Colombian charged in Florida with buying guns for FARC rebel group

Friday, August 20th 2004, 6:27 am
By: News On 6

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ A Colombian arms broker was charged with trying to buy $4 million in grenade launchers, machine guns, other high-powered weapons and munitions for a leftist rebel group and promising 2 tons of cocaine as partial payment.

The drugs-for-weapons deal negotiated by Carlos Gamarra Murillo would have supplied the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, with shipments through Venezuela, investigators charged.

Attorney General John Ashcroft says Gamarra ``attempted to provide the fuel to feed a dangerous foreign terrorist organization.'' Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief Michael Garcia called the indictment ``a significant achievement.''

Gamarra, 53, faces 10 years to life in federal prison after he was charged Wednesday with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, weapons counts, attempted export violations and the attempted distribution of 4,400 pounds of cocaine.

He offered the cocaine to cover 60 percent of the arms' price tag and $1.6 million cash for the balance, investigators said.

Gamarra has been held without bail since his arrest April 1 when he traveled to Tampa to meet agents posing as weapons dealers. A federal public defender assigned to him did not return a call for comment.

Gamarra first made contact with an informant in Colombia in March 2003, seeking weapons for FARC and other groups, an ICE agent testified in April. In the next year, he met and called agents to arrange the weapons shipment and asked about buying surface-to-air missiles.

The FARC, which is on a State Department list of terrorist organizations, has been battling to topple the Colombian government for 40 years. AUC, one of three outlawed paramilitary factions, agreed last week to disarm immediately in the first sign of progress in six weeks of peace talks.