[R-G] Revolution Spreading in South America?
pieinsky at igc.org
Sat Sep 14 07:47:49 MDT 2002
New Rebel Group in Ecuador Claims Ties to FARC
13 September 2002
A little-known group calling itself the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Ecuador has taken credit for two bombs that exploded recently in the coastal
city of Guayaquil. The FARE could be a front for the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC) or a stand-alone group. Either way, its emergence
suggests the Colombian conflict soon will affect U.S. personnel and assets
A group that calls itself the FARE has claimed credit for two small bombs
that detonated in the port city of Guayaquil Aug. 28, damaging a McDonald's
restaurant and several buildings. In a statement distributed by e-mail on
Sept. 11, the FARE claimed its members were trained by the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and it promised more violence in Ecuador,
including threats to assassinate corrupt politicians.
Very little is known about the FARE. It is not clear whether the group
actually exists or is a FARC cell seeking to frighten Ecuadoreans into
rejecting their country's assistance to U.S. forces involved in the war on
drugs and rebels in Colombia. However, if the FARE does exist as a separate
entity, it could indicate that Colombian rebels are reaching out to
like-minded supporters in neighboring countries in an effort to turn the
Colombian war into a regional conflict. And if the FARE indeed was
responsible for the recent bombings in Guayaquil, it would suggest that the
group has sufficient reach to attack political and economic targets in
Ecuador's major urban centers, such as the capital city of Quito.
With the first round of Ecuador's presidential elections scheduled for Oct.
20, the government of lame-duck President Gustavo Noboa cannot dismiss the
FARE's e-mailed threats as a hoax meant to destabilize the country
politically. Several candidates -- including two brothers of former
presidents, two coup leaders, an artist and a banana tycoon -- are vying for
the presidency. And if any of these candidates is attacked or killed by
groups claiming to belong to the FARE, it could influence the outcome of
elections in a country where most voters do not support free-market
policies, and where deep political divisions exist between the ruling elites
in mountainous Quito and coastal Guayaquil.
The first known mention of the FARE apparently surfaced two years ago in
graffiti scribblings that appeared in Lago Agrio, the capital of oil-rich
Sucumbios province in northern Ecuador. At the time, government and military
officials said the FARE appeared to be modeled after the FARC and reportedly
numbered up to 400 Ecuadorean and Colombian fighters. Officials in Quito
were either unable or unwilling to provide more information about the group.
Although the FARE has been blamed for several attacks against oil
infrastructure in the past two years, Ecuadorean authorities have never
actually linked the group to these attacks. In fact, the FARE has maintained
a very low profile and has not been connected to any of the numerous
killings in Sucumbios or the lawless provinces of Carchi and Esmeraldas,
which border Colombia. Nor has the group been linked to drugs- or
weapons-smuggling in the border regions.
If the FARE is indeed responsible for the recent attacks in Guayaquil, it
would represent a significant leap forward for a group that until now had
been isolated in part of northern Ecuador and had shown little propensity
for political proselytizing or sabotage. The choice of Guayaquil for the
inaugural bomb attacks also suggests the group may have ties to criminal
drugs- and arms-smuggling gangs, including the FARC, in that city.
Ecuador's coastal region is heavily populated with immigrant Arab merchants.
Guayaquil, where customs officials are famously corrupt, is also a major hub
for smugglers of dry goods, illegal immigrants, narcotics, precursor
chemicals, weapons and explosives. This makes Guayaquil important to
Colombian groups like the FARC and National Liberation Army (ELN), both of
which likely have ties to the city's criminal underworld.
The FARE shares some interesting characteristics with another shadowy group,
the Bolivarian Liberation Front (FLB), that recently surfaced in Venezuela.
According to news reports from Venezuela's border states with Colombia, the
FLB includes up to 2,000 fighters trained by the FARC and ELN.
Both the FARE and FLB say they are receiving training, weapons and
logistical support from the FARC in Colombia, although FARC spokesmen have
dismissed these claims as false. Both the FARE and FLB also claim to be
defenders of indigenous rights and revolutionaries. Finally, while both
groups claim to be real, their existence has yet to be verified.
Nevertheless, even if the FARE and FLB prove to be FARC front groups posing
as new entities, their emergence would suggest that Colombia's largest rebel
army might be developing capabilities to attack U.S. targets outside
Colombia and to spread confusion and disinformation meant to destabilize the
region even more.
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