Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The FARC's New Man

Belligerant: Tomachenko takes on Colombia.
Beaten back and beleagured and fresh from losing their leader Alfonso Cano, the FARC guerrillas have made what must be one of the most self-deceiving pronouncements in world history: The designation of a new guerrilla leader "guarantees the continuity of the strategic plan toward seizing power for the people," the group said.

The FARC's statement is fantasy. The concepts of 'continuity' and 'strategic planning' are absurd for an organization which has lost territory and about five top leaders over the last several years. And the FARC must be under the influence of their own cocaine to believe that they are, in any sense, fighting for the Colombian people, among whom they have barely a sliver of support.

But the designation of 'Timochenko' the nom de guerr of Rodrigo Londoño, 52, a one-time medical student who spent time studying in the old Soviet Union, does suggest something about the FARC's future course. The pseudonym Timochenko, the name of a Soviet World War II general, suggests that the new FARC leader intends to keep up the cocaine-financed military struggle, no matter how futile, as well as that Londoño conserves a decades-old world view. That's sure to disappoint the many Colombians who had hoped that the killing of FARC leader Alfonso Cano would open the way for a new generation of guerrilla leaders more inclined toward a negotiated end to the country's armed conflict. Still, Timochenko's nickname does not bode so well for the FARC: the original Timochenko performed only mediocrally against the Nazis and was eventually cashiered by Stalin.

Timochenko will likely be tougher to hunt down than his predecessor Cano, who roamed Colombia's central mountains. Tomochenko is believed to stay Venezuela, making it easy for him to slip across the border to where Colombian troops can't pursue him. In fact, El Espectador reports that in 2006 Colombian troops were only a few hundred meters from Timochenko, but could not pursue him because he was on the other side of the border. Only 52, Timochenko could lead the FARC for decades, altho he is said to suffer from diabetes.

In any case, it's hard to imagine how the new FARC leader could reverse the guerrillas' decline, which will only be accelerated by Cano's killing and the trove of computer data which the military is harvesting from seized FARC computers.

But, with secure lines of financing from narcotrafficking, kidnapping and extortion, the FARC will likely hang on for a long time yet.

Christian Science Monitor: FARC Choose Hardliner

Miami Herald: Timochenko Takes FARC Helm

El Tiempo: Another Radical Leading the FARC

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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