Conflict & Justice

New FARC commander: "We all have to die, Santos."


The FARC has taken a toll on Colombia for decades.



The new commander of the FARC spoke out over the weekend.

Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, assumed command of the long-fighting rebel group after its leader, Alfonso Cano was killed by the Colombian military on Nov. 4.

Until now, nobody had heard from the guy. Analysts suspected he was hiding in Venezuela. 

Wherever he was, observers expected him to take a hardline stance toward the government, which has ramped up its efforts to destroy the rebels in recent years.

The video, was was released online, showed TImochenko in a green uniform and cap, with glasses, reading from a statement in an apparent response to tough government rhetoric from President Juan Manuel Santos and his top officials in the wake of Cano's death. 

Santos, in a public address, had recently spoken directly to Timochenko:

“Think about it. You have been defeated politically, more than 95 percent of the population rejects the FARC. Your military is increasingly weak. The use of weapons and the path of violence will not lead to any win for you. Timochenko needs to reflect, or he will suffer the same fate as Alfonso Cano.”

Timochenko, in his statement, according to the AFP, said:

"We all have to die, (Juan Manuel) Santos, every one of us." ... "Nobody is going to escape that fact... Some for one cause, and others for another."

He also referred to the airstrike that killed Cano as "overdone showy stuff." 

It's not exactly the language of someone interested in negotiations. But it's also not the rhetoric of a fighter who can bring a lot of heat to the battle.

This sounds a bit like a win for the Colombian government. Cano's death was a huge blow to the FARC, which has lost popularity as a populist movement as it has forged ties with drug traffickers and continued its spate of kidnappings.

Colombia's already deemed Timochenko the new public enemy number 1, and they've shown that they have a long memory.

And it's true that the rebels have a proven ability to survive, and they're not likely to go quietly. Under Cano, they had refocused their energy on launching guerilla attacks, which require fewer fighters and can be demoralizing for a regular army. It's likely Timochenko will continue this strategy. 

The question is, for how long.