Pattern of guerrilla collection of "taxes," and whether these take the form of monthly instalments or lump sums [COL31951.E]

Several documents consulted by the Research Directorate, as well as COL30414.E of 10 November 1998 and COL13696 of 29 March 1993, refer to "taxes" or money extorted by guerrillas from individuals and businesses in Colombia.

In addition to the information provided in previous Responses, a recent report refers to "protection money" paid by drug traffickers as the main source of revenue for guerrilla groups in Colombia, followed by kidnappings for ransom (International Herald Tribune 20 Apr. 1999).

In an interview published by the Bogota daily El Tiempo, the leader of the National Liberation Army (ELN) described kidnappings for ransom carried out by his organization as a "war tax" (1 Sept. 1996).

An article published in The Dallas Morning News reports a set of fees allegedly charged by guerrillas to charge traffickers in at least one region of Colombia, including specific ones for each "take-off from a guerrilla-controlled airstrip," one "for every pound of pure cocaine transported," one "for every pound of cocaine processed at labs in guerrilla territory," and specific ones for each month of "guarding an acre of coca plants," for a gallon of fuel, and for every bundle of coca leaf produced (9 June 1996).

A report in The Financial Times states that the annual income of the Colombian guerrillas that derives from drug production and trafficking is "estimated at more than [US]$1.2 billion a year, in addition to [US]$300 million from kidnapping and extortion" (4 Sept. 1996). A more recent report, however, estimates that the extortion and theft from 1991 to 1998 provided the guerrillas with US$1.8 billion, while ransom payments provided them with US$1.2 billion (Reuters 11 May 1999).

Another recent report describes how a kidnapped businessman was forced, after his release for a ransom and under threat, to invest large sums of money on behalf of the guerrillas (Courrier International 8-14 Apr. 1999, 50-51). The report states that this is an increasingly frequent practice by which guerrillas "launder" some of the large amounts of money obtained through illegal activities (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please see below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this information request.


Courrier International [Paris]. 8-14 April 1999. "A la chasse au trésor de guerre des FARC."

The Dallas Morning News. 9 June 1996. Tracey Eaton. "Colombia's Narco-Guerrillas Trade Political Fervor For Drug Money." (Global NewsBank)

El Tiempo [Bogota]. 1 September 1996. "ELN Leader Interviewed on Possible Peace Talks." (BBC World Summary/Global NewsBank)

The Financial Times [London]. 4 September 1996. Timothy Ross. "Colombia to Make Rich Buy Arms Bonds." (Global NewsBank)

The International Herald Tribune [Neuilly-sur-Seine, France]. 20 April 1999. Anthony Faiola. "A Colombian Terror Wave; Hijacking Highlights Escalation in Abductions." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Andean Newsletter [Lima]. 1998-1999.

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 1998-1999.

Latin American Regional Reports: Andean Group Report [London]. 1998-1999.

News from Human Rights Watch [New York]. 1998-1999.

Electronic sources: Internet, IRB Databases, Global NewsBank, REFWORLD, WNC.