Monday, November 7, 2011

Cano's Back in Bogotá!

A woman walks past the forensics lab. in Third Millenium
Park, where Alfonso Cano's remains are being held. Note
the police barricades. 
Alfonso Cano, the leader of the FARC guerrillas who was killed by Colombia's military a few days ago, must often have fantasized about invading Bogotá, toppling Colombia's government and installing a Marxist state.

His ideas, thankfully, never came close to reality as the military battered the FARC, culminating with last week's killing of the guerrillas' top leader.

Last week, Cano finally made it back to Bogota, the same city where he became radicalized while a student at the National University. But he didn't arrive the way he wanted to. Instead, his corpse is in the forensics laboratory in Third Milenio Park, just west of La Candelaria. Doctors who autopsied the 63-year-old Cano said he was quite healthy and could have lived another 10 to 15 years.

Anti-terrorist police on the lookout near the forensics lab.
Cano's family will now likely start a legal battle to recover his remains, as happened with the FARC's military commander Mono Jojoy, who also passed thru the forensics laboratory before being interred in Bogotá's Cementerio del Sur, where closed circuit cameras are supposedly monitoring his tomb to see who leaves flowers there. Officials say they want to prevent the tombs from becoming either guerrilla pilgrimage site and from endangering those nearby if one of the guerrilla's many enemies attacks the tomb.

Among Cano's relatives is Roberto Saenz, a leftist Bogotá City Councilman, which underlines the connections between the legal and illegal here in Colombia. Saenz the councilman is a member of the same political party as newly-elected Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro, who himself was once a leader of the M-19 guerrilla group. All of which suggests that Cano, if he'd wanted to, could have made the shift from outlaw to a participant in Colombia's democracy. That would have meant a better outcome for Cano, and hopefully for Colombia as well.

In front of the lab is 'The monument to life and
disarmament' - created out of melted-down weapons.
An acquaintance of mine who taught languages at the public National University had Cano as a student, back when his name was Guillermo Leon Saenz, recalls him as a pleasant young guy. Cano was also clearly very intelligent. Cano became radicalized at the still-very-radically-leftist university, which also produced people like guerrilla priest Camilo Torres, who in 1966 joined the smaller ELN guerrilla group and became a martyr by getting killed in his first battle. Most likely, Cano will be memorialized at the university, just as Mono Jojoy and Torres have been.

Cano joined the FARC, first as an ideologue and eventually its top commander after the group's founder, Manuel 'Sure-shot' Marulanda died of old age in 2008.

TV reporters wait outside of the forensics lab for something to report.
With Cano gone, Colombians are waiting to see whom the FARC will choose to replace him: someone interested in negotiations or a more militaristic leader, who will order the weakened guerrillas to carry out more terror attacks, which primarily hurt civilians.

Some analysts say the FARC could fragment into many smaller bands, which would likely discard their veneer of ideology and become straight-out narcotraffickers. That might actually be the most damaging outcome for Colombia, since it would make negotiations impossible and could lead to waves of senseless violence similar to Mexico, as the regional bands battle over drug trafficking routes.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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