FARC leader 'Alfonso Cano' killed in Colombia

Government forces have killed the commander-in-chief of the FARC, alias 'Alfonso Cano.' It is a blow to the rebel group, but ultimately it could hurt peace talks.

According to media reports, the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was killed in a government bombing raid in the Cauca department, southwest Colombia. The guerrilla leader's body was found in the municipality of Suarez, according to reports.

The country's press have been reporting for some months that Guillermo Leon Saenz, alias "Alfonso Cano," was close to being taken down by the government.

As InSight Crime said in February, Saenz's death would likely mean that the rebel leader known as "Ivan Marquez" will take charge:

Should Cano be killed, or already be lying dead somewhere in the Andes nountains in Tolima, it is likely that, if the FARC can keep their coherence and discipline, Luciano Marin, alias "Ivan Marquez," will take over. He is a rebel leader with both political experience (he was a congressmen for the doomed Patriotic Union party, the FARC’s one and only foray into mainstream politics) and military credibility. After him, there is no one with the profile to keep the FARC together and fragmentation and criminalization could follow, ensuring that any peace process with the government would deliver only a fraction of the rebel ranks.

The FARC rebels have lost four member of the ruling Secretariat since 2008, in a series of major blows to the leadership of the guerrilla army. Second-in-command Victor Suarez, alias "Mono Jojoy," was also killed in a bombing raid by the security forces, in September 2010.

Despite the publicity and victory in morale that these deaths lend the authorities, it could be that killings of such high-ranking political leaders actually move the rebel group further away from peace talks with the government, as those who take over may have less political control over the rank and file of the FARC.

Saenz took over the leadership of the rebel group after founder Pedro Antonio Marin Marin, alias "Manuel Marulanda," died of natural causes in May 2008.

Saenz had promised to "double" guerrilla activity in 2011.

--- Hannah Stone is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of her research here.

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