FARC And ELN Lost 21,500 Combatants In Colombia

FARC And ELN Lost 21,500 Combatants In Colombia

By Dialogo
July 21, 2010

The FARC and the ELN, Colombian guerrilla groups, lost at least 21,500 combatants during Álvaro Uribe’s presidential administration, and these groups will not represent a threat for Juan Manuel Santos’s upcoming administration, the country’s top military commander, Freddy Padilla, indicated Sunday.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) went from having 25,000 combatants eight years ago to around 8,000 at present, and the National Liberation Army (ELN) went from 7,000 to 2,500, General Padilla told the daily El Espectador.

Padilla, who did not specify how many insurgents were killed and how many deserted, said that despite the fact that “more than 50,000 individuals” belonged to the guerrilla groups, right-wing paramilitaries and other armed groups accepted a government demobilization plan.

The FARC, the largest and oldest of the Colombian guerrilla groups, “were very powerful” eight years ago and “controlled entire areas of the nation,” and “there were three hundred municipalities that were influenced by them,” the military commander affirmed.

At present, “the FARC have retreated into the depths of the jungle, and the Colombian state is able to destroy them; in fact, we are on the way to destroying them,” he emphasized.

The illegal groups were decimated under the ‘democratic security’ policy promoted by Uribe, who took office in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006 on a platform calling for an ‘iron fist’ against the armed movements.

This set of facts will make it possible for Santos, Uribe’s former defense minister, and his administration to count on “levels of criminality that will not be a threat for the country,” according to the military commander.

Santos will succeed Uribe on 7 August, the same day that Padilla will retire from active duty, as he announced a month ago.

Padilla said that government troops “are getting closer every day” to the FARC’s fugitive leader, Alfonso Cano, and to the group’s top military commander, Jorge Briceño (‘Mono Jojoy’), whom he urged to demobilize.

The military commander indicated that a military agreement signed by Colombia and the United States, to which Venezuela has objected, seeks “to take advantage of technology in order to pursue fleeing criminals, and we want to do the same with other countries.”

Santos and Padilla face judicial proceedings in Ecuador, arising from a Colombian military attack on the FARC in Ecuadorean territory on 1 March 2008.