Colombian authorities announced April 23 the seizure of a weapons cache held by Los Rastrojos, one of the country's most prominent "bandas criminales," or bacrim. According to Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon, Los Rastrojos intended to trade the weapons with the Sixth Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in return for drugs, most likely cocaine. The seizure was reportedly based on an anonymous tip to Colombian authorities and information from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The weapons cache, including 160 rifles, four machine guns, four grenade launchers, six mortar bases, 25 handguns and 6,650 rounds of ammunition, has an estimated value of $75,000. Based on standard cocaine pricing in Colombia, this amount would buy about 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of coca paste or 40 kilograms of pure cocaine in a direct trade. The use of weapons and drugs as currency is important because it allows for barter between criminal organizations without cash. The weapons were reportedly on the way to Cauca, a FARC stronghold where the guerrillas are currently in open conflict with government security forces.
Los Rastrojos' willingness to trade weapons in exchange for drugs shows how the relationship between the bacrim and guerrilla organizations has improved. Although ex-paramilitary soldiers did not form Los Rastrojos, the group has recruited them heavily since 2006 when the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia were decommissioned. This trade is further evidence that these criminal organizations are willing to put old ideological conflicts aside in order to focus on what is most important: making money.
Previous reports have pointed to growing cooperation between the insurgent groups and bacrim, including a possible joint attack on a police station in Tumaco, Narino department, on the Pacific coast. Stratfor expects these groups to continue consolidating — putting pressure on the Colombian state to respond with more force and therefore increasing violence in the disputed regions as government security forces engage both groups.