Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader Alfonso Cano has been killed. FARC is a major focus of the United States in this South American state. FARC has been waging a struggle for power for decades., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
With assassination of FARC leader The struggle continues in Colombia
By Berta Joubert-Ceci
Published Nov 9, 2011 11:03 PM
Alfonso Cano, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) was killed in combat on Nov. 4 by the Colombian Army in that country’s southwest region of Cauca. For several hours that day, dozens of helicopters and planes surrounded this rural area, the home of peasant families, and then they started bombing, hitting the place where the FARC leader was.
Cano’s compañera, Patricia González, and another guerrilla fighter responsible for communications were also killed.
According to a video by mainstream Caracol news, the military had been tracking Cano for more than five years with U.S. assistance and had had army troops infiltrate the community and intercept phone calls of Cano’s closest comrades in an effort to track him down.
TeleSUR had broad coverage of the massacre, reporting that peasants, some of whose homes were bombed, were trying to flee the bombing that continued after Cano’s death.
Alfonso Cano, communist & FARC leader
Cano was leader of the FARC, having replaced FARC founder Manuel Marulanda in 2008, when this legendary guerrilla leader died of natural causes in the jungle that housed him and where he fought for most of his life. In his youth, Cano had studied anthropology and law in the National University. He was an activist with the Colombian Communist Party before he joined the FARC.
Cano was among those who founded the Patriotic Union (UP) electoral party in the 1980s when the FARC tried to engage politically in the electoral arena during a cease-fire in the guerrilla war. Though the UP had many political victories in the 1986 elections, the state and death squads assassinated more than 4,000 of its members in the following years, and the FARC resumed the guerrilla struggle.
Under Cano’s leadership, the FARC reoriented their strategies to respond to the newest and vicious anti-insurgent attacks promoted by Washington’s Plan Colombia. This regained them some ground during the period from 2009 to 2011 that they had lost earlier.
Many articles and reports, including a statement from the courageous Colombian former senator and peace activist, Piedad Córdoba, call Cano’s killing a serious setback for the peace process in that beleaguered country. Cano’s leadership helped bring about the release of numerous persons that the guerrilla army had held in the hope of winning the release of the many FARC members in Colombian and U.S. jails and an eventual peace negotiation that would end the Colombian people’s suffering.
Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, whom the media have presented as a “gentler” figure compared with his paramilitary predecessor, Álvaro Uribe, is still part of the oligarchy and a pro-war figure. Santos was Uribe’s minister of defense, and as such, he plotted the massacre in 2008 in Sucumbíos, Ecuador, that killed FARC leader Raúl Reyes, several other FARC members and four Mexican students who were visiting the encampment for a research study.
Under his ministry the “false positive” fraud was initiated. The corpses of the mostly young people the army killed were then dressed as guerrillas. The regime then claimed the military had killed “guerrillas in combat.” No one has been punished for these murders.
Santos claims he is working for peace. But instead of engaging in negotiations with the insurgent forces of the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN), he states that if you “cut off the head, you kill the monster.” (“acabando la cabeza, termina el monstruo”) Thus he aims to end the guerrilla war by assassinating the insurgent leaders.
The FARC-EP to continue its struggle
Santos has misjudged the depth of the FARC. Several FARC leaders have been killed — Reyes, Iván Ríos, Jorge Briceño (el Mono Jojoy) — and the historic leader, Marulanda, died a natural death, yet the guerrilla struggle has continued, with other leaders assuming the direction. There is no reason to believe this time will be different.
Revolutionary belligerent forces are born from conditions of extreme inequality and injustice. They are not terrorists, isolated from the people, but are sustained by the aspirations of a people to be free and develop their own destiny. And as such, they have echo in the poorest sectors of the nation.
In an article by José Antonio Gutiérrez on Oct. 14, entitled “Santos: green light for dirty war in Colombia,” the author explains that wealthy landowners have a vested interest in keeping the war against the insurgency alive. They use the paramilitaries to terrorize communities in order to tighten their hold on the land when the residents flee the paramilitaries’ terror.
Gutiérrez quotes from a report of the Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris (CNAI), an NGO led by León Valencia, whom Gutiérrez says is close to Santos. Even Valencia admits that “the ones that paradoxically guarantee the property of the peasants is an illegal armed group — the FARC — and not the state.” (http://anarkismo.net)
The FARC continue to recruit. They are armed. They know the jungle. If they wanted to, they could “escape” and demobilize as Santos has demanded. But they have not. In fact, their public statement after Cano’s death was: “This will not be the first time that the oppressed and exploited of Colombia cry for one of their great leaders. Nor either will it be the first time that they will replace him with the anger and the absolute conviction in the victory. The peace in Colombia will not be born out of any guerrilla demobilization, but of the definitive abolition of the causes that give birth to the uprising. There is an established policy and that is the one that will be continued.” (www.abpnoticias.com)
Now that the U.S. government has signed the Free Trade Agreement despite the horrendous human rights abuses in Colombia, including the killing of union leaders and social activists, the poverty and extreme inequality will only be likely to increase. Social rumblings by trade union leaders, and social, Indigenous and student activists are already making headlines with a new resurgence of activism.
The armed resistance is a reflection and is part of the whole movement that tries to form a new reality for the benefit of the Colombian masses, each with its own ways of struggle, armed and unarmed, but all towards the same goal: peace, and social and economic justice.
Compañero Alfonso Cano, ¡Presente!
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