FARC vow to continue struggle despite leader's death
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) said in a statement on Saturday that they would not lay down their arms despite the loss of their leader, Alfonso Cano, gunned down by government forces on Friday.
AFP - Colombian leftist rebels promised late Saturday to continue their struggle, despite the death of their Marxist leader Alfonso Cano.
"Peace in Colombia will not come as a result of a demobilization of the rebel force, but as a result of eradication of the causes that had led to the rebellion," the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said in a statement.
Cano, who had led the group since 2008, was gunned down in a firefight late Friday during a day-long operation in which his female companion also died, government and local officials said.
The operation taking out Cano was the latest in a string of recent military victories in the government's quest to eradicate Latin America's longest-running leftist insurgency, after years of unsuccessful attempts to find a negotiated solution.
Speaking after Cano's death, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos urged the rebels to surrender their arms and start talks with the government.
But the FARC statement said the group "has charted a policy, and that policy will continue."
The FARC acknowledged Cano's death, but promised that he will be replaced by people "with courage and absolute conviction in the final victory."
The FARC, believed to have 8,000 members, has been at war with the government since its launch in 1964.
It began a campaign of kidnappings in the mid-1980s, seizing army hostages to serve as bargaining chips for FARC prisoners. By the late 1990s, civilians and political leaders were also being snatched, winning the group greater notoriety.
But the group has suffered some serious losses since 2008, when its number two Raul Reyes died during a Colombian army raid in Ecuadoran territory.
That same year, the FARC also lost Manuel "Sure Shot" Marulanda Velez, the reclusive 80-year-old rebel chief, who was last seen in 1982. He died after a brief illness.
Cano, whose real name was Guillermo Leon Saenz Vargas, assumed the leadership of the FARC in March 2008, after the death of Marulanda Velez.