Is Colombia's FARC on the ropes?
A top leftist rebel commander turned herself in Sunday. Colombia's government is touting the move as the latest in a series of devastating blows to the leftist rebels.
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Karina had been under the command of senior FARC leader Iván Ríos, who was murdered in his sleep last March by a member of his own security guard who then turned himself in and was granted a $1 million reward.Skip to next paragraph
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... a PR coup for the president...
Since then, Karina said, she slept uneasily.
"There, a lot of the rebels think about the economic situation and since so much money was offered for my life, that gets you thinking," she said.
Karina said that she had been cut off from most of her unit for months and had had no contact with the commanding secretariat for two years.
"I don't know what the state of the FARC is on a national level, but we are fractured," she told reporters. She then urged other fighters to follow her lead in turning themselves in.
For Mr. Uribe, Karina's desertion and statements are a major new propaganda coup, following the death of Mr. Ríos and Mr. Reyes and the discovery of a treasure trove of information about the inner workings of the FARC and their alleged relations with neighboring Venezuela and Ecuador.
Jorge Restrepo, director of the Center for Resources for Conflict Analysis in Bogotá says the FARC are not so much breaking up as regionalizing.
"In some areas the guerrillas are more isolated than ever, in others they maintain their capacity," he says, adding that the government could take advantage of that to negotiate regional demobilizations and peace deals.
... but FARC still lives
But Luís Eladio Perez, a former hostage who was released along with three other politicians in February after six years as a rebel captive, says the FARC – which is labeled a terrorist organization by the US and Europe – are not as weak or demoralized as the government would like to portray. "They maintain a political proposal. They are an organized military organization," he says.
With an estimated 9,000 fighters – down from a peak of about 17,000 – the FARC still form a formidable force.
And the rebels are still holding more than 40 high-profile hostages, including three American defence contractors and French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, who they want to swap for jailed rebel commanders.
The government has rejected rebel demands for a haven to negotiate the swap and with all the recent victories the government may toughen its stance.
Carlos Lozano, editor of the Communist Party weekly Voz, says that the government should not discard the possibility of a negotiation. "The government should not feel emboldened by this, nor think that the solution is to crush the guerrillas militarily," he says. "But the guerrillas should also understand that they have to be open to a political solution to the conflict."