Santos Affirms That FARC Leaders Are in Delicate Health

By Dialogo
May 10, 2011

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos affirmed on 7 May that several leaders from the top ranks of the FARC, including alias “Pablo Catatumbo” and “Romaña,” are in delicate health as a consequence of the Army’s pressure.

The president indicated that a series of items of the guerrilla group’s correspondence intercepted by the authorities demonstrates the “personal and health difficulties” suffered by the members of the Secretariat (the highest-ranking body, made up of seven leaders) and the Central General Staff (31 leaders) of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Santos specified that Jorge Torres Victoria, known as “Pablo Catatumbo,” commander of the Western Bloc and a member of the Secretariat, “suffered a serious accident when he fell down a hill and broke several bones. Medical care is not easy for him to get due to the military situation in the area.”

Likewise, he indicated that Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias “Romaña,” commander of the Eastern Bloc and a member of the Central General Staff, “has spinal problems that prevent him from walking.”

The head of state added that alias “Alberto Espuelas,” of the Eastern Bloc, has Parkinson’s disease, and that alias “Bertulfo Álvarez,” also a member of the Central General Staff, has serious prostate and heart problems.

In addition, he indicated that other rebel leaders are believed to suffer “arthritis and hepatitis,” according to the correspondence intercepted by the Army’s intelligence services.

Speaking at a public event in Medellín (400 km northwest of Bogotá), Santos invited all the guerrillas to demobilize. “We say to those who continue in that craziness of being in the mountains shooting off guns, you will end up in prison or in a tomb, but if you demobilize, you will have a normal life, a life with a family,” the president concluded.

At the same event, the commandant of the Armed Forces, Adm. Édgar Cely, affirmed that “all” the FARC’s highest-ranking leaders are ill and added that the authorities are going to “give them last rites, one by one.”

The FARC, founded in 1964, is Colombia’s chief guerrilla group, with around eight thousand fighters at present, according to government estimates. The National Liberation Army, which is believed to have 2,500 subversives, also operates in the country.