The former guerilla fighters, ex-FARC Mafia, have devised a new form of financing their criminal activities after they hijacked 11 vehicles carrying a consignment of contraband goods. The hijacking has also exposed a loophole in state controls of the Ecuadorian border.
The police commander, Oswaldo Forero, who spearheaded the operation that retrieved the trucks, said the mafia were demanding about 3000 dollars and 5000 dollars for each truck from the owners and the drivers in order to secure a release.
The border provinces of Carchi in Ecuador and Narino in Colombia are reported to be too porous. A police commander stated that illegal borders amount to over 70 in the Ipiales, a city in Ecuador. The routes are used to smuggle cattle, gasoline, drugs, cigarettes, and other contrabands.
Information from the Ecuadorian customs office indicates that the porous border region has seen an increase in contraband with amounts increasing from $3.9 million to $8.8 million between 2016 and 2017.
Illegal groups are believed to be in control of the movement of the contraband in the border region. FARC leads extortion rings on smugglers between Carchi and Narino.
This revelation indicates how criminal groups adapt quickly to new sources of illegal revenue. The groups not only rely on drug trafficking for financing but also get revenue from arms smuggling, illegal mining, and other illegal activities, including sex trafficking.
Extortion on the Ecuadorian side is carried out by local criminal groups which are contracted by the ex-FARC Mafia in the Colombian side.
Colombian and Ecuadorian authorities formed a joint security strategy after three journalists from Ecuador were murdered in 2018. However, the efforts have not yet brought any significant results considering the historical strength of the criminal groups and their geographical reach in the border areas.