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Cablegate: The Farc in Mexico

VZCZCXYZ0003
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHME #0886/01 0881950
ZNY SSSSS ZZH (CCY TEXT ADX: 767D28 MSI6994 600)
P 281950Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1092
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEAHLA/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY PRIORITY

S E C R E T MEXICO 000886

SIPDIS

NOFORN SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (ADDING CAPTION)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/28/2018
TAGS: PREL PTER KCRM PINR SNAR MX
SUBJECT: THE FARC IN mexico Classified By: POL Officer Frank Penirian. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (U) Summary. The death of at least four Mexican nationals during the recent Colombian attack on a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerilla camp in Ecuador caused again a brief stir in mexico over FARC activity here. Media focus on the four nationals killed in Ecuador raised questions as to whether the terrorist organization was maintaining troubling ties to the Mexican far left and narcotics cartels. While an affinity between members of the organization and the far left in mexico no doubt remains strong and provides a draw for fellow travelers to enroll in FARC's cause in one fashion or another, Embassy law enforcement and security elements have seen nothing to indicate that the organization has broadened its presence in mexico significantly in recent years. Similarly, despite longstanding FARC commercial ties to the cartels, principally as a steady supplier of cocaine, there is no evidence that members of the organization have an established criminal presence in mexico. End Summary.

2. (U) Five Mexican nationals were present at the FARC camp in Ecuador where the organization's number two Raul Reyes was killed by Colombian forces 3/1. Four Mexicans are confirmed to have been killed in the attack, three of them students at the Mexican National Autonomous University (UNAM). Lucia Morett Alvarez, who completed her studies at UNAM in 2005, also was present in the camp but survived. According to press reports, Morett Alvarez headed a Mexican delegation that traveled to Quito, Ecuador to attend a "Bolivarian Congress" of Latin American leftist groups and that five of them then decided to go to the rebel camp on the Colombian border. Morett Alvarez' family insist that she is not a guerilla but was working on an academic paper on leftist movements. Unsubstantiated press reports alleged that she was the main contact between the FARC and its supporters in mexico and that at least eight Mexican students are training with the FARC in Colombia and Ecuador. FARC's Political Presence in mexico

3. (C) Given FARC's historical presence in mexico, questions about its current political activities are reasonable. mexico invited the organization to set up a political office in mexico City in 1992. The move was consistent with the GOM's relatively benign regard for the organization back then, as well as its traditional interest in playing a mediating role in regional conflicts, including Colombia's. mexico allowed the FARC to run a quasi-diplomatic operation and press office in the belief that it might be useful in pursuit of a peace settlement in Colombia -- and on the condition that the organization not meddle in mexico's internal politics. So long as successive Colombian governments engaged in efforts to negotiate with the FARC through the late 1990s and into 2002, they tolerated an "official" FARC presence in mexico. After 2001, battle lines hardened and then President Andres Pastrana asked mexico to close the office shortly after he broke off peace talks with the FARC in 2002.

4. (U) The office's principal reportedly relocated to Cuba but maintained ties to members of mexico's hard left. According to Mexican academic Raul Benitez, FARC intermediaries at times also delivered messages to senior GOM officials. In 2003, Colombia's Ambassador to mexico publicly voiced concern over FARC's continued activities here, asserting that the organization worked through fellow travelers in UNAM's philosophy department, but he provided few details. Charges have also surfaced over the years that the organization has links to various indigenous guerilla groups, including the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR).

5. (S/NF) CISEN officials, however, have discounted such links and in particular say they have ruled out a FARC connection to the recent bombings carried out by the EPR. Media have highlighted two videos showing FARC training camps, one allegedly passed among UNAM students, another purportedly showing Morett at a camp in military attire. The number of miltary recruits among the Mexican student body, as opposed to sympathizers, is not likely to be large, however. Most of the students attending the Bolivarian Congress in Quito shortly before the attack on the FARC camp were clearly political tourists. One Mexican law enforcement official expressed concern that some radical students have indeed taken up arms for the FARC without saying how many. This official thought it conceivable that some might come back and enlist as soldiers in the Mexican armed left, but said the GOM had no evidence that any have yet done so. FARC Drug Ties "Transactional"

6. (C) ICE, ATF and DEA do not have any open cases involving the FARC in mexico. Organization members have been tied loosely to several Mexican drug trafficking organizations in the past in drugs for guns deals according to DEA. In 2001, Colombian Carlos Ariel Charry Guzman was arrested in mexico for acting as an intermediary for a drugs and weapons deal with the Arellano Felix Cartel. According to the DEA, he was a doctor for the FARC and came to mexico to buy medical supplies to take back to the camps of the FARC. At the time, mexico's Attorney General publicly denounced the link between the FARC and the Tijuana-based organization. DEA also reported that in October 2007 a plane piloted by known Mexican narcotraffickers ran large quantities of cocaine between Ecuador's border region (near a FARC stronghold in Colombia) and mexico. After the killing of Reyes on March 1, media carried an unsubstantiated report that one of the computers seized at the site contained information relating to a February 18, 2008, shipment of drugs to a cartel in mexico. According to ATF, there is no evidence that the FARC is supplying guns or ordnance to Mexican drug cartels, the EPR or any other groups in mexico. On March 12 Attorney General Medina Mora sought to clarify the issue when he said that the FARC maintains only "transactional" ties with Mexican drug cartels, meaning they have no fixed presence in mexico, nor any interest in formally grafting on to local crime organizations. Embassy law enforcement officials say no evidence exists to contradict this assertion.

7. (C) Comment. Initially, the Mexican public expressed outrage at the killing of Mexican nationals in Colombia's raid on the guerilla camp in Ecuador. Progressively, however, attention has shifted to FARC's presence in mexico. Publicly, President Calderon has walked a careful line discretely rejecting Colombia's attack but devoting more time to promoting reconciliation between the two sides. While there is evidence of sporadic FARC "transactional" activity trafficking drugs and weapons, it would appear at this juncture its primary focus is on conducting discreet ideological activities to its student base in UNAM. Many Mexicans maintain a relatively benign regard for the FARC. Indeed one senior SRE official told Poloff this week that the organization springs from the legitimate left in South America and "there is an historical basis for its existence." These sentiments notwithstanding, President Calderon has evinced concern enough to task his own intelligence forces to look more closely into FARC activities here. End Comment.

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