It was dusk in the Amazon as the two female guerrillas stashed the canoe and camouflaged it with branches and leaves. There began an hour-long hike into the gloomy jungle, lit only by the beams from two small torches. As a camp became visible, a uniformed man toting an AK-47 appeared out of the darkness. Up ahead, a white light illuminated a man with a grey beard working on a laptop. It was Raúl Reyes, a member of the seven-person ruling secretariat of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, more commonly known by their Spanish acronym, FARC. According to many analysts, Reyes was the second-highest ranking member of FARC, a Marxist insurgent group that has been fighting in the mountains of Colombia for 50 years to overthrow the government Continue reading
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In November 2011, the Colombian military achieved one of its greatest successes when it killed Alfonso Cano, the supreme commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in the southwestern department of Cauca. Cano was quickly replaced by secretariat member Timoleon “Timochenko” Jiménez. With Timochenko believed to be operating in the northeastern department of Norte de Santander, in a remote, drug-producing area known as the Catatumbo region, the primary focus of Colombia’s military operations shifted northward. This part of Colombia is unique because, in addition to the FARC, two other guerrilla groups—the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the People’s Liberation Army (EPL)—operate here.
Timoleon ‘Timochenko’ Jiménez, new leader of the FARC: call for peace.Timoleon ‘Timochenko’ Jiménez, the supreme commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), opened the New Year by issuing a public statement announcing that the Marxist guerrilla group is willing to engage in peace talks with the Colombian government as long as those negotiations addressed ‘the privatisations, the deregulation, the absolute freedom of trade and investment, the environmental degradation, market democracy, the military doctrine’. In essence, the guerrillas are demanding, as they have done for decades, that any peace agreement would require a public debate about the implementation of the neoliberal, or ‘free-market’, economic model that they so vehemently oppose.
The Colombian military has had numerous successes targeting high-ranking leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in recent years. Its two greatest successes were the killing of secretariat members Raúl Reyes in 2008 and Jorge Briceño, alias “Mono Jojoy,” last year. But the guerrilla leader that the military most wants to capture or kill is the FARC’s supreme commander Alfonso Cano. In an effort to achieve its objective, the Colombian army has deployed 5,000 troops with the sole mission of locating Cano. But the task of tracking down and targeting the FARC leader is proving to be far more challenging than the killing of Reyes and Mono Jojoy due to the high altitude and rugged mountain terrain prevalent in the department of Tolima in central Colombia, where the FARC was founded in 1964.
The streets of the remote village of La Cooperativa in the La Macarena region of eastern Colombia were bustling with people going about their daily business. The restaurants were full and stores had no problem selling their wares to a steady stream of customers consisting of local peasants and leftist guerrillas who had controlled this region for more than four decades. There was plenty of work for everyone and local businesses were booming. At the heart of this robust economy was coca, the plant whose leaves provide the raw ingredient in cocaine. But that was in 2006. Today, La Cooperativa is a virtual ghost town. The coca is gone, the guerrillas are gone; and so has more than 80 percent of the population. “Life is worse now than it was three years ago; the situation here is critical,” says one local resident. “In six more months there might not be anyone left here.” From the Colombian government’s perspective, however, a pilot project that utilizes a carrot and stick approach towards combating both the insurgency and coca cultivation is paying dividends as the state is finally establishing a permanent, and comprehensive, presence in a traditional stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).