FARC Leader Nelly Avila Moreno speaks at a press conference in Medellin, Colombia.

FARC, In Turmoil, Belatedly Acknowledges Founder's Death

May 26, 2008 10:00 PM
by Cara McDonough
On Saturday, May 24, the Colombian government announced, and FARC confirmed, that FARC's founder, Manuel "Sureshot" Marulanda had died on March 26.  The announcement comes days after FARC leader Nelly Avila Moreno turned herself in, and could represent a turning point in the Colombian government’s ongoing war against the leftist organization.

30-Second Summary

On May 24, the Colombian government reported that FARC's 78 year-old founder, Manuel Marulanda, died on March 26.  FARC confirmed the death, reporting that it was the result of a heart attack.  The government demurred on the cause of death, but noted that it was heavily bombing the area in which Marulanda was located at the time of his death.

"Whether the death of Marulanda came in a bombardment or from natural causes, this would be the most serious blow this terrorist group has suffered," said the defence ministry.

The report of the death comes a few days after the surrender of Moreno, 45, who was better known by her guerilla alias, “Karina.”

The founder's death and the capture of Moreno are major victories in Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s war on FARC—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known by its Spanish acronym)—and could signal growing weakness in the once-powerful group, labeled a terrorist organization by many nations, including the United States, which supports Uribe’s efforts.

According to the government, more than 475 FARC fighters have been captured this year and nearly 500 have been killed in combat.

In recent months, Colombian forces have taken major steps against FARC forces, such as killing members of the guerilla group in Ecuador in February and March, including FARC’s No. 2 leader Raúl Reyes.

The blows to FARC’s internal structure could mean more trouble for the group. According to The Christian Science Monitor, more than 860 FARC fighters have turned themselves in since the start of the year “claiming hunger, exhaustion, fear, and futility.”

Moreno’s surrender could prompt more fighters to do the same. “This will lower morale among a lot of people and motivate them to desert as well,” said Alfredo Rangel, director of the Security and Democracy Foundation in Bogotá.

FARC has announced that its new leader is Alfonso Cano, one of its ideological leaders.  The Colombian government has claimed for months that it has cornered Cano in a small area of Southwest Colombia, and has renewed its calls for FARC to enter into peace talks.

Headline Link: Founder's Death, leader’s surrender signal turmoil in FARC

Related Topics: Raúl Reyes’s killing and other blows to FARC

Background: FARC as a terrorist group; Colombia’s attacks in Ecuador

Key Players: Alvaro Uribe, Nelly Avila Moreno and Manuel "Sureshot" Marulanda

Opinion and Analysis: Uribe needs more U.S. support

Reference: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia


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