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FARC 'earns $2.4 to $3.5 billion' from drugs, says Colombian government

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InSight Crime researches, analyzes, and investigates organized crime in the Americas. Find all of Geoffrey Ramsey's research here.

The Colombian government's estimate that the FARC makes up to $3.5 billion annually in profits from the drug trade is staggering, but may not be entirely accurate.

Speaking at a forum organized by the University of Miami on Oct. 23, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon provided the government’s latest figures on the illicit activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). According to Pinzon, the FARC makes between $2.4 and $3.5 billion annually from the drug trade. He added that of the 350 tons of cocaine produced in Colombia annually, some 200 can be linked back to the guerrillas.

Whereas the FARC were believed to have some 20,000 fighters at their peak in 2000, Pinzon said that they currently number 8,147, a drop of more than 50 percent in the past decade. Still, he noted that the rebels are “a very different organization” than before, having lost several top commanders in recent years.

InSight Crime Analysis

Estimating the size of the FARC’s total budget is an inexact science. Pinzon’s estimate of the rebels’ profits from the drug trade differs widely from a recent calculation released by the Attorney General’s Office, which put their total profits at around $1.1 billion. Both of these assessments are far higher than the United Nations Development program’s calculation in 2003, which listed the FARC’s annual income at no more than $342 million, with $204 million coming from the drug trade.

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