When the infamous Alfonso Cano, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was killed recently during an assault by government forces, the longstanding guerilla group faced a pivotal moment: It could have fractured under the lack of leadership, or it could have continued with its violent mission. It chose the latter.
Despite Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’s words of warning, “I want to tell the FARC, this is the time for them to demobilize, this is the time for them to lay down their arms.… The alternative, as we’ve said many times before, is either the prison or the grave,” FARC announced shortly after Cano’s death that Timoleon Jimenez would take over the vacant leadership position.
Commonly referred to by his nickname Timochenko, the new FARC leader is wanted in Colombia “for kidnapping, murder, rebellion and terrorism” and in the U.S. for drug trafficking. Colombian officials hold out little hope of reaching a peaceful end of FARC’s narco-insurgency with Timochenko in charge.
A FARC spokesman stated that with Timochenko’s appointment, “the continuity of the Strategic Plan for the taking of power by the people is guaranteed,” suggesting that the violence is far from over. In fact, although Cano’s death was expected to deal a harsh blow to the group, only 23 FARC members have deserted since their leader’s demise, according to Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón.
The glimmer of hope that Colombians and their allies around the world might have once seen in Cano’s death has now been for the moment turned aside. Just weeks before Cano’s death, FARC launched an attack on Colombian troops that killed 10 soldiers, making it the second attack within three days to take 10 lives. This escalation of violence has caused “the worst loss suffered by Colombian security forces in more than a year,” according to the Associated Press.
In the recent battle over congressional approval of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, much was heard—especially on the liberal Democratic side and among intellectuals and the media—about violence against trade unionists in Colombia.
But where was the concern about the Colombian state, citizen security, and the need to end a futile and discredited armed revolutionary struggle? Where is the courage of leaders in the Americas to stand up and say it is time to end FARC’s campaigns of terror and destruction?
Jen Gieselman is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. Click here for more information on interning at Heritage.