There are unconfirmed reports that Raul Reyes replacement on the FARC Secretariat, Joaquin Gomez, aka Milton de Jesús Toncel Redondo, is being hospitalized in Venezuela having been shot in the face in fighting in Colombia. Reportedly he is under heavy guard. Another report states that the Colombian military shelled the base of another FARC Secretariat member, Alfonso Cano, aka Guillermo León Sáenz Vargas.
If these reports are true – and it should be emphasized that at this point the Colombians are denying any knowledge of Gomez being injured – it only further highlights the extent to which the FARC has been penetrated by Colombian security. The description of Gomez’s wounds certainly raise the possibility that, like Rios, he was attacked by his own men. Supposedly Gomez is hospitalized near the Colombian border, which will again raise questions about whether or not Chavez is providing a safe haven for the FARC. The only way to prove he is not would be to extradite – to Colombia – not the U.S. (which would only give Chavez the chance to start an unpleasant row over Luis Posada.*) Chavez may fight this issue, but then the U.S. would have very strong grounds to declare Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism.
This could be a tipping point. Simply removing one leader does not always break a terrorist organization. But systematically removing the entire high command is a tougher blow for even the robust terrorist group. FARC was once very robust, but no longer.
If these reports are true then this weeks earlier counter-terror successes were not simply good luck, but the product of nearly a decade of effectively conceived and implemented strategy.
My ongoing warning still stands – the FARC may remain capable of retaliation.
*For an in-depth story on Luis Posada Carriles, who the Cuban and Venezuelan government accuse of master-minding a 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner with 73 people on board see this story from the Atlantic Monthly. Posada had been a CIA informant, he was part of a cadre of Cuban exiles that worked with the CIA against Castro – many of whom went on to a range of unseemly activities throughout Latin America. Nothing new about blowback.
The article concludes that Posada and the CIA didn’t have anything to do with the airline bombing – but that the Cuban and Venezuelan governments love the obvious propaganda value.