Monday, May 19, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor
Via the BBC: Leading Farc commander surrenders

A leading commander of the Farc rebels in Colombia has surrendered to the authorities, officials say.

Nelly Avila Moreno, known as Karina, was blamed for a string of murders and abductions, and for extortion in the north-western Antioquia region.


Karina was “nearly dying of hunger” when she and another guerrilla, known as Michin, handed themselves in, Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos said.


Her immediate boss Ivan Rios, a member of the Farc ruling seven-man secretariat, was murdered in March by one of his bodyguards.


Since then, Karina has been in sole command of the Farc division in Antioquia.

The number of FARC commanders who have been killed or captured in the last several months is quite remarkable and is unprecedented in the multi-decade conflict between the FARC and the Colombian state. The current spate of incidences involving the FARC started with the death of Raul Reyes in an assault on a FARC camp in Ecuador.

In addition to the losses of Reyes, Rios and Karina, El Tiempo reported a week ago Friday that another FARC leader, Santiago (nom de guerre of Gustavo Arbeláez) was captured: Una bruja fue clave en la caída de hombre fuerte de las Farc en Buenaventura (“A Witch was Key in the Fall of FARC Strongman in Buenaventure”). And yes, “a witch.” Apparently, Santiago was “un guerrillero conocido en la región por sus dos debilidades: las mujeres y las ciencias ocultas” (“a guerrilla known in the region for his two weaknesses: women and the occult.”)

Just to add to the “you can’t make this stuff up” element of the Santiago story, not only was Santiago caught in a hotel with his witch girlfriend, the story states that he also has romantic ties with her 17 year-old daughter:

‘Claudita’ reunía esas dos características. Además de manejar la santería y el esoterismo, también mantenía una relación sentimental con ‘Santiago’. Y algo más, es la madre de una joven de 17 años que también tenía un nexo amoroso con el jefe guerrillero.

Indeed, he was arrested in a hotel room with both women, where they were drinking together, and perhaps had been taking drugs. As the subtitle of the ET pieces states: it was a capture right out of a movie.

El Tiempo also reports that some members of the FARC attempted to kill el Mono Jojoy (Freddy Padilla de León Jorge Briceño), the most imporant FARC commander after Tirofijo himself1 :Hombres de su círculo de seguridad iban a asesinar al ‘Mono Jojoy’. The Colombian armed forces report that the men in question were attempting to collect the reward for killing FARC leaders, as was the case with Iván Ríos mentioned above.

It is difficult to say what the long-term effect of these captures will be on the FARC, with its decentralized structure and substantial income. Indeed, Santiago himself had replaced another commander (Milton Sierra Gómez, aka, “JJ”, who was killed last June), so certainly there will be someone to replace Santiago. Still, if there are repeats of the Iván Ríos killing for the reward money (and assuming that the report about el Mono Jojoy is true), then that will sow a great deal of internal discord and could be more significant than any specific death or capture of a given leader.

At a minimum, between the deaths and captures of various leaders and the capture of various laptops (one from Reyes and one from Santiago), it seems clear that the FARC has suffered substantial setbacks in the last year or so, and seems to be diminished from where the group was a few years ago, when they were arguably at the apex of their military significance.

I would note, however, that given the nature of the Colombian conflict, that it would be premature to start declaring the FARC dead or even on the path to quitting the field.

h/t: Boz for the ET stories on Santiago and el Mono Jojoy.

  1. i.e,. Pedro Antonio Marín, aka, Manuel Marulanda Vélez, the founder of the FARC. []
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6 Responses to “Two More FARC Commander in Custody: One Surrenders, Another Captured”

  1. Andres Munoz Says:

    I’m glad to see the rebels on the run and in distress. They have captured and murdered too many people for their crimes to go unpunished.

    They long ago abandoned the ‘armed struggle’ they claim to fight for.

  2. MSS Says:

    Ah, come on, this is Colombia. So you could make this stuff up, but only if you were Gabriel García Márquez.

  3. CV Says:

    Something we don’t hear or talk much about, but how much clout does our buddy Hugo Chavez have with FARC?

  4. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    Oh, it is speculated about quite a bit and there is evidence that he has been helpful. The notion, which seems to be popular in some sectors, that he is a puppetmaster and/or some major player with the FARC is rather unlikely, to put it mildly.

  5. MSS Says:

    Given that Chavez is now going on a decade in power, whereas the FARC has been around for almost 50, and given further that recent events suggest the FARC is weaker than it has been in 20 years or so, if Hugo has gotten involved, maybe we should hope for his continuing “help” to the FARC.

  6. PoliBlog (TM): A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » The FARC Confirms Death of Tirofijo Says:

    [...] This places his death was a few weeks after the strike into Ecuador by the Colombian government that killed Raúl Reyes, which took place at the end of February, and while it is unlikely that Marulanda was engaged in serious day-to-day command prior to his death (his health had been long-rumored to have been poor), his had to have compounded the difficulty of Reyes’ death, the loss of the laptops and the subsequent death of Ivan Ríos , the surrender of Karina and the capture of Santiago (all discussed here). [...]

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