Why would Colombia's FARC sell cows?
Cows in southwest Colombia in August 2010.
January 24th, 2012
01:07 PM ET

Why would Colombia's FARC sell cows?

Colombia's president said in a recent speech that the anti-government guerrilla group known as FARC is so strapped for money that its members have started selling cows.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia "is designing a strategy to counter the problem of a lack of financing ... due to the blows that have been dealt to their financing sources, especially drug trafficking," President Juan Manuel Santos said. "One of the orders that they have received is 'sell the cattle to get more resources.'"

But experts who study the rebel group that's tried for decades to overthrow the Colombian government point out that more may be happening than a desperate sale of livestock. Although Santos suggested that anti-narcotic measures have damaged FARC's ability to profit from drug trafficking, it's possible that FARC may be selling cattle to launder drug money, one expert said.

"It's a classic underworld tactic. If you own 40,000 heads of cattle, you take the proceeds from selling some of your cows and do whatever you like with the profits," said Steven Dudley, the co-director of InSight, a joint initiative of American University in Washington and the Fundación Ideas para la Paz in Colombia. "This wouldn't be the first time this has happened, so to pretend that this is somehow new or reflective only of a government crackdown on FARC is ridiculous."

InSight monitors, analyzes and investigates organized crime in the Americas.

"No matter what is really going on with the cattle issue, I also don't doubt that FARC has been impacted seriously by government operations meant to cripple the group," he said.

FARC has recently lost several of its leaders, most significantly its commander, Alfonso Cano, who was killed in November. In September 2010, Colombian security forces killed another leader, Mono Jojoy. In December, the group suggested that it is willing to reopen talks with the government. In a statement signed by a FARC leader, the rebel group called on Santos to consider a "hypothetical negotiating table" to discuss privatization, deregulation and the degradation of the environment.

"This conflict will have no solution until our voices are heard. Without lies, Santos, without lies," the statement read.

"FARC has been under unrelenting military pressure for over a decade," said Cynthia Arnson, the director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. "But FARC is still an enormously wealthy insurgent organization because of revenues from the drug trade. It still retains a capacity to commit acts of violence and harm people."

FARC has carried out bombings, assassinations, hijackings and kidnappings against various targets in Colombia. The group's links to drug trafficking have netted hundreds of millions in profits, according the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Filed under: Colombia
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. banasy©

    "It's a classic underworld tactic. If you own 40,000 heads of cattle, you take the proceeds from selling some of your cows and do whatever you like with the profits," said Steven Dudley.

    Um, when did selling something you own and using your profits for whatever you want an underworld tactic?
    Worst quote ever.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • ken

      That's why it works, people like you don't see how it works. 1. They sell cattle at inflated rates, 2. They really don't seel any cattle, 3. They sell less cattle than they claim.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©

      People like me....? Explanation, please.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anti_Fareed

      He meant...dumb sticks like you.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©

      ...and yet your name is Anti_Fareed.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dennis the Menis

    "it's possible that FARC may be selling cattle to launder drug money, one expert said."

    So if I have 50 G's and I buy drugs and sell them to your child you don't see anything wrong with that?

    January 24, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gary Larson

    You have cows, FARC.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Grey

    Better check if their selling to the US, and if so, make sure they didn't fill them with cocaine first.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. **cosmicVox *

    ... Got Milk? ... Got Drugs?

    January 24, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©


      January 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy©

    CNN, if you are going to continue to delete comments meant to explain, delete all of the comments and start over.
    This is getting tedious.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. vatoloke

    Will these cows yield cocalate?

    January 24, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. FARC-ing cows


    January 24, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. john cougar mellencamp

    At least they are not selling cougars.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. john cougar mellencamp

    In all seriousness, in addition to drugs, isn't there an allegation to FARC skimming a take on the gold mined in the areas they control?

    January 24, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Iceman

    US money goes to columbia, the farc agrees to sell cows, or better yet, extorts that money from there leadership , buys cows, uses the rest of the money the grow and process and ship to venezuela , to inturn smugle to the us through the canal up the pacific coast( as well as florida ,and the texas area on so fourth , or they go hungry , now that they are so vulnerable why dont we go in and wipe out the farc, and at the same time send a message to hugo chavez that it wont be tolerated any more, so now the srug addicts will fein in the US and kill each other off thus PROBLEM SOLVED!!!!

    January 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Iceman

    ICEMAN...... Definition.....( a person who climbs ice or other mixed terrain with the use of special tools or other specialized equipment) got it so no B.S!

    January 24, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bobcat (in a hat)©

    If the cows are being sent to the US, they're probably loading the udders with drugs. Who would think to look there ?

    January 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. kim

    I sure their up to no good with those cattle probably smuggling drugs or some other illegal activity.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bill

    Gee, does this mean that the price of beef will finally come down?? LOL There's more to this than meets the eye.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
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