The Marxist rebels are based in Columbia, but they've spread beyond the border to Ecuador. The raid killed a top rebel commander and 16 others. Quito immediately accused Bogota of violating its sovereignty. Colombia says the FARC are terrorists and drug-traffickers, and will wage a war against them, wherever they are.
Colombia stepped up its fight against cocaine production in the year 2000. Since then, the drug trade has spilled over into Ecuador. Just a few days ago, the Ecuadorian army discovered a secret cocaine lab, a timely find.
Soldiers led FRANCE 24 reporters into the lab. Under the camouflage were buckets and simple machinery, enough to turn coca leaves into cocaine ready for consumption.
The lab churned out cocaine 24 hours a day, seven days a week for over a year. Thirty people lived here, but all had fled once the army arrived.
A soldier sums up the Ecuadorian army’s feeling: FARC and drug dealers are one and the same. “The FARC control this border," he said. "They know when they can cross. They just dress up as civilians and we can't know who they are. They could be locals, drug dealers, guerrilla fighters...we don't know.”
Locals caught in the crossfire
On the Ecuadorian side, in the village of Puerto Nuevo, most of the community is Colombian. Residents in FARC territory become sympathizers, whether they want to or not. The common enemy here is the Colombian army, not the guerrilla.
Most people fled the fumigation and toxic chemicals used to eradicate coca plants since Colombia stepped up its fight against cocaine production in 2000. But coca is the local cash crop. Few farmers can do without it.
Colombia fights drugs and the guerrilla mercilessly, crossing into Ecuador if needed. But illegal small coca fields dot the Colombian border.
One of these plantations belongs to Enrique. With his nine sons, he owns an acre of coca and earns 2,000 US dollars a year thanks to his field. The sum, however, is barely enough to support his family.
Enrique doesn’t understand why government is bent on eradicating his livelihood: “The guerrilla doesn't protect anybody. The guerrilla and the government fight each other. The government tells the farmers: 'You too are guerrilla fighters'. But why would we be guerrilla fighters?”
In his small way, by growing coca, Enrique does fuel the drug trade and the guerrilla. He's got no choice. So he will continue, for as long as the jungle protects his secret.