Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Feared FARC Commander Surrenders

Another FARC commander has surrendered to Colombian authorities. Nelly Avila Moreno, aka Karina, turned herself in (along with her daughter andher partner, known as Michin.) Karina was commander of the 47th Front. (She was also one of the top-ranked women in the FARC – here is some background on the women in the FARC.) This would be roughly equivalent to a Captain surrendering. At a news conference, she stated the FARC was “crumbling.” She had been out of communications with the FARC leadership for two years. Her once feared unit of 350 was down to about 50 fighters.

A few notes about Karina’s surrender and the FARC’s collapse:

  • The FARC’s collapse is good news for everyone except perhaps the several hundred hostages still held by the FARC (including Ingrid Betancourt and three American contractors.) Their daily life is an absolute hell. Unfortunately, as the FARC disintegrates it is increasingly likely that the hostages may be executed or die in the process of constant movement. The Colombian government has shown a great deal of creativity in battling the FARC, perhaps it can do the same in developing strategies for the hostages’ release.

  • Karina had been shaken by the death of Ivan Rios at the hands of his own men. She had a $900,000 reward on her head. She told reporters, "You may have a lot of fighters at your side, but you never have an idea of what they are really thinking,"

    The bounty strategy has worked well against the FARC. But it is no silver bullet. It has not been successful against al-Qaeda. Every terrorist group is different. Also, the rewards program has only worked against the FARC after years of hard fought counter-insurgency.

  • There is extensive discussion of the role of the Internet and terrorism. But against the FARC low-tech radio has been a key part of a successful information campaign. The Colombian government regularly broadcasts appeals for FARC members to surrender (over 2000 have defected over the past two years – the FARC’s peak strength was about 18,000 in 2002.) In the case of Karina, President Uribe made a personal appeal for her to surrender.

  • Karina is suspected of a role in the 1983 murder of Uribe’s father. It is unclear what deal was negotiated regarding the charges against her. Colombia has an ongoing, but problematic “Justice and Peace” process to demobilize, prosecute and re-integrate former paramilitaries (groups that formed to fight the FARC and committed innumerable bloody massacres in their own right.) For the many thousands of low-level figures the process seems to work well – but for the commanders, with real blood on their hands (and often links to important political figures) it is not clear that justice is always being served. As more and more high-level FARC figures surrender these issues will surface in that context as well.
  • 1 comment:

    Rosemary said...

    Thank you for the update on FARC. This is good news even if it is only a few people. One by one, step by step, we shall defeat them all. We have to. Hugo is losing his mind (if there's anything left to it!). Please keep up with the Hizbullah in that area also. I would like to know how we're doing in that area of concern. Great post. Keep up the great work!