Reporting on Interpol’s assertion that the files on the captured FARC computers are authentic has focused on potential Chavez-FARC ties. But another bit of FARC news should be noted. Six of FARC commander Mono Jojoy’s bodyguards had plotted kill him, probably to collect the $5 million reward. The plot was discovered and three of the six were killed, the other three escaped and are now aiding the Colombian authorities. This plot was no doubt inspired by the death of another member of the FARC Secretariat, Ivan Rios – again at the hands of his bodyguards. The Colombian government’s decision to pay Rios’ bodyguards the reward no doubt encouraged Mono Jojoy’s bodyguards. This is roughly equivalent to Generals being shot by their own troops.
There is probably no better counter-terror strategy than to get a group to turn on itself. The campaign against the notorious Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) in the late 1980s was successful because the paranoid leader, the eponymous Abu Nidal (real name Sabri al-Banna) became convinced that his organization had been infiltrated by the CIA and his subordinates were plotting against him. He became unhinged and began burying them in wet cement. Reportedly, on one night he killed 150 ANO members.
In addition, FARC is losing its mid-level leaders to arrest or death and experienced cadres are deserting at increasing rates. Whatever international, regional, or public support the FARC ever had has evaporated.
The capture of the computer equipment from Raul Reyes’ camp will accelerate all of these trends. Their public image will be further decimated as their own records of their violence are exposed. Colombian intelligence will receive a terrific insight into the FARC modus operandi. Also, as I’ve written before the metadata associated with the documents may be a treasure trove in its own right. Photograph files on laptops often reveal information about the cameras that took them (possibly leading to information about where they were purchased.) Emails may include information about their origin and receipt that could reveal patterns of movement and usage. Combined with Colombia (and American) electronic intelligence capabilities this is sure to be an intelligence bonanza.
The FARC is in a state of rapid decline. Unfortunately it will probably not be vanquished soon – and there is the concern that a smaller, more violence and ideological successor group could emerge. Nonetheless, the FARC’s decline is good news. In the 1990s when Plan Colombia was initiated, there was a very real concern that the government of Colombia could “lose” and the FARC could win. Now this possibility is increasingly remote.