Betrayal and Strategy Enabled FARC Leader’s Death in Colombia
By Dialogo September 29, 2010
Betrayal by some of his trusted men, attracted by millions in reward money, and intelligence work with high-tech equipment were decisive in the success of the operation in which the military chief of the Colombian FARC guerrilla group died.
Colombian defense minister Rodrigo Rivera said on 24 September that the death of Jorge Briceño Suárez, better known as “El Mono Jojoy,” demonstrates that the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are crumbling from within.
“Jojoy was handed over by his people,” affirmed Rivera, who insisted that the guerrilla group is suffering a process of disintegration due to its fighters’ weariness in the face of pressure from the armed forces and their poor living conditions in the middle of the jungle, including ill-treatment by their commanders.
The death of “El Mono Jojoy” during “Operation Sodom,” as it was named, is considered by President Juan Manuel Santos’s administration to be the heaviest blow struck against the FARC in their entire history.
Around four hundred military personnel supported by 25 helicopters and 30 airplanes participated in the operation, which began Wednesday with a bombardment of the guerrilla leader’s camp in the middle of the jungle, in a rural area of the municipality of La Macarena, in the department of El Meta, around 250 kilometers southeast of Bogotá.
The Colombian government was offering a reward of 2.7 million dollars for information that would enable the location of the rebel leader, considered by the armed forces to be the bloodiest guerrilla and the one most feared by peasants in a wide region of the country.
LENGTHY POLICE RECORD
The guerrilla commander, fifty-nine years old and known for wearing a black beret and a camouflage uniform and always carrying a rifle, was accused of directing attacks on towns and military barracks and of murders, massacres, and kidnappings during the long internal conflict. He controlled the FARC areas in the east and south of the country.
There were 60 arrest warrants pending against him, 12 measures freezing his assets, 5 convictions, 25 investigations for the crimes of rebellion, homicide, kidnapping, and terrorism, and at least 2 extradition requests.
The defense minister announced that there will be new operations against other FARC leaders, whom he invited to turn themselves in so that they do not end up like Jojoy.
“The FARC are arriving at a kind of turning point; we’ve struck them in their strategic heart, and by doing this, we’ve sent them very clear messages. Faced with violence, faced with terrorism and drug trafficking, we will be implacable,” he affirmed.
“But for with the violent individual or the terrorist who repents, who resolves to change his life, who resolves to seek a second chance, there will be mercy, there will be compassion. We invite them to demobilize, to turn themselves in,” Rivera reiterated.
Military commanders and analysts expect that after the FARC leader’s death, fighters for the group could scatter, and the continent’s oldest active rebel group, which is accused of obtaining millions through drug trafficking, could even be forced to seek peace negotiations with the government.
During the military operation, around 20 computers and more than 60 USB drives were confiscated. In the view of the director of the National Police, Gen. Oscar Naranjo, they should contain information on the activities and connections of the rebel group, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.