Post-Marulanda: 3 scenarios Friday Links
May 282008

In the aftermath of the revelation that maximum FARC leader Manuel Marulanda died in late March, several questions arise.

  • How badly does Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos want to be Colombia’s next president? Colombia learned of Manuel Marulanda’s death not from an official government or guerrilla announcement, but from a few answers that Santos tossed off in an interview with Semana magazine reporter María Isabel Rueda.

This earned Santos a rare rebuke from President Álvaro Uribe: “I don’t agree with these kinds of things being revealed only to one communication medium.” Uribe was “the first one surprised Saturday morning with the announcement” by Santos, reported the Colombian daily El Espectador.

It is no secret that Santos, a veteran politician from Colombia’s most prominent newspaper-publishing family, hopes to run for president in 2010 – at least if President Uribe chooses not to seek a third term. Santos’s unorthodox announcement of Marulanda’s death must be viewed in this context.

  • On a related note, we can only imagine: what is the impact on the morale of the majority of FARC fighters who learned of their leader’s death not from their own organization, but from Juan Manuel Santos?
  • Did FARC leaders really approach the Colombian government with offers of surrender and freed hostages? That is what President Uribe said on Saturday. But there has been no news since. After the president’s public announcement, it is reasonable to fear that the FARC is taking extreme steps to root out any would-be deserters with responsibility for guarding hostages.
  • Is the FARC’s “political” faction ascendant? Many observers of the FARC argue that the group’s alleged internal divisions are overstated. Nonetheless, it is common to hear that the FARC has a “political” wing that is presumably more interested in ideology, concerned with public opinion, and open to peace talks, and a “military” wing that is more occupied with guns, money and territory at all costs.

For more than ten years – including the failed 1998-2002 peace process with the Colombian government – it appeared that the FARC’s hard-line “military” wing was dominant. The guerrillas’ military capabilities increased while their public support plummeted. Then, as the Colombian military’s own capabilities increased, the FARC have suffered more than five years of military reversals.

The “military” faction appears to be losing ground internally, if the new appointments to the guerrilla Secretariat are any indication. The FARC’s new maximum leader is Alfonso Cano, the group’s chief ideologue, long regarded as the head of the “political” faction. The new spot on the seven-person Secretariat has been taken by Pablo Catatumbo, another representative of the political line.

Is this an indication that the FARC is swinging in the moderates’ direction? Vice-Minister of Defense Sergio Jaramillo speculates in the Miami Herald that a greater presence of soft-liners may alienate the hard-liners and hasten the FARC’s fragmentation.

“Normally, they should have had a meeting of the central command to choose Marulanda’s successor,” Jaramillo said.

“That didn’t happen. There is no representation of the Southern and Eastern blocs — which are the hard core of the FARC and do most of the fighting — on the ruling secretariat. His own authority will be questioned. The election of Cano will widen the cracks in the FARC. We could see the fragmentation of the FARC.”

Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that the FARC video confirming Marulanda’s death and announcing Cano’s succession was recorded by guerrilla secretariat member Timoleón Jiménez, who is regarded as a representative of the FARC’s hard line.

  • Where was Jiménez’s announcement video recorded? The BBC, among others, notes that while Jiménez “signs off from ‘the mountains of Colombia,’ the vegetation observed indicates that the video seems to have been made in a warm climate zone.”
  • What does it say about Colombia’s conflict that so many of the guerrilla leaders die of old age? Marulanda joins FARC leaders Jacobo Arenas and Efraín Guzmán, as well as ELN leader Manuel Pérez, among those who lived lives of violence, only to meet non-violent deaths.

20 Responses to “Fallout from Marulanda’s demise”

  1. Doppiafila Says:

    I am sure this has been a corrdinated exercise: have you seen the first page of El Espectador? the title was “Marulanda dead: J.M. Santos”. The idea is to create an association (JMSantos=the end of FARC) which can be quite powerful (and Uribe knows it). Now, he cannot make any move before Uribe officially renounces his pretension to run for a third term, but… he must be working with (many) others to make sure this decision is amde quickly (with some help from the US), so that the campaign will start…
    Regards, Doppiafila

  2. maremoto Says:

    John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, has escaped an attempted citizen’s arrest as he appeared at the Hay Festival.
    Security guards blocked the path of columnist and activist George Monbiot, who tried to make the arrest as Mr Bolton left the stage.
    The former ambassador – a key advisor to President George W Bush who argued strongly in favour of invading Iraq – had been giving a talk on international relations to more than 600 people at the literary festival.
    A crowd of about 20 protestors, one dressed in a latex George Bush mask, chanted “war criminal” as Mr Bolton was ushered away.
    “This was a serious attempt to bring one of the perpetrators of the Iraq war to justice, for what is described under the Nuremberg Principles as an international crime,” he said.

    priceless

  3. Camilla Says:

    How badly does Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos want to be Colombia’s next president?

    I think he does. So what? Uribe cannot run in the next term and I dismiss that he will change the constitution to enable that, unless, of course, there really is a hecatombe with Chavez unleashing fighter bombers over Bogota. But I think Chavez will be thrown out this year and the FARC rendered insignificant. Santos is a logical choice as Uribe’s successor.

    I think too much is being read into Uribe’s rebuke – he’s rebuked generals publicly in the past, and he’s yelled at Fernando Araujo for telling too much truth about the FARC’s worship of Hugo Chavez. It’s the way he is. Like the FARC Colombians, he likes things formal.

    On a related note, we can only imagine: what is the impact on the morale of the majority of FARC fighters who learned of their leader’s death not from their own organization, but from Juan Manuel Santos?

    Not only do they now know that their organization is penetrated, they also had to humiliatingly play catch up on a matter they thought they could keep secret. I hope their morale is in the ashcan.

    Did FARC leaders really approach the Colombian government with offers of surrender and freed hostages?

    Since when has President Uribe been caught lying on a matter like this? When he said the Baby Emmanuel was at social services, everyone said he was lying there, too. He never lies, though, it’s Chavistas who repeatedly get caught lying. Not to mention the FARC. I think the track records of all involved speak for themselves. I know who I’d believe.

    Is the FARC’s “political” faction ascendant? Many observers of the FARC argue that the group’s alleged internal divisions are overstated. Nonetheless, it is common to hear that the FARC has a “political” wing that is presumably more interested in ideology, concerned with public opinion, and open to peace talks, and a “military” wing that is more occupied with guns, money and territory at all costs.

    This strikes me as baloney. There is nothing crueler and more rigid in the world than a evil schoolmaster determined to impose his will on the general population. He’s a harder taskmaster than any army man, and far more intolerant. Ideologues are the most inflexible of all. I’d beware Cano, he’s the kind of guy who puts theory above experience enabling him to commit untold atrocities. The pseudointellectual types are always the worst. Think Bill Ayers, Pol Pot, Hitler, Trotsky – all failed intellectuals of some sort or another.

    The “military” faction appears to be losing ground internally, if the new appointments to the guerrilla Secretariat are any indication. … Is this an indication that the FARC is swinging in the moderates’ direction?

    There are no softliners among the hardcore ideologues. I think the odds of pragmatism are greater among the Mono Jojoy crowd than the icy Cano crowd, handpicked by the inflexible Tirofijo. Perestroika this is not.

    Still, there is merit in the idea that the group may be moving toward more political shenanigans over military ones. After all, their greatest prospect right now for overthrowing the government is in Hugo Chavez’s cash, not military victories. Cash. For Hugo, he already knows that so far there are no consequences for his secret financing offer to FARC, so what’s going to stop him from trying to send it a second time? We know what he wants – he would give his right arm to throw Uribe from power. And in any case, Uribe would have to capture yet another FARC computer to find out, so I think Chavez would try it. Hugobucks are a profoundly political instrument in that they can buy votes, elections and officials, all things the FARC wants in light of the fact that it is so despised in Colombia.

    Where was Jiménez’s announcement video recorded?

    Try Venezuela, where FARC has a nice office of its own in Fort Tiuna park.

  4. Fandango Says:

    I agree that too much is being made in some quarters over Cano’s alleged “political-ness” – I think people are mistaking tactics for strategy. That is, Cano may favor a political/PR strategy to help garner international support at a time when a) the FARC is having it a$$ handed to it on the battlefield and b) the Colombian public clearly rejects the group. That doesn’t mean he’s a moderate who wants to bring the FARC into the mainstream – remember, he was pretty big in the UP, and I can’t imagine that experience made him a big fan of electoral politics. Let’s also keep in mind that nobody knows what Cano had to give to the Mono Jojoy faction to get his post – nobody’s got a clue about that, and even FARCsters have to negotiate and compromise in these matters. Plus, as Camilla so nicely points out, theoreticians don’t have a great track record of humanitarian behavior in insurgencies.

  5. Paul Says:

    I’m trying to figure out what some lunatic attempting to “arrest” John Bolton has to do with the FARC or Santos(bizarrely charged with being a CIA mole by Maremoto.)

  6. jcg Says:

    Fandango: While I think your larger point stands…Cano was supposedly one of those behind the creation of the UP, though one shouldn’t really speak of the UP’s creation without mentioning Jacobo Arenas himself, but I don’t think he was technically part of the party or had any official position from what I’ve read (nor did most other FARC commanders, for that matter…with two exceptions I can think of). Then again, Cano had officially joined FARC not so long before that, apparently after Betancur’s amnesty.

  7. LFM Says:

    Let me get this straight: Chavez will be thrown out this very year but at the same time he will be able to plan Uribe’s overthrow by helping the FARC? Funny how some people need to believe that their enemies are omnipotent and infinitely evil, but then at the same time stupid and on the verge of collapse. I envy such ability to operate above the laws of reasoning…

  8. Jacob Says:

    Why should Chavez fall ??He is more popular at home than ever.
    The Reyes laptops are like the new magic sombrero of Uribe, they can tell you whatever you want, whenever you want.

  9. Randy Paul Says:

    There’s been precious little in the media about this:

    The Colombian government so mishandled the laptops it just seized from paramilitaries that it is admitting there was a big chunk of time during which they don’t even know who might have messed with them:

    Por tanto, la investigación concluye hasta ahora que estos computadores en Itaguí no estuvieron bajo custodia de la Policía Judicial del Inpec entre las 4 de la mañana del martes 13 y las 8 de la mañana del miércoles 14 y que a ellos pudieron tener acceso irregular otras personas.

    To put it mildly, this is not exactly the best way to establish confidence with regard to seized laptops, and will certainly spark more questions about the FARC’s.

    Anyone want to bet that they’ll probably only find Salvatore Mancuso’s family pictures and Don Berna’s favorite recipes on the laptops now?

  10. LFM Says:

    I’m not a lawyer so I could use some education on this issue. The press and the government’s mouthpieces that pose as journalists have been assuming telling us that the paramilitary will rot in jail in the US; that for them the extradition was the equivalent to fire and brimstone and that Uribe has rained upon them the wrath of the most powerful punishment known to mankind. But Noriega, who ran a drug smuggling operation much larger than these fellows, just got off with 17 years. Chances are they would get off in 8-10 years if they turn in a few accomplices and small fry. That may actually be less than they would have gotten for massacres in Colombia (had there ever been a serious attempt at bringing them to justice, of course). I don’t know. I’m just making numbers up. Anyone out there who actually knows something about drug prosecutions?

  11. Jaime Bustos Says:

    LFM, it’s called doublethinking, from which double standard politics spun, and from which most humans live their whole lives.

    Randy, I wonder why Adam, being such a gifted analyst has turned a blind eye on the implications of the interpol document statements in the sense that the computers were mishandled and the evident conclusion deriving therefrom, that points to the storage media not representing a trusted source, accordingly.

  12. Jaime Bustos Says:

    LFM, contrary to the periodical inoculation by the media regarding Lehder being still in jail begging for mercy, this is what I know about the issue.

    “AIG-The largest Insurance Company in the world, and the sixth largest corporation in the world, owns a company named Coral Talavera named after Carlos Lehder’s (one of the known founders of the Medellin Drug Cartel in 1979) who’s wife is the head of an AIG branch in San Francisco. Lehder brokered a deal with the U.S. to bring down the Medellin cartel in exchange for his freedom, Lehder’s whereabouts unknown.”

  13. colombiano Says:

    Camilla: how much do you get paid to post comments on here? From the tone and content of your posts it looks like you are in desperate need of a hug. Un abrazo grande hermana!

  14. Randy Paul Says:

    Jaime,

    Those aren’t the FARC laptops, those are the AUC latops. Interpol, to my knowledge has not commented on the AUC laptops, but they have on the FARC. It’s clear that the authorities handled the FARC laptops with far more care than they did the AUC laptops. Any attempts to prosecute anyone based on anything found on the AUC laptops would probably be tossed out due to the break in the chain of custody.

    Anyone who thinks that’s just an unfortunate error is, IMHO, delusional.

  15. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Randy,

    I am sorry, just skimmed through the first time around.

    Para laptops are missing as far as I know from clues here and there. Those they might show in the future to the public opinion, as you so sharply suggest, would only contain lovely picnics and church goings with their dear and kin.

  16. Randy Paul Says:

    BTW, the penultimate paragraph in my post #9 above was from the post I linked to and not my own words. Sorry for the confusion, but credit where credit is due.

  17. Camilla Says:

    I get paid nothing, colombiano. It’s pure pasión. But thanks for the abrazote anyway!

  18. Colombia » Fallout from Marulanda’s demise Says:

    [...] Fallout from Marulanda’s demiseHow badly does Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos want to be Colombia’s next president? Colombia learned of Manuel Marulanda’s death not from an official government or guerrilla announcement, but from a few answers that Santos tossed … [...]

  19. Paul Says:

    Fatboy Chavez finally weighed in on Tirofijo:

    “It’s lamentable to see some people happy about someone’s death. We aren’t happy about the death of Manuel Marulanda,” said the Venezuelan tyrant. Looks like he figured out he’s under the microscope now and had to choose his words carefully. No doubt he wished to give another heartfelt eulogy like the one he gave for Raul Reyes.

  20. Camilla Says:

    Some nice stuff from Piedad Cordoba:

    http://media.noticias24.com/0806/pie7.html

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