BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Rodrigo Rivera, the country’s defense minister, made his point perfectly clear to members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after the death of Víctor Suárez Rojas, the terrorist group’s No. 2 leader.
“The message to the FARC members is to surrender,” he said. “Our judicial system will respect life and human treatment.”
Rivera said the military won’t stop its offensive against the country’s largest guerrilla group after killing Suárez, a 57-year-old also known as “Jorge Briceño” and “Mono Jojoy,” during “Operation Sodom” in the jungle of the department of Meta on Sept. 23.
The death of the person Rivera described as “the most hated man in Colombia” could force the FARC into laying down their weapons and releasing their kidnapping victims, which they must do before President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration engages in peace talks.
“This is a triumph of legitimacy, of authority and of democracy over terrorism,” Horacio Serpa, former presidential candidate and current Gov. of the department of Santander, told Infosurhoy.com. “This shows that our military forces and police are performing as they should, and this sends a message to the other members of the FARC that if their military chief was taken down, tomorrow any of them can go down.”
Suárez’s death could be FARC’s downfall
Serpa said Suárez’s death will cause turmoil within the FARC.
“This is a serious blow to the guerrilla,” he said. “The death of their military chief will surely cause chaos and bewilderment in [the FARC]. ‘Jojoy’ represented violence, death, sadness, kidnappings and thousands of felonies more, that’s why we must be happy for the success of our armed forces.”
Serpa said it’s time for the country’s oldest guerrilla group, which was founded in 1964 and has about 8,000 members, to end its fight.
“Colombians deserve peace, tranquility, the hope for a better country and above all, we deserve an end to these 50 years of violence,” he said.
Sen. Piedad Córdoba, president of the Peace Commission of the Colombian Senate said Suárez’s death should breathe life into peace talks to end the bloodshed and heartbreak caused by the FARC.
“I wish that this act of war finally opens the door for dialogue, to a humanization of the conflict, to the rule of international humanitarian law,” Córdoba said in an exclusive interview with Infosurhoy.com. “[The dialogue] is necessary first to achieve the freedom of those who remain kidnapped and second to humanize this war that is bleeding the country out.”
During “Operation Sodom,” military and police forces confiscated 15 laptop computers and 69 USB drives that are being analyzed by intelligence agents, Juan Manuel Santos said in a statement released by the Colombian presidency.
“There is an incredible change in Colombia,” Juan Manuel Santos said from New York City, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly. “You can’t imagine the enthusiasm of the people. We are headed to a much better country. The Colombian people dream with a better future.”
FARC’s violence has escalated since Santos’ inauguration
The FARC has increased its attacks since Juan Manuel Santos took office on Aug. 7. At least 40 law enforcement or military personnel have been killed in attacks attributed to the FARC this month. The FARC also has been suspected in the killing of 56 civilians and the injuring of 52 others this month, according to the United Nations.
The FARC allegedly killed three police officers and injured another during an ambush of a patrol near the villages of Tres Bocas in the department of Norte de Santander near the border with Venezuela on Sept. 14. The attack occurred a few days after the FARC was accused of killing eight police officers and wounding four near the San Miguel International Bridge.
A week earlier, the FARC was suspected in the deaths of at least four soldiers and the injuring of nine during an attack in the department of Antioquia. On Sept. 1, the FARC allegedly killed 14 police officers and injured nine others during an assault in the department of Caquetá.
Of the 2,800 officially documented kidnappings between 1996 and 2008, 676 were perpetrated by the FARC, according to a study conducted by the National Fund for the Defense of Personal Freedom (Fondelibertad), an agency of Colombia’s Ministry of Defense. Fondelibertad, however, conducted a study based on that 2,800 baseline number and concluded that by Feb. 28, 2010, there are 70 known to remain hostage, 50 of whom are being held captive by the terrorist group. The study also stated of the 2,800 cases, 614 have a status of undefined and are under investigation.
Colombian political analyst Alejo Vargas said the death of Suárez, who had been named in about 60 arrest warrants and is suspected in the killings of thousands, represents one of the biggest victories of the government’s democratic security policy.
“Every military strike against the guerrilla group, besides increasing the trust of the citizens in the government, lays the road to a peace dialogue,” Vargas, director of research of the School of Law at Colombia’s National University told Infosurhoy.com.
“The death of ‘Mono Jojoy’ shows a clear balance in favor of the government. “There is no doubt that his death is a big blow to the structure and cohesion of the FARC.”