[News] Colombia: The Significance of the Killing of FARC Leader “Mono Jojoy”

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Sep 27 14:52:34 EDT 2010

Colombia: The Significance of the Killing of FARC Leader “Mono Jojoy”

Written by Garry Leech
Sunday, 26 September 2010 15:02

On September 23, a massive operation conducted by 
the Colombian military targeted a large 
encampment of guerrillas belonging to the 
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 
eastern Colombia. The military action killed FARC 
commander and secretariat member Jorge Briceño, 
also known by the nickname “Mono Jojoy.” It is 
only the second time in more than 45 years of 
armed conflict that the government has killed a 
member of the guerrilla group’s seven-person 
secretariat­the previous instance being the 
assassination of Raúl Reyes two-and-a-half years 
ago. But what will be the significance of the killing of Mono Jojoy?

Not surprisingly, Colombian government officials 
quickly began trumpeting the importance of the 
successful military operation that involved 400 
troops and more than 30 aircraft and helicopters. 
In reference to the killing of Mono Jojoy, 
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos declared, 
“It is the most resounding blow against the Farc 
in is entire history.” Meanwhile, Defense 
Minister Rodrigo Rivera, in reference to the fact 
that information provided by a FARC deserter led 
the military to Mono Jojoy’s hideout, stated, 
“The Farc are falling apart from within.”

Undoubtedly, the loss of a longtime leader such 
as Mono Jojoy will impact the FARC. The guerrilla 
commander joined the FARC in 1975 at 12 years of 
age and rose up through the ranks to command the 
rebel group’s largest bloc, which consists of 
some 40 percent of its fighters. Along the way he 
became one of the most respected of the FARC’s 
leaders among rank and file guerrillas. This 
respect was not simply a result of his military 
prowess which, along with his bloc’s extensive 
role in capturing soldiers and police as well as 
kidnapping civilians, led many to view him as the 
most ruthless of the FARC’s leaders. This respect 
was also due to the social and economic policies implemented under his command.

In many ways, Mono Jojoy encompassed the 
complexities and contradictions evident in the 
FARC. He was a ruthless military tactician who in 
the late 1990s orchestrated a series of 
large-scale, successful attacks against military 
bases in eastern Colombia that caught the 
attention of Washington and led to a dramatically 
increased U.S. military intervention under Plan 
Colombia. At the same time, Mono Jojoy was 
responsible for extensive human rights violations 
including the kidnapping and killing of civilians 
in the regions under his command.

Meanwhile, what has been frequently ignored in 
the reporting on Mono Jojoy is the fact that the 
bloc he commanded has implemented some of the 
FARC’s most progressive social and economic 
policies, which have benefited peasants in 
eastern Colombia. Over the past 20 years, many 
small towns in remote regions under Mono Jojoy’s 
control experienced significant infrastructure 
improvements as a result of the FARC’s public 
works programs. The FARC has built hundreds of 
miles of roads that connected dozens of 
communities to each other. In 2003, according to 
a Washington Post report, Efrain Salazar, the 
FARC’s public works director in Meta, had an 
annual budget of $1 million and paid civilians 
who worked for him a monthly salary of $125.

And during the 1990s, Mono Jojoy used some of the 
FARC’s tax revenues to construct electrical grids 
in dozens of remote towns and villages long 
neglected by the national government. The 
guerrilla commander also oversaw agrarian reform 
projects such as the breaking up of ten large 
ranches in the southern part of Meta in 2002 and 
2003 with the smaller properties then distributed to subsistence farmers.

So, ultimately, what will be the impact of Mono 
Jojoy’s death? Colombian government officials and 
many analysts are already claiming that his 
demise constitutes the beginning of the end for 
the FARC. However, the same claims were made 
after the deaths of three members of the FARC’s 
secretariat­Manuel Marulanda, Raúl Reyes and Iván 
Ríos­in March 2008 and the guerrilla group not 
only survived those setbacks, it actually 
increased its military actions over the past 
year. In fact, the FARC has killed more than 50 
Colombian soldiers and police over the past month 
in one of the bloodiest periods of combat in many years.

While the death of Mono Jojoy will undoubtedly 
prove to be a setback for the FARC in the short 
term, particularly with regard to troop morale 
and desertion rates, it will probably not have a 
significant impact over the long term. After all, 
Mono Jojoy’s influence and role had already 
diminished in recent years due to health reasons, 
primarily diabetes. Furthermore, despite military 
setbacks, the FARC still has many experienced 
mid-level commanders who are capable of moving up 
the ranks­a fact made evident following the 
deaths of Marulanda, Reyes and Ríos two-and-a-half years ago.

Many analysts also argue­as they did following 
the deaths of Marulanda, Reyes and Ríos­that the 
FARC’s new supreme commander Alfonso Cano is more 
likely to engage in negotiations as a result of 
the military setbacks. Their latest arguments are 
based on the premise that Cano is the guerrilla 
group’s long-time political leader and therefore 
will be more willing to engage in negotiations 
than military leaders such as Mono Jojoy. But the 
assumption that Cano is more open to negotiations 
is flawed, because the FARC commander is an 
ideologue who is actually less likely to 
compromise the rebel group’s political ideals.

Interestingly, the principal obstacle to 
negotiations both before Mono Jojoy’s death and 
now is not the FARC, but the government. 
Previously, the Uribe administration refused to 
engage in negotiations with the FARC as long as 
the guerrillas demanded certain conditions, such 
as the establishment of a safe-haven in which to 
conduct talks. Last week, FARC commander Cano 
announced that the guerrilla group is willing “to 
talk with the current government and find a 
political solution to the social and armed 
conflict in the country and without any kind of 
conditions.” But now it is the Santos government 
that is setting conditions in order to initiate 
peace talks, demanding that the FARC first cease 
its military attacks and kidnapping.

The death of Mono Jojoy, like the killing of 
Reyes, illustrates the impact of U.S. military 
aid under Plan Colombia. The military operations 
that killed the two FARC commanders would not 
have been possible a decade ago. The Colombian 
military’s increased intelligence gathering 
capabilities along with its capacity to rapidly 
deploy well-trained combat units with 
U.S.-supplied helicopters has put the FARC on the 
defensive. The guerrilla group’s internal 
communications have been compromised and the 
ability of its leaders to remain undetected in 
remote jungle regions has been seriously restricted.

Given the Colombian military’s vastly improved 
capabilities, it will not be a surprise if the 
FARC’s supreme commander Cano is its next 
battlefield trophy. After all, the military has 
deployed more than 4,000 soldiers with the sole 
mission of tracking down Cano. However, as has 
occurred in the past, new leaders will simply 
replace those killed and, given that most FARC 
units operate on the local level with little 
regular communication with the group’s 
secretariat, the death of Mono Jojoy, Cano or any 
other high-ranking commander will have little 
direct impact on the daily activities of the 
rank-and-file. Therefore, the FARC will likely 
continue its armed struggle in some form or another for many more years.

Ultimately, a negotiated solution is the only way 
to bring peace to Colombia, but it would have to 
be a peace with social justice in order to truly 
end the violence. But the government, empowered 
by its military successes in recent years, has 
little desire to engage in any peace process that 
would affect the social and economic status quo 
by addressing the country’s gross inequalities 
and threatening the interests of the ruling elites.

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