Media reports about the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are often accompanied with a photograph which depicts a guerrilla column marching. They are several thousand of armed men, all wearing camouflage uniform, with armbands featuring the Colombian national colors. Also on the photo is Manuel Marulanda, Commander of the FARC guerrilla army during four decades of insurgency against the Colombian state. To stage such kind of a 'show' march would be impossible. The FARC army is being attacked from all possible sides. The guerrillas have to consider all their actions to avoid clashes with numerous soldiers of the Colombian army.
Marulanda died of a heart attack in March, 2008, aged 77, and was buried – according to his will – in the forest, not to surrender to enemies even after his death. The 55-year-old Sanez Guillermo Varfas, better known as 'Alfonso Cano', became Marulanda`s successor. Cano faced a very challenging task to help the guerrillas maintain the fighting spirit, ensure stable supplies of arms, food and medicines to the army. After being attacked by the Colombian army and US security forces commanded by Raúl Reyes, FARC rebels no longer have an opportunity to have a break in the areas bordering Colombia`s neighboring countries and discuss their further strategy. Some FARC and ELN (National Liberation Army) rebels had already been arrested in Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador and Panama.
In the past three years FARC has suffered big losses. The deaths of Reyes, Ivan Rios, Briceno Suarez and other comandantes could not but have affected the success of the guerrilla army. As President Juan Manuel Santos put it, “the killing of Alfonso Cano has become the greatest blow to the FARC in the entire 40-year history of its existence”.
This all proves that the Colombian army and intelligence forces have become much more sophisticated. Analysts say that FARC is being closely watched by the CIA, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as well as Mossad agents. The killing of Cano would not have become a reality without their participation. The above mentioned organizations have used all means, including threats to family members, to learn as much information about FARC as possible.
In July, 2010, the US managed to locate Cano`s guerrilla camp, shared the information with Colombia, and its army attempted to assassinate Cano. The operation resulted in the death of Cano`s 10 security guards, but the commander himself survived. A second attempt, coded Operation 'Odyssey', took place on November 4, 2011, in south-eastern department of Cauca, and was successful: Alfonso Cano was killed. Inspired by the results, Santos urged FARC rebels to surrender, saying that they had no other alternative but stop resistance if they did not want to be killed or jailed.
Santos offers a tough policy towards FARC: no negotiations, no compromise, the enemy must surrender arms and capitulate. The country`s army has been implementing a large-scale anti-guerrilla campaign, haunting rebels in the most distant areas, including those FARC camps which had been earlier considered impossible to reach. The army provides daily updates on FARC and any suspects who could be linked to the guerrilla group. They also regularly discover the guerrillas` arms caches. Last month the army shut down the main radio station operated by the FARC rebels, 'Voice of Resistance'.
Santos has made it clear that he would stop fighting only in case all guerrillas surrender. Otherwise, the resistance will get even stronger in the coming years, with a $4 billion budget approved to meet these goal. In his recent address to officers, Santos said that ''a final day of this 50-year-long conflict will become closer if we remain as persistent as we`ve been in the past years.'' He added that no less than 250,000 troops and 190,000 police officers would be taking part in the anti-FARC campaign. ''Peace will arrive in Colombia, this way or another,''- said Santos.
Reprisal against any leftist groups, including guerrillas, has never stopped in Colombia. Although several commanders of the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) group faced trial, the Santos government still favors secret operations which result in the killings of guerrillas and their accomplices without taking them to trial. 'Paramilitares' (illegal armed groups) are always ready to compromise the guerrillas by organizing explosions in residential areas, and placing bombs in the offices occupied by newspaper journalists and TV staff. Throwing FARC leaflets at the scene of the attack is often enough to make people believe that FARC rebels are not ready for an open dialog. In fact, all peace initiatives submitted by the FARC, including the release of hostages, had been rejected by both the Uribe government and that led by Santos.
Although the FARC has repeatedly said that guerrillas are banned from taking any part in the production of drugs, not to mention their trafficking, the drug problem is often used by the army to compromise the guerrilla group. There are many drug cartels in Colombia, and their owners enjoy active support from local authorities, farmers, bankers and, of course, the US security services as maintaining control of drug trafficking from Colombia is a strategic task for Washington.
In a statement released on Alfonso Cano`s death, the FARC Secretariat says that 'peace will come to Colombia only after all problems which had forced people to begin the uprising are solved'. These problems are the following: social inequality, unemployment, clashes between peasants and farmers over lands, and many more. This all has already force at least 4 million Colombians to flee their homes and settle in camps for the replaced in Ecuador, Venezuela and other countries.
Several days after Cano`s death, the FARC had appointed its third commander-in-chief, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry, aka "Timoshenko". A member of the FARC since 1982, he received military and political training in Cuba and Russia before he was appointed to the FARC's ruling body, the Secretariat, in the 1990s. He took his pseudonym in honor of Semyon Timoshenko, a famous Soviet General. When Santos demanded the FARC`s capitulation, Timoshenko said: “FARC are thousands and thousands of revolutionaries,” Timoshenko wrote, “and they brave the hardest conditions because they believe in their cause.” Since Cano`s death the rebels have already carried out some successful operations: attacked a garrison in Cauca, threw grenades into a car column, and blew up an oil pipe in Norte de Santander.
The current number of FARC and ELN rebels in Colombia stands at about 11,000. Among its major principles the group names the realization of a socialist society, fighting oligarchy and forcing US military bases out of the country.
Evidently, President Santos has no intention to sit down for talks with the guerrillas. The US is neither interested in ending the military confrontation for it is the only way to keep its presence on the border with Venezuela, which is a source of numerous problems for the Pentagon. The FARC Secretariat knows this quite well, and believes that sooner or later the US will attack the Bolivarian regime of Hugo Chavez. And this when the guerrilla movement might get a second wind. So, today the FARC`s only task is to withstand at all cost!