FARC Leader’s Right-Hand Man Killed by Colombian Army

By Dialogo
March 23, 2011

The Colombian Army has killed the man “closest to and most trusted by” the FARC’s highest-ranking leader, Alfonso Cano, along with two other guerrillas, in fighting in the locality of Aipe (270 km south of Bogotá), the government affirmed on 21 March.

“We can confirm the death of alias Jerónimo Galeano, the guerrilla closest to and most trusted by Cano, and we’re advancing, getting closer to Cano; we’re closing the siege around him, and he’ll be the next to be captured or killed,” Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera told reporters.

Galeano – whose original name was Arquímedes Muñoz – was one of the “high-value objectives” for government troops, and his death “means that the FARC loses one of its strategic members,” the minister said at a press conference in Bogotá.

“He was not only a member of the FARC General Staff – which comes next after the Secretariat (the FARC central command) in the hierarchy – but also the head of one of the guerrilla group’s seven joint commands,” he added. “He was in charge of extortion in the departments of Huila and Tolima,” he specified.

The slain 57-year-old rebel belonged to the FARC for the last thirty-eight years. The Colombian Public Prosecutor’s Office issued more than a score of arrest warrants for him, on charges of theft, kidnapping, homicide, personal injury, and terrorism.

Colombian military intelligence also accused him of having planned numerous armed attacks on police stations in Tolima (in central Colombia) and Huila (in the southwest) and of having ordered private vehicles to be stopped on the highways of that region in order to kidnap their occupants and ask for ransom in exchange for their release.

The operation was successful in the wake of information supplied by a demobilized guerrilla and an operation to infiltrate rebel ranks that lasted six days, he said. The fighting took place in a mountainous region of Huila, on the morning of 20 March.

President Juan Manuel Santos affirmed on Twitter that this event proves that his administration has not let down its guard in the fight against illegal armed groups.

Military personnel also killed two other noted guerrillas, including a woman, and seized weapons and explosives in Aipe, according to the official account. One soldier died in the operation, Rivera specified.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia’s largest guerrilla group with between 9,000 and 11,000 fighters, has intensified its attacks in several localities in recent weeks, according to the authorities.