Colombia’s defence minister and armed forces chief said on Wednesday there is no evidence the country’s main leftist rebel group has surface-to-air missiles, following a statement by the top US military official for Latin America suggesting they do.
Southern Command chief General John Kelly told the US Senate Armed Services Committee in a posture statement the week before Easter that the “hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue the Farc receives from cocaine trafficking alone enable them to purchase surface-to-air-missiles”.
Colombian Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon and armed forces chief General Alejandro Navas told reporters when questioned after a military ceremony that they had no evidence that Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Farc in its Spanish initials, have surface-to-air-missiles.
Southcom spokesperson Jose Ruiz, responding to an e-mail query, later said the only thing he could add to Kelly’s statement “is that the US Southern Command is aware the Farc was in possession of the SA-7 man-portable surface-to-air missile system [Manpads]”.
Navas told reporters that while captured documents have shown the FARC’s intention of acquiring such missiles Colombia’s military had no evidence of that, though Southcom “has more and more up-to-date information”.
Pinzon said at least two old used and discarded surface-to-air missiles had been found two years ago. He mentioned it in October when the armed forces confirmed the find, calling the SA-7 missiles “frankly old, frankly useless, according to experts”.
The peasant-based Farc is currently engaged in peace talks in Cuba with Colombia’s government that formally began in November in hopes of ending a stubborn, half-century-old struggle rooted in land tenure issues.