Colombia Rebels Seek Peace Talks, Name Replacement After Leader Killed

By Dialogo
September 28, 2010

Colombia’s FARC guerrillas on September 24 said they wanted a chance for peace negotiations a day after troops killed their top military chief in one of the worst blows to Latin America’s oldest surviving insurgency.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have often called for talks since the government began a U.S.-backed security crackdown in 2002 but the two sides have never been close to agreeing on conditions for negotiations.

Top guerrilla commander Mono Jojoy was killed on September 23 in an air strike and ground raid on his jungle camp, delivering a blow to the FARC’s leadership and its military capacity.

“We continue to call for an opportunity for peace,” the FARC said in a statement posted on Anncol website that carries rebel communiques. “It is not through the extermination of opponents that Colombia will find peace and reconciliation.”

Battered by the government’s offensive, the FARC is at its weakest in decades. Rebels have lost several top commanders in the past three years and its ranks have been thinned by desertions as fighters flee under military pressure.

Guerrillas are still a force in rural areas and over the last month have stepped up attacks, killing 22 police officers in two recent attacks.

But negotiations are unlikely unless rebel commanders met government conditions: cease hostilities, release soldiers and police officers held hostage and halt criminal activity such as cocaine trafficking.

President Juan Manuel Santos, who took office in August, has vowed to keep up his predecessors hard-line security approach, which has driven down bombings and kidnappings from the war and helped foreign investment grow five-fold in the past eight years.

Still, according to new information published on September 28, the FARC has urged its members to redouble efforts in the fight against the Colombian government.

Following the death of its No. 2 leader ‘Mono Jojoy’, the guerrilla announced it replaced the fallen leader with Felix Antonio Muñoz, known as Pastor Alape, who had led a faction of the group in the northwest region of Magdalena Medio.