Wednesday, August 1, 2012

FARC Boss Reappears, Disproving Reports of his Death

High-ranking FARC commander Jose Benito Cabrera, alias "Fabian Ramirez," who was thought to have died in a bombing raid in 2010, has reappeared with an interview in which he calls for peace with the Colombian government.

President Juan Manuel Santos announced the guerrilla leader's “apparent” death in November 2010, after his personal possessions were found in the debris left by an air force raid on a FARC camp. However, in June the following year the armed forces said that Fabian Ramirez was likely still alive, based on intelligence from demobilized guerrillas.

Now, Caracol has published a video of the rebel boss being interviewed by independent journalist Karl Penhaul.

In the interview, Fabian Ramirez says that the FARC is interested in ending the war, and that lower ranking soldiers also want it to end, but that the government and the military leadership have economic interests in carrying on with the “war business.”

We must end this war, coming to an agreement between the government and the guerrillas, without hate, without advantages, giving in, looking at who is fundamentally right … They shouldn’t just say “Hand over your arms and stop attacking the security forces,” it’s not like that. Here, to finish the war, we must end the causes of the war.
He also spoke of humanizing the conflict, and confirmed that the FARC have ceased kidnapping for economic gain, though he said they would not stop detaining members of the security forces, as they are prisoners of war.

According to Semana magazine, Fabian Ramirez headed the FARC’s 14th Front until 2004, and then became the second-in-command of the Southern Bloc. He is now thought to head the bloc.

The Associated Press notes that the US classifies the rebel boss as a major drug trafficker, and has offered a reward of $2.5 million for information leading to his arrest.

Meanwhile, the US State Department’s latest country reports on terrorism say that the majority of terror attacks in the Western Hemisphere last year were carried out by the FARC and the smaller ELN rebel group. It says that the the FARC increasingly turned to hit and run attacks instead of large unit encounters.

News Briefs

  • Gunmen set fire to a printing press used to publish Proceso magazine, amongst other publications, in Monterrey, north Mexico, reports the AP. The group entered the building at 10 a.m. on Monday and told the 10 employees to leave, then poured gasoline and set it alight. El Economista reports that they painted the letters “TER” and “S” on the wall of the building. The offices of newspaper El Norte in the city were also attacked on Sunday.
  • On Tuesday, Mexican authorities brought charges against three army generals and a lieutenant colonel who were arrested in May, accusing them of working in the interests of the drug trade, reports the AP. The case against the men dates from 2009, and relates to ties to the Beltran Leyva Organization. It is thought to stem from testimony from “La Barbie,” a top BLO boss who was arrested in 2010. As InSight Crime has pointed out, the idea of the group having ties to the top ranks of the army is somewhat surprising, as it has suffered some heavy blows from the force -- “If this gang was paying millions for support from the highest levels of the army, the bribes ultimately bought them very little.”
  • Poet and peace activist Javier Sicilia has criticized the Mexican government’s plan to build a monument to victims of drug violence next to a military base in the capital, reports the AP. He told Milenio that President Felipe Calderon had betrayed agreements they made at a meeting last year. He said that the construction would be a “huge insult to the dead,” as a real memorial would involve not just building a monument, but knowing the names of the dead and what happened to them, a process which has not even begun.
  • IDL-Reporteros has part five of its series on drug trafficking in Peru, which looks at the Upper Huallaga Valley. The valley was the center of world coca production in the 1980s and 90s, it says, with as much coca in 1992 as exists in the whole country today; some 61,000 hectares. The trade was run by Colombian organizations like the Medellin and then Cali Cartels, who had ties with local traffickers. The Shining Path later moved in to take control of the trade, forcing the traffickers to work under them. In the mid 1990s, the increased interception of drug flights out of the area caused the prices to plummet, and coca production to crash. The region now has some 13,000 hectares of the crop, 21 percent of the country’s total.
  • A Spanish national who was at the wheel during the car crash that killed Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya has been charged with manslaughter, reports the AP. Angel Carromero had come to Cuba with Swedish Jens Aron Modig, to support and bring funds to Paya’s organization. The causes of the crash have been questioned, with some suggesting that another vehicle rammed the car off the road.
  • The head of the US military’s Southern Command, which carries out operations in Latin America, told the AP that Venezuela’s accumulation of weapons and drones does not pose a military threat to the US. General Douglas Fraser said that Venezuela’s relationship with Iran was diplomatic and economic more than a military alliance. He also said he would like to see more anti-drug cooperation from Venezuela.
  • A US Congress committee is due to take up the case of Jacob Ostreicher, a New York native who has been in prison in Bolivia on money laundering charges for a year without trial, reports the WSJ. Lawmakers accuse the Bolivian government of having interfered with the case to delay proceedings, and Ostreicher’s lawyers say that it is an act of revenge for the US’s conviction of Bolivia’s former drug czar General Rene Sanabria.
  • The NYT reports that, immediately after formalizing Venezuela’s accession as a full member of Mercosur, President Hugo Chavez signed an agreement to buy some 20 passenger jets from Brazilian manufacturer Embraer.
  • The killing of Venezuela’s acting ambassador to Kenya at her home in Nairobi was due to a power struggle within the embassy, reports Reuters. One of her colleagues has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

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