San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica resident has ties to FARC, U.S. Treasury says

A Colombian national living in Costa Rica has been labeled a drug trafficker and an “important” financier of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) by the United States Department of the Treasury.

The designation, announced Thursday, froze all assets of José Melo that function under U.S. jurisdiction, including those of four companies which he owns – one of which is Costa Rica-based, a statement from the U.S. Treasury Department said.

The statement described Melo – who has legal residency in Costa Rica – as a “narcotics trafficker and important financial contact for the FARC.”

Melo owns four companies, according to the statement; two are Colombian, one is Costa Rican and the fourth is Venezuelan.

Costa Rica-based Carillanca S.A. is a company involved in tomato cultivation, the statement said, although it did not elaborate. One other business was involved in agriculture, specifically in the study of hydroponic agriculture, which consists of growing plants without soil in a nutrient-based system.

Another company deals in real estate while the final is a commercial parking lot in Bogotá, Colombia.

Founded in 1964, FARC is the longest-running insurgency in Latin America. It is a Marxist revolutionary group that has, in its most recent history, involved itself in the drug trade as finances waned.

The U.S. State Department labeled FARC a foreign terrorist organization in 1997, and former President George W. Bush listed it as a major narcotics trafficker in 2003.

There have been multiple incidents of both U.S. and Colombian agencies involving themselves internationally in a crackdown of the financial support system FARC has developed in the region.

In March 2008, e-mails retrieved from a computer that belonged to the organization´s then-No. 2 leader, Raúl Reyes – who was killed during a raid by the Colombian military – led authorities to a house in Santa Bárbara de Heredia, north of San José. In the house, which belonged to academics Cruz Prado and Francisco Gutiérrez, police found $480,000 in cash in a safe. The couple admitted that the safe was given to them by FARC, but denied knowing it contained money (TT, June 11, 2008).

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