Conflict & Justice

Colombian FARC rebels vow to keep fighting despite top leader's death (VIDEO)


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos pets Onix, a sniffer-dog, next to Colombia's Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzo (L), in Popayan, Colombia, on Nov. 5, 2011. The top leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Guillermo Leon Saenz Vargas, a.k.a. 'Alfonso Cano', was killed Friday during a military operation.


Luis Robayo

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — or FARC — has vowed to continue its struggle despite the death of the Marxist guerrilla group's supreme commander, Alfonso Cano, in a military operation.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called Cano's death at the hands of Colombian troops in the southern Cauca department Friday the biggest blow sustained by the guerrilla group in its history, and urged FARC to lay down arms.

However, a defiant statement posted Sunday by the ruling secretariat of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia on the Anncol website reads:

"The establishment voices agree that this means the end of the guerrilla struggle in Colombia.

"The only reality symbolized by the fall in combat of comrade Alfonso Cano is the immortal resistance of the Colombian people who would rather die than live on their knees begging."

Colombia had mounted a three-year military operation targeting Cano, 63, who has led FARC since the 2008 death of the group's founder, Manuel Marulanda. 

His death, in jungle-covered mountains in south-west Colombia, raised hopes that the rebels might be forced into peace talks, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The group — which finances itself on the proceeds of cocaine trafficking and ransoms gained from abductions — has carried out a number of deadly attacks on Colombian troops in recent months.

In just two attacks last month, FARC guerrillas killed 20 soldiers the Guardian reported.

Whoever replaced Cano would not have "the same command and control over the troops," Santos said, the Guardian reported.

"Violence is not the way... Demobilize, because as we have said many times, you will end up in a grave or in jail," Taiwan News reported Santos as saying at a news conference Saturday.

The Guardian quotes another security analyst, Alfredo Rangel, as saying:

"This will be the FARC's most traumatic succession ever."

However, Taiwan News quoted a conflict analyst Ariel Avila, with the Bogota research group Arco Iris, as saying: 

"The military forces can take a deep breath. But this isn’t the end of the guerrillas. They still have some time left."