SOUTHERN FRONT - Rebels Flail in Colombia After Death of Leader
May 28, 2008; Page A1

BOGOT?, Colombia -- Last November, a guerrilla commander in the jungles of Colombia wrote a despairing note to his superior, the legendary guerrilla leader known as Manuel Marulanda.

"The [army] operation doesn't let up. The number of troops is enormous," wrote Iván Márquez. "Sometimes we eat once a day."

Mr. Márquez's flagging morale, and that of the broader Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebel group, known as the FARC, has probably deteriorated much further in the past few months. This past weekend, it emerged that Mr. Marulanda, whose given name is Pedro Antonio Marín, died of an apparent heart attack in late March. He was the FARC's leader for four decades.

Mr. Marulanda's death is only the latest blow to the FARC, Latin America's oldest and biggest insurgency. Having been at the gates of Bogotá just five years ago, the group finds itself on the run from an invigorated Colombian military that runs nightly bombing missions. By most estimates, the rebels' ranks have fallen from an estimated 18,000 fighters to about half that level -- ravaged by desertions. The group's command and control structure has been disrupted to the point where rebels hardly ever use mobile phones for fear of being overheard, relying instead on a system they used in 1964: couriers on foot.

The turnaround is a triumph for Colombia's military and President Alvaro Uribe. A driven man whose father was killed by the FARC in a botched kidnap attempt in 1983, Mr. Uribe was elected Colombia's president in 2002 and vowed to bring the Communist group and other insurgents to heel. His success on that score is a big reason why his approval ratings top 85%.

It is also a largely unsung victory for the U.S., which has lavished nearly $4 billion in mostly military aid on Colombia during the past five years and helped retool the country's army from a demoralized and static force into a powerful fighting machine. At a time when the U.S. has struggled to defeat insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the progress in its own backyard against a powerful drug-fueled Communist insurgency is a noteworthy achievement.

"The U.S. took us by the hand and showed us how to do things," says a high-ranking Colombian military officer. "None of these successes could have been possible without the United States."

March may have been a tipping point for the rebels. During that month, the FARC lost three members of its seven-man ruling Secretariat -- a stunning development considering the rebel group had not lost a single member of its Secretariat to battle in 44 years of warfare. Aside from losing its founder, the FARC's second in command, Luis Eduardo Devia, known as Raúl Reyes, was killed in a controversial cross-border bombing raid in Ecuador by Colombia's army. A week later, Iván Rios, a rising star in the FARC, was murdered by his trusted bodyguard, who then cut off his hand to ensure he would get a $2.5 million bounty offered by the Colombian government.

Another blow was the recovery of thousands of incriminating files found in the computers of Mr. Reyes which show a relationship between the guerrillas and several regional leaders, especially Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez. The files suggest that Mr. Chávez has a strategic plan to put his oil-financed political muscle and millions of dollars in economic aid behind the FARC. The Venezuelan government has denounced the files as fake. But Interpol has analyzed the computers and declared that the Colombian government hasn't tampered with them. In any case, the uproar over the files would likely discourage major gestures of aid from Venezuela in the future.

To be sure, no one expects the FARC to disappear. The guerrillas have a decentralized structure -- the FARC is a sort of franchise with 64 "fronts" and 26 "mobile columns" spread through Colombia -- which gives commanders leeway to act on their own. About half the fronts are heavily involved in the cocaine trade, providing their members with millions of dollars and little incentive to give up what has become a way of life. While some FARC fronts may dissolve and some FARC commanders may surrender, many others could evolve into rural warlords or bandit chiefs with no ideological incentive.

Another, smaller guerrilla outfit, the National Liberation Army, has also been much diminished by the Colombian military in recent years. It is believed to number 3,500 fighters now, down from a peak of about 5,000 in the late 1990s.

Analysts believe that FARC commander Alfonso Cano, who has been named to take over from the late Mr. Marulanda, will have a difficult time trying to impose control on the organization. Mr. Cano, whose real name is Guillermo León, studied anthropology and law, and is seen as more prone to political engagement. But many analysts believe he faces a tough challenge from Jorge Briceño Suárez, known as Mono Jojoy, the FARC's brutal military commander who is believed to control much of the organization's drug-trafficking business. Making matters worse, Mr. Cano is also isolated, in an area of the country where the military is carrying out an ambitious operation to capture or kill him, according to Colombian military officials.

Most experts agree the group now faces perhaps its deepest crisis since Mr. Marulanda, the son of a farmer and grandson of a rural guerrilla, led a ragtag team of 40 peasants with 20 rifles between them in 1964 to form what would eventually become a nationwide insurgency. Information from Mr. Reyes's computers and a flood of recent defectors paints a picture of a rebel group that is hard-pressed by the military and facing an identity crisis, torn between a faded ideology and the money to be made in the drug trade.

Rural Roots

During the two decades that followed its formation, the FARC slowly grew across the Colombian countryside, attracting disaffected peasants and Communist intellectuals. But unlike most insurgencies in Latin America, the FARC's biggest achievements came after the end of the Cold War, when the group started earning hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing coca growers, selling cocaine, extorting businessmen and kidnapping for ransom. The money was used to buy weapons, entice young men into the ranks, and very nearly bring the Colombian government to its knees.

By 1998, the FARC had the government on the run. That year, it ambushed an elite antiguerrilla battalion, capturing or killing most of its 154 men. Months later, it overran an army base in Miraflores, in the southern jungle province of Guaviare. Those and other FARC victories pushed the newly elected president Andrés Pastrana, who had campaigned on a platform of reaching a peace treaty, to the negotiating table.

"The bandits [FARC] were using improvised tanks to attack isolated bases," says the high-ranking Colombian military officer who was then a captain. "We had no way to counterattack. We were helpless."

President Pastrana agreed to hand over an area the size of Switzerland in the midst of the FARC's southeast jungle stronghold to the guerrillas while the two sides discussed peace. But negotiations went nowhere. From 1999 to 2001, the FARC used its sanctuary to consolidate its forces, carry out kidnappings, attack nearby towns, and even hijack an airplane, forcing a humiliated Mr. Pastrana to cancel the talks and order the military to formally retake the area.

In 2000, Mr. Pastrana inked a deal with the U.S. government called Plan Colombia, a multibillion-dollar agreement to strengthen Colombia's antidrug effort. Over the years, Plan Colombia would eventually involve the U.S. in every aspect of counterinsurgency operations -- and spell bad news for the FARC.

Mr. Pastrana's failed attempt to negotiate with the guerrillas left Colombians angry, paving the way for the election of Mr. Uribe in 2002 on a get-tough platform. During his first week in office, he declared a 90-day state of emergency and pushed through a one-time $800 million tax on the nation's wealthy to help pay for the war. For the first time, military analysts say the army here felt Colombia had the political will to win the war.

A hands-on commander in chief, Mr. Uribe travels every Monday to a different part of Colombia to review the local security situation. He peppers generals with telephone calls about the progress of military operations -- a practice known in the presidential palace as "Happy Hour" -- and works off tension by practicing yoga every day.

Under Mr. Uribe, and thanks partly to American help, Colombia's military has been transformed. Before the reforms, Colombia counted on about 15,000 professional soldiers. Now, Colombia has about 80,000 highly trained soldiers in an overall force of 270,000 men. These include 22 mobile "antiguerrilla" brigades of 2,000 men each, a helicopter aviation brigade, and an elite 1,200-strong Special Forces unit, modeled on the U.S. military.

Once unable to come to the aid of remote army bases under fire from the FARC, Colombia now has U.S. military hardware like C-130 transport planes plus Blackhawk and other helicopters that allow the military to respond quickly. Given the importance of the complex web of rivers that cuts through its jungles and mountainous landscape, Colombia has also developed a force of 34,000 marines, the second-largest such force in the hemisphere after the U.S. It's now also developing a coast guard.

For the FARC, the expanded military has been a nightmare, leading to almost daily contact with Colombian forces. Ten days ago, Nelly Avila Moreno, 45 years old, aka Karina, the FARC's most famous female commander, called it quits after a 24-year career with the guerrillas. She surrendered with her lover to the authorities. Tellingly, she said she hadn't been in communication with her commanders for two years out of fear the army would eavesdrop on their conversations.

"Everywhere we went, the army was there," Karina told a member of the Colombian Ministry of Defense team that handles defectors, according to a tape made available to The Wall Street Journal. "We couldn't sleep in one place for more than one night," said the bullet-scarred guerrilla, who lost one eye to combat.

Having once treated deserting guerrillas such as Karina as criminals, the government now rolls out the red carpet. The former guerrillas, called desmobilizados, or "demobilized ones," are taken into a special program where they are debriefed and given assistance. Some go to work for the military as guides, showing soldiers paths through the minefields that have become the guerrillas' most effective weapon. desmobilizados are also put on army radio broadcasts that cover the whole country, urging their friends in the FARC ranks to leave. Karina herself followed suit, telling a televised news conference: "To my comrades: Change this life you are leading with the guerrillas."

The effect on the FARC has been devastating. In the missive from Iván Márquez, whose real name is Luciano Marín Arango, to Mr. Marulanda last year, the guerrilla commander wrote of the bombardment on the airwaves from former guerrillas urging would-be defectors to quit. "They are constantly on the air," reported Mr. Márquez in an email later found in Raúl Reyes's computers. "Ten have deserted, four have gone directly over to the enemy," he said, adding up the toll on his unit.

Throughout the late 1990s and early parts of this decade, the FARC faced another enemy in addition to Colombia's military: rural landowners and drug barons. Both financed private armies to protect their businesses from the guerrillas. These paramilitaries, which were accused of sometimes working with the Colombian military, helped drive out the FARC guerrillas from parts of the country, resorting to massacres and other gruesome tactics. They were disbanded in 2005 after reaching a peace deal with Mr. Uribe allowing them to turn in their weapons in exchange for light prison sentences.

Crucial Component

A crucial component of Colombia's ongoing military success has been a professional and systematic use of intelligence. Mr. Uribe instituted a nationwide system of civilian spies who are paid for intelligence they provide on guerrilla movements. Colombia also counts on "aerial intelligence platforms" -- small planes bristling with listening devices. These devices interact with land bases that cover the whole of the country's rugged jungle and mountain-covered territory. Now police and military routinely share intelligence.

Improved intelligence has helped the Colombians develop a strategy of going after "high-value targets" in the FARC. Led by special-forces teams, the army has killed or captured a string of high-ranking FARC commanders. Last September, intelligence located Tomás Medina, known as El Negro Acacia, the commander of the FARC's 16th Front, who ran much of the FARC's cocaine and arms business through Brazil, according to Colombian Ministry of Defense officials. The air force then bombed the camp in southern Colombia, killing Mr. Medina and 16 other guerrillas, according to the Ministry of Defense.

Aside from sustained army pressure, analysts say the FARC sowed the seeds of its own destruction by entering the drug trade and thereby giving up any legitimate claim it might have had as a guerrilla movement.

"When I was a captain, I would hear Jacobo Arenas [a founder of the FARC] and Marulanda himself talking on the radio about the revolution, social issues, Mao Zedong," says the high-ranking Colombian army officer. "During the last 15 years, 99% of what you intercept has to do with drugs and money. They've lost their ideological North Star."

Nicolas, a 35-year-old demobilized guerrilla who was in the FARC for 12 years, agrees. "I can't conceive of a revolutionary organization which has to turn to drug trafficking to win a war," he says in an interview, asking that his full name not be used for security reasons. "He who has the truth wins the war. Truth convinces the people to go on the side of those who wield it."

Posted on May 28, 2008

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"The U.S. took us by the hand and showed us how to do things," says a high-ranking Colombian military officer. "None of these successes could have been possible without the United States."

This is one of the best articles I've read which summaries what's been happening in Colombia in recent years.

What's more interesting, is how many things have drastically changed in such a short period a time.

Posted on May 28, 2008

Excellent article. Thanks for sharing.

Posted on May 28, 2008

Yes, Very good article indeed. In todays Miami Herald South Florida, there was not one article about Colombia. That could be a good thing!

Posted on May 28, 2008

The article shows why the Socialists Pelosie and Reid are not happy with Colombia.

Posted on May 28, 2008

Is there a possiblitiy we will be seeing a "FARC LITE" in the very near future led by Alfonso Cano with Mono Jojoy breaking away from FARC all together?

If indeed it's true, that FARC Fronts operate on their own, along with the fact that it seems they are having trouble communicating within the organizaition, I would wonder why Mono Jojoy needs the political branch of FARC anymore, especially after the death of Manuel Marulanda.

Why would he want or need to take any orders from Alfonso Cano if the only important thing to him is the drug trade?

I wouldn't be surprised to see a completely new FARC, with several fronts breaking into new groups dedicated strickly to the drug trade.

Posted on May 28, 2008


You Go! Uncle Al !!! (eliminate that competition!)

Posted on May 28, 2008

Farc Lite?
Better Taste? (Than baracoa???)
Less Filling? (or, is that,... Feeling?)

Posted on May 28, 2008

Brilliant article thanks. Kick them the FARC out of Colombia

Posted on May 28, 2008

One way to sum it up: the article makes the past look worse than it was and, by extension, the present better than it is.

If this really leads us to the end of FARC, then maybe such expressions will all be justified in the long run. But right now...that is debatable.

Posted on May 28, 2008

Juance, I am curious, in which way does the article make the military situation in the past seem worse than it was? If I remember correctly, things were pretty f$%ked up back then for the military.

Posted on May 28, 2008

Anyone care to speculate?

"Is there a possiblitiy we will be seeing a "FARC LITE" in the very near future led by Alfonso Cano with Mono Jojoy breaking away from FARC all together?

If indeed it's true, that FARC Fronts operate on their own, along with the fact that it seems they are having trouble communicating within the organizaition, I would wonder why Mono Jojoy needs the political branch of FARC anymore, especially after the death of Manuel Marulanda.

Why would he want or need to take any orders from Alfonso Cano if the only important thing to him is the drug trade?

I wouldn't be surprised to see a completely new FARC, with several fronts breaking into new groups dedicated strickly to the drug trade."

Posted on May 28, 2008

One hopes for peace. I suspect these articles give more hope than truth.

I don't know if FARC is in its death throes as a group or ideology or organization. But as long as drugs remain so lucrative it is at risk of being replaced. As for me, I hope people can simply venture into the countryside, anywhere in Colombia, without undue worry.

Posted on May 28, 2008

juancegomez is anti governement billyb so he must object to everything......How does it make it look better than it is today juance? (better start stretching those fingers for all the copy and pasting you enjoy doing)

Posted on May 28, 2008

Nahh, Juance usually gives nuanced and intelligent opinions, you must have him confused with some others.

Posted on May 28, 2008

I wouldn't say Juance is anti-government. His opinions are the smartest ones here.

Posted on May 28, 2008

ManT, you have to put the qualifier "usually" in there, so it doesn't go to Juance's head ;)

Posted on May 28, 2008

Maybe. But I prefer to think that my opinions, and most of the other ones around here, are pretty much just hot air. Juance's are a shade above that. "Better than hot air"... words to live by. ;)

Posted on May 28, 2008

for sure, mine are just hot air. but sometimes, one has to blow some hot air, so the guys who're smarter can set us straight.

Posted on May 28, 2008

Thanks for the kind words guys, but I'm no expert on almost any of these matters, I'll be the first to admit that, and other people have also made valuable contributions here, from my point of view anyways. Whether one shares their politics and viewpoints or not.

Back on topic...the issue has been talked about before. The thing is, while FARC did score a long and well documented series of shameful tactical victories over the military in the south of the country and they produced famous political effects (in no small part because the Samper administration was in utter chaos for other reasons), in strategical terms FARC was still pretty far from "having the government on the run".

That phrase is in the article, and it explicitly sums up the attitude that makes me raise an eyebrow, as far as the past is concerned. I keep hearing that was the case, but the more I read and go over what little I already know, the less I can accept that interpretation.

Even the officials that are cited in the article mention that FARC was attacking isolated bases or units (supposedly with "tanks", one says, but something tells me he meant "cylinders", as in gas cylinders...which may be described as "tanques" in Spanish if one wants to). That much is not hard to prove. In order to really have the government on the run, on a national scale and not just from remote and almost unpopulated areas (if you look at the demographics), you'd expect quite a bit more than that.

Let's be a bit more concrete: did FARC gain military control over any department capitals or urban municipalities, even during the worst moments of the conflict, as part of any "war of positions", for any substantial amount of time, or did FARC come close to toppling the government in any other manner? No, not really. Perhaps that may have happened eventually, as unlikely as it sounds, but it did not.

Unless you count the DMZ, and that was a political decision by Pastrana rather than a military necessity (though one could certainly argue earlier tactical losses paved the way for it), it's difficult to even consider any actual "territorial exchanges" of any major and semi-permanent significance.

But if anything, the most relevant example, which was Mitú 1998 showed the limits of FARC's abilities, when they tried to do just that: they tried to gain control of a department capital in order to establish a permanent position. And that's one of the smaller department capitals, as far as I can tell. It's even the most remote. Yes, it's true that Brazil's diplomatic collaboration was vital for the counterattack to happen as it did, but in military terms, FARC just couldn't stay there and fight when its control was challenged. The entire thing was over in 3 days.

One could then cite FARC's attempts to gain power in Cundinamarca, ostensibly in order to eventually encircle Bogotá, but their own weakness was made evident soon enough. They didn't have much luck when the military actually launched an operation against them and, in fact, it's one of the more successful examples of what "democratic security" could do, in an area where FARC's presence was new and the population wasn't exactly friendly to them.

But in terms of dismantling FARC units, and that takes us from the past to the present and future, it's been harder to replicate that success until recently...and even then, one can argue that it's still very rare, since the larger Fronts and Blocks are still largely intact. In some cases, even after their nominal leaders have died. Or did FARC's presence in, say, Nariño and Putumayo evaporate after Reyes was killed in Ecuador? Not exactly. The cases of Negro Acacio and Ivan Rios -Karina included- are important, but let's look at things in perspective: FARC has over 60 fronts, at least nominally.

Posted on May 28, 2008

Actually, Colombiano_81, I only copy and paste stuff in two cases.

a)Posting news or articles. Which is no different from what many others also do.

b)Posting my own opinions in more than one place, though I tend to modify them a bit. Not always, admittedly.

But, now that you mention it so casually...what did I just copy and paste, for example?

Also, for the record, I'm not anti-government, just not really pro-Uribe...even if I'm not exactly a blind anti-Uribe guy either. I dislike him personally, but try to focus on his actions and opinions as President than on his past as *insert whatever you want*.

I think I'm closest to Uribe on security -with a lot of criticisms mind you- than on anything else, as I'm quite anti-FARC. But I don't think Uribe should be in charge of the nation, for many reasons.

Posted on May 28, 2008

juance, feel free to tell me to screw off, but i'm very curious about about your profession. you either have a tremendous natural gift for analysis, or good training - or both.

Posted on May 28, 2008

Sometimes I'd wish... :P

slguy: Thanks, but tell you what...I'll sum it up like this: I've got social sciences training, but so far I haven't been able to do much in that field. Things may change, but make of that what you will.

Posted on May 28, 2008

MT... that would be nice, eh?
All of our dreams... to be able to travel the backroads of Colombia, without worries.
But, I think as long as there is Coca....
There will be conflict...

Posted on May 28, 2008


Agree, the problems will continue to exist as long as there is coca.

But, I think it may well be in several people's interest that maybe it's time to part with the FARC and break out on their own.

If it ain't all about the "REVOLUTION" nowadays, why bother to stick around and take orders from Alfonso Cano who may be more of a liability to several group's business interest?

It's a whole new world for the FARC.

Posted on May 28, 2008

I don't think they will disappear per say, but will instead atomize into several smaller criminal organizations. They will cease being a threat to the state, but will have to be dealt with like any of the other drug gangs they now resemble more and more.

Posted on May 28, 2008

Juance, whenever you decide to run I'll vote for you:)

Posted on May 28, 2008

At the embassy

Posted on May 28, 2008

Death of a Leader: The Future of FARC
Douglas Farah - May 28, 2008

The FARC's announcement this weekend that its top leader, Manuel Marulanda (AKA Tirofijo, or "Sureshot") died of a heart attack means the end of an era for the Marxist-inspired group that is now more criminal enterprise than insurgency.

Marulanda, whose real name was Pedro Marin, was the last of old guard that founded the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) in 1964, after spending more than a decade fighting in the wars between Conservative and Liberal party militias. His death comes as the FARC is suffering from severe internal strains and loss of leadership, leaving the future of the hemisphere's oldest insurgency murky.

In the past two months, the FARC's seven-member board of commanders has suffered three losses - Raul Reyes, Marulanda's chief deputy, whose captured computer has led to an unprecedented intelligence boon to government forces; Ivan Rios, whose own bodyguards executed him and cut off his hands and took his laptop computer; and Marulanda, who apparently died of old age. In addition, dozens of mid-level commanders have quit the movement.

While living an extremely isolated life in recent months, under the tutelage and direction of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the FARC was making a concerted effort to expand both its international sphere of influence and it international contacts.

Marulanda, as the grand old man, held the FARC together despite the demise of Marxism and Marxist movements around the world. He did it by allowing the movement to become highly compartmentalized and self-financing.

This was accomplished by letting different fronts of the FARC to engage in different types of criminal activity, from the cocaine trade to kidnappings for ransom. While an avowed Marxist himself, the cadres entering his force were, over time, less ideological and more profit-oriented. The group, which continues to hold hundreds of hostages, was designated a terrorist entity by both the United States and the European Union.

The choice of Alfonso Cano as his successor is the most interesting bits of news of how the FARC will operate in the near future, and one that is not likely to be accepted by some elements of the movement.

Cano has long been regarded as the political, not military leader of the FARC. In contrast, Jorge Briceno (AKA Mono Jojoy) is the leading military commander, and one most responsible for moving the FARC toward kidnapping Americans. (Three remain in custody, seven others, all missionaries, have been killed in FARC custody in the past decade) and the cocaine business.

Given the already-strained and ruptured command-and-control structures of the FARC and the implosion brought on by the military offensive and loss of cadres in recent years, it is unlikely the FARC will be able to remain a cohesive unit.

As with the demise of the Cali and Medellin cartels, the result may be, in some ways, worse than the status quo. The FARC is likely to degenerate almost entirely into a drug trafficking and criminal enterprise, operating in smaller, semi-autonomous or completely autonomous groups.

My prediction is that the numbers will shrink and the FARC will lose its capacity to directly challenge the state for supremacy in much of the national territory.

But I predict also that we will see a sharp rise in the level of violence against civilians, and internal wars over cocaine trafficking routes, as the groups seek dominance in the drug trafficking field.

The end is not in sight, but there is little doubt the FARC, as it has existed for the past four decades, is no more.

Posted on May 28, 2008

Peace for Colombia?

The Economist May 29th 2008 | BOGOTá

Why the FARC's defeat looks to be only a matter of time

PRESIDENTS have come and gone over the past four decades in Colombia but one man remained constant. Pedro Antonio Marín, better known by the noms de guerre of Manuel Marulanda or ??Tirofijo?? (??Sureshot??), led his FARC guerrillas through army bombardments, bogus ceasefires and failed peace talks, never giving up his quixotic and destructive campaign to turn a large South American democracy into a clone of the long-vanished Soviet Union. Mr Marulanda's death was always going to be of moment for Colombia. In the event, it has almost certainly coincided with the FARC??s demise as a serious military threat to the state.

A FARC commander announced that Mr Marulanda died on March 26th of a heart attack. Army chiefs believe that he might have expired as a result of their bombardments. In the same month, two other members of the FARC??s seven-man secretariat were killed, Raúl Reyes by a bombing raid on his camp across the border in Ecuador and Iván Ríos by his own bodyguard. Mr Marulanda will be replaced by Alfonso Cano (real name: Guillermo León Sáenz), the FARC's chief ideologue. But there are reasons to suppose that the guerrillas will never recover from their March setbacks.

Mr Marulanda was the last link to the FARC??s origins as a peasant self-defence force against landowners, an offshoot of a rural civil war in the 1940s and 1950s between Liberals and Conservatives. A man of peasant cunning and stubbornness, he was said never to have visited any city larger than Neiva, of some 315,000 people. Later recruits were middle-class Marxist students, such as Mr Cano.

The FARC survived the end of the cold war, but at the cost of its ideological purity, by turning to drug-trafficking and kidnapping. Mr Marulanda was by the mid-1990s leading a force of 19,000 operating in large units, overwhelming army garrisons and threatening Bogotá, the capital. That prompted the government to open peace talks, abandoned after three years in which the FARC carried on kidnapping, bombing and recruiting.

Colombians turned in despair to ?lvaro Uribe, their tough president since 2002. He has expanded the security forces by a third, to 270,000, including a core of 80,000 professional soldiers, some of them in mobile brigades and special forces. They are backed by a large helicopter fleet, Brazilian-made Super Tucano tactical bombers and American advice, especially in intercepting communications.

This build-up transformed the war, driving the FARC away from the towns. Recent changes of government strategy are now bearing fruit. These involve encouraging guerrilla desertions and targeting the leadership. The FARC are now losing more deserters than they are gaining new recruits, according to General Freddy Padilla de León, the armed-forces?? commander. ??They are reduced militarily, isolated politically, have a reduced social base and we are cutting their finance [by acting against their drug business]. It??s impossible for them to return to the cities,?? he says.

What has worried Colombian officials most has been signs that Venezuela has been helping the FARC. But Venezuela??s government is likely to be more circumspect after evidence of ties emerged from documents on Reyes??s computers.

So what future do the guerrillas have? Mr Cano is sometimes portrayed as a moderate, in contrast to Jorge Briceño (aka ??Mono Jojoy??), the FARC??s military commander. But in a two-hour interview with The Economist in 2001, Mr Cano showed himself to be a rigid Marxist, unprepared to accept democracy. ??Our struggle is to do away with the state as now it exists in Colombia,?? he said. The FARC wanted power and would not demobilise in return for ??houses, cars and scholarships?? or a few seats in Congress.

Mr Cano??s first task will be to prevent the FARC from fragmenting into its constituent ??fronts??. Constant army pressure means the fronts now find it hard to communicate with each other. Some, including Mr Cano??s in the centre-south, are on the run; others, such as that in Nariño, in the south-west, are still awash with drug money. Yet others rely on havens across the borders in Venezuela and Ecuador.

By maintaining the pressure, the government hopes to force the FARC into negotiations. Relations of hostages kidnapped by the guerrillas hope that the death of the obstinate Mr Marulanda will speed their release. Neither may happen soon. ??Marulanda??s death is not the death of the FARC,?? says Camilo Gómez, who negotiated for the government during the peace talks. Since perhaps 9,000 guerrillas are still under arms, that is clearly true. But defeat looks only a matter of time.
"But in a two-hour interview with The Economist in 2001, Mr Cano showed himself to be a rigid Marxist, unprepared to accept democracy. ??Our struggle is to do away with the state as now it exists in Colombia,?? he said. The FARC wanted power and would not demobilise in return for ??houses, cars and scholarships?? or a few seats in Congress."

I wonder how Alfonso Cano plans on achieving his very lofty goals?

Posted on May 28, 2008

If that's truly how Cano feels about everything, why negotiate... KEEP DROPPING BOMBS!

Posted on May 28, 2008