessful implementation of these programs, however,ong way from being realized. Local peasant leaders stress mat the shift away from cocaong-term government commitment and needs to be doneccded for alternative crops to be productive, DATE:?

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according to press reports. Moreover, peasants do not trust government pledges of alternative crop price supports or basic social and infrastructure improvement because many such promises have been broken in the past. I

Insurgency

What is (he nature and scope of insurgent activity in these departments? To what degree are they involved in narcotics-related activates? How are illegal drugs moved within and from Putumayo and Caqueta? To what extent do they exert influence or control over the local inhabitants? I

Insurgent Activity. The FARC is active in Putumayo and Caqueta;

The FARC and other groupsariety of means to move dr throughout Caqueta and Putumayo. I

money

Influence Over Civilians. The FARC is clearlyosition to coerce residents into providing intelligence on troop movements, inciting peasant protests, and forcing local officials lolind eye to their illicit activities. Their power stems from the FARC's longstanding presence in this area, extensive links with thousands of peasants who depend oo coca for their livelihood,rack record of intimidating rccalciMrn^ocalofficiak and residents through the use of murder and kidnapping.

that tbe FARC's typical modus operandi for influencing residents includes developing andetailed census of the civilian population and identifying their business activities and the location of relatives living outside of the area. Armed with mis information, FARC agents arc able tolimate of mtimidation and psychological control over local residents and lead them to believe that the guerrillas are everywhere and know everything that is going on, accordingefense attache report.

Paramilitary Activity

How extensive is paramilitary activity in this region? Are the groups operating in this area relatively autonomous or do they have strong Units to forces outside the region? What is the relationship, if any, between paramilitary groups and the local military and police forces?

Paramilitary Activity. The level of activity by illegal paramilitarybands of men paid to protect the interests of various sponsors such as businessmen, landowners, and other wealthydrugto be increasing when compared with levels of activity in this region in theut to date does not appear to be as prevalent or as strong as it is in northern Colombia. Battles between trafficker-sponsored paramilitaries and their varioussometimes includingconstitute the bulk of paramilitary activity in these areas, but we do notomprehensive understanding of the dynamics of paramiLitarum in Putumayo and Caquctal

Activity by Castano's Organization. Carlos Castano's Peasant Self-Defense Groups of Cordoba and Uraba is active in southern Colombia according to press reports, but the extent of their presence and influence io this area is not clear. In an interview last September, Castanof was already in Putumayo, Guaviare, and DATE: IEB ZOO?

Does Colombia Have die Political Will To Step Up Counternarcotics Efforts? |

Continued commitment to increasing bilateral counteniarcotics cooperationon the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections. Frontninnerformer Interior Minister and Samper's heirrecently tried

places priority en advancing key bilateral antidrug initiatives. If such initiatives begin to erode his approval rating or interfere with his goal of ending the insurgency, however, the populist Serpa is likely to backtrack. Moreover, unproven allegations of Serpa's involvement in narcotics-related corruption continue to raise questions about his credibility on this issue. Conservative candidate Andres Pastrana has pledged to work closely with the United Slates to end the drug war but, thus far, has been short on specifics when discussing extradition and eradication programs; he would probablyeak stomach for continuing operations that led to more widely spread violence. Political independent Harold Bedoya is described by US officialsolid countemarootics ally; the authoritarian ex-military commander would probably stay die course even in the face of increased political opposition caused by heightened violence. Noemi Sanin has consistently voiced her support for increasing bilateral cooperation to combat the counteraarcotics problem although her resolve would probably be tested if confronted with large-scale protests in southern Colombia.

Security officials fighting on the front lines of Colombia's drug war have demonstrated solid commitment toward increasing bilateral counternarcotics cooperation and will probably continue to wage an aggressive fight regardless of the election outcome. The hard-charging Director of the Colombian National Police Rosso Jose Serrano is regarded by US diplomatsey counternarcotics ally who has worked closely with several US agencies to dismantle major drug-trafficking organizations, eradicate coca crops, and root out money-laundering networks. Major General Serrano can probably be expected to continue to agpesovely pursue counternarcotics operations although be repeatedlyeep sense of personal responsibility to his men and could become demoralized if operations led to widespread losses among police. Military Forces Commander Manuel Boneu has also stated that he places priority on expanding the military's role in tactical counternarcotics operations in view of the nexus between insurgents and nareotraffickers; yet, he is still touchy about tbe military's controversial human rights record and alleged links to illegal paramilitary groups, and could backtrack in the event that such operations resulted in renewed cri ticism about human rights abuses.

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Mela and was getting ready to enter Caqueta "verye added thai his group, which was originally based in northern Colombia and is now loosely affiliated with other paramilitary groups in various parts of the country, travels to these areas, trains local recruits to form new fronts, and then returns home:

Castano. like the guerrillas, uses terror and heated rhetoric to foster fear and create the impression that his forces arc able to strike anywhere. He publicly acknowledged that his group was involved in the massacre in Mapiripan, Meta, last July and boasted that there would be more

Reaction to Stepped-Up

Links to Security Forces. The links between paramilitaries operating in Putui and Caqueta and police or military units io the areas are difficult to ascertain.

How are heal groups likely to react to increased eradication efforts? What

difficulties are likely to be encountered by aerial eradication operations? B

Insurgent Reaction. FARC guerrillas of die Southern Bloc would probably go to groatattacking USpreserve the power they

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Cnterrillas routinely fire at eradication aircraft and are presumably unconcerned that Americans may be on board the aircraft and could be injured or killed by their fire. FARC members are likely to interpret Ramirez's statement as sanctioning attacks on US personnel who present targets of opportunity, and units will probably not hesitate to attack US personnel encountered during the course of their operations. Should the FARC perceive that increased US assistance to Bogota isubstantial impact on guerrilla narcotics operations, they might attempt to retaliate with more direct terrorist attacks against US personnel and facilities.

Peasant Response. Increased eradication efforts are also vulnerable topressures. The director of the Colombian National PoliceCol. Leonardo QaHego, toldFebruary that peasant

prmcsts in Putumayo are probably memarJlc^cspne^eDest efforts to address peasants concerns, and that any incoming administration would have to "stand up to the pressure" caused by these demonstrations. Such protests would probablyarticularly strong effectopulist such as Horacio Scrpa, who views peasantsey part of his constituency, become president In any event, the cycle of coca cultivation, government eradication, and peasant protests will most likely continue as long as the government is unable or unwilling to follow through on promises to improve the region's living conditions and provide farmers with financial incentives for abandoning illicit crops.

The Samper administration or the next administration may at times subordinate the eradication program to efforts to improve relations with the guerrillas, especially the

utarized

FARC.ogota halted spraying from its base in Laraodia. Caqueta, foronth when the FARC insisted that flights be suspendedarge part of Caqueta before they would release Army hostages captured at Las Dclicias.

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