Colombian Defense Minister Santos Raises Reward For Capture of FARC Leaders

By Dialogo
March 27, 2009

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos increased rewards for information leading to the capture of the FARC's top two commanders, Alfonso Cano and Jorge Briceño, to 7 million pesos ($2.9 million) each. Meanwhile, in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, admirers hailed a former Colombian guerrilla leader as a hero on the anniversary of his death, while Colombian officials boosted cash rewards for his top two successors. Some 100 supporters marched past Venezuela's presidential palace carrying red flags and posters of Colombian revolutionary Manuel Marulanda, whose real name was Pedro Antonio Marin. The state-funded television network Telesur, meanwhile, showed video of what it said was Marulanda's funeral. Rebels were shown carrying his flag-draped coffin through a forest. Telesur did not say how it had obtained the footage. Marulanda co-founded the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the Western Hemisphere's last remaining rebel army. He died of a heart attack on March 26, 2008, at age 78 and is believed to be buried in southern Colombia. Colombian officials say they believe he died in rugged mountains near the town of Uribe, cradle of the 45-year-old rebel movement. "Long live Marulanda, long live the FARC!" Hector Rodriguez, a leader of the Venezuelan Communist Youth, shouted in a fiery speech in downtown Caracas. Participant Santiago Palacios, a member of the Venezuelan Communist Party, said President Hugo Chavez's government had no role in the march, which he said was organized by the regional leftist group Coordinadora Continental Bolivariana and its Venezuelan affiliates. But Colombia's government, which has used billions of dollars in U.S. aid to batter the guerrillas, says documents found in the laptop computer of a rebel leader killed last year indicate that the CCB was formed by the FARC _ a charge that CCB leaders deny. Other documents allegedly found in the laptop suggest that Chavez sought to fund the FARC, and Colombian officials say Venezuela continues to provide rebels refuge. Chavez calls both claims bogus. Colombia's police chief, Gen. Oscar Naranjo, also announced the arrest of 10 alleged FARC members he said planned to assassinate Santos on his ranch south of Bogota during Easter Week.