Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, leader Alfonso Cano was killed Nov. 4 in the conclusion to what Colombian military officials have termed "Operation Odysseus." Cano's death deals a blow to the political leadership of the FARC and a major political victory to Colombian President Manuel Santos, but the reality of the matter is that the violence in Colombia is far from being over.
Operation Odysseus has been ongoing for months and came close to killing Cano in July when the Colombian military attacked his camp in southern Tolima department. FARC militants have been known to hide in Tolima for the past several years, using the mountainous territory and deep fog to disguise their movements from military observation. In reaction to the July attack, the FARC's 6th and 13th fronts conducted a series of attacks on villages in neighboring Cauca department, significantly spiking violence in the area. During that period of time, Cano is thought to have been moved frequently, traveling with no more than 10 bodyguards. Some reports suggest that the intelligence that led to his demise may have come from one of those bodyguards.
There is no question that achieving the goal of taking out Cano is a tactical success for the Colombian military. It does not, however, mean the end of the FARC. FARC is organized into a number of fronts with responsibility for regional militant activities and drug cultivation and each report to the secretariat. The FARC commander therefore serves as an important decision maker within the secretariat, but he is not the sole source of leadership.
Cano himself is only the second leader FARC has ever had. He assumed his position in March 2008 after the heart attack-induced death of former FARC commander Manuel Marulanda. Cano could be succeeded by a FARC commander who goes by the nickname of "Timochenko" and who was Marulanda's protege. However, it appears the most likely successor at this point will be Ivan Marquez. Marquez, a former politician, may be a more suitable choice to take over what is essentially a political position. The FARC maintains relationships with governments in the region -- particularly Venezuela -- as well as other drug trafficking organizations like the National Liberation Army, or ELN.
Though the FARC is no longer the existential threat to Colombia that it was in the 1990s, the group continues to be a tactical challenge to the government. But even if the FARC were to demobilize tomorrow, the violence plaguing Colombia would not disappear alongside it. There are a multitude of actors at play in Colombia, none of whom shy away from the use of violence. The FARC remains a key government target because of the organization's self-professed political opposition to the government. But there is a more persistent threat presented by Colombia's many drug trafficking organizations who have access to an ample pool of military-trained recruits and an almost bottomless supply of weaponry.
Indeed, demobilization itself means very little in Colombia when you consider that individuals of groups like the former paramilitary United Self Defense Forces of Colombia turned around after demobilizing in 2006 and joined alternative drug trafficking organizations. Paramilitary trained groups like the gang "Los Rastrojos" in Colombia do not hesitate to use intimidation and murder to influence political outcomes. With Colombia's history of political violence, plethora of available weaponry and significant cocaine exports, with or without the FARC, the country will continue to suffer the effects of organized violence for a long time to come.
- Major Economies Headed for Slowdown
- Is the National Security Complex Too Big to Fail?
- A Call for an Enlightened Foreign Policy toward Latin America
- The Inequality Behind Chile's Prosperity
- The Mexican Drug Cartel Threat in Central America
- FARC Leader Killed in Colombia
- Helping Cuban Reforms through Agricultural Trade
- A 'Major Win' for Panamanian Corruption
- Mexico Seeks to Extradite Americans Linked to 'Operation Fast And Furious'
- Latin American Politicians Renew Suggestions to Legalize Drugs
- Never-Ending Drug War Moves to Central America
- Venezuela Among World Leaders in Red Tape
- OAS Makes Bad 'Error' in Nicaragua
- Condoleezza Rice Book Shows 'Inattention' to Latin America
- Anonymous vs. Zetas Amid Mexico's Cartel Violence
- Child Poverty and Access to Education: Hidden Costs on the Hispanic Community
- Rafael Correa Remains the Strongest Leader in Ecuador, but his Influence is Waning
- Brazil's Truth and Reconciliation Commission
- Panamanian Corruption Spreads to Land Holdings and Prominent Politicians
- Cuban Economic Reform Allows Private Home Sales
- Cuba's Communist Party Condemns U.S. Immigration Policy
- Submarine Near Venezuela Prompts Accusations Against United States
- Seven Billion People: So Why Do Some Fear Population Decline?
- The Broken Contract: Inequality and American Decline
- The Wisdom of Retrenchment: America Must Cut Back to Move Forward
- Colombia and Panama Trade Deals Just a Chance
- Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner Wins Re-election by a Landslide
- Families of Illegal Immigrants Search for Lost Relatives in Mexico
- A Way Out of Mexico's Morass
- NAFTA Is Starving Mexico
- Redeployment of Mexican Soldiers to Urban Areas Boosting Illegal Drug Production
- Mexicans Complain About Secret U.S. Infiltration of Drug Cartels
- Cuba's Culture of Dissent
- Latin America's Blind Love With China May Be Over
- Drug War Madness
- Brazil's Really Big Problem
- Ex-Border Security Chief Calls Fence a Dumb Idea
- Argentina: Funding for a Cause
- Mexico and the United States: Surgical Strikes in the Drug Wars
- Despite Victory, Argentine Leader Faces Hard Choices
- Chilean 'Model' Is Shaken, but Very Much Alive
- Student Protests May Lead to a Better Chile
- Winds of Change: Uruguay's Sustainable Energy Plans
- The Pain in Spain
- Latin America's Security Dilemma
- A President-for-Life in Argentina? Not Likely
- There's Hope for Mexico and Central America
- Chile: The Fight to Make Education a Guaranteed Right
- Death of Layton Poses Challenge for NDP Interim Leader
FARC Leader Killed in Colombia is republished with permission of STRATFOR.