Friday, November 4, 2011

Colombia: FARC rebel chief killed

The leader of one of the world's oldest existing rebel armies was reportedly killed on Friday.

According to the Colombian press, several government sources confirmed the death of FARC guerilla commander known by the alias of "Alfonso Cano". His body was reportedly identified by army doctors hours after being injured in a heavy military offensive in the southwestern department of Cauca. Additionally, an unnamed "senior security official" told the Associated Press that Cano's "fingerprints matched" those on record.

Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzo said that Cano's head of security was one of two people killed in the military operation in Cauca while four people were detained. Authorities were also said to have confiscated numerous computers, USB keys, hard drives, and caches of Colombian pesos along with other foreign currencies.

Cano first became a member of the FARC in the 1980s and he rose up the ranks to become commander of the group's Western Front in 1990. He would become the rebels' political leader and he was deeply involved in numerous failed peace negotiations with the government throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

Cano became the head of the FARC in 2008 after the death of its co-founder, Manuel Marulanda "Tirofijo". A $5 million bounty was placed on him by the U.S. government and he became the Colombia's most wanted criminal last year after the death of FARC military chief alias "Mono Jojoy" in a bombing raid.

Over the past decade the FARC has been hurt by the deaths of several commanders, desertions of hundreds of troops and a strong military offensive. Nevertheless, "the FARC and other armed groups have continued to pose a threat in rural areas where the state's presence is weak and cocaine trafficking lets the rebels finance their operations" according to Reuters.

Cano's demise has led to numerous reactions among Colombian political figures such as former Defense Minister Rafael Pardo who praised military leaders as well as President Juan Manuel Santos. Ex-president Andres Pastrana, who was in power during a failed peace process nearly a decade ago, urged the FARC to follow the example of Basque separatist group ETA and call a ceasefire. Bogota mayor-elect and former M-19 rebel organizer Gustavo Petro said that the FARC should immediately negotiate with the government and lay down their arms much like he did in 1991.

Video Source - YouTube via Noticias Caracol

Online Sources - Caracol Radio, El Tiempo, El Espectador, W Radio, MSNBC, Reuters, BBC News, La Nacion

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