FARC’s Top Military Commander Ailing?

The Colombian daily El Tiempo reports that Mono Jojoy, the top FARC military commander has a severe form of diabetes. (A picture from El Tiempo is posted below.) Head of the “Eastern Bloc” Mono Jojoy is generally believed to be the organization’s top military leader. With 4000 fighters the Eastern Bloc is one of the stronger FARC Blocs. It borders Venezuela and is heavily engaged in the drug trade. Mono Jojoy represents the military wing, as opposed to the new chief Alfonso Cano who represents the political wing. There has
been substantial speculation that the two are rivals – although the internal processes of FARC decision-making are opaque so much of this is guesswork (like Kremlinology without the snow or military parades.)

If Mono Jojoy were ill, that would provide an alternate explanation for, or at least another factor in, the leadership transitions. In addition, it appears that Mono Jojoy’s position is not completely secure, his own bodyguards recently tried to kill him. The Colombian military also claims that it is putting pressure on the Eastern Bloc in general and Mono Jojoy in particular. While individuals with access to quality medical care can live perfectly healthy lives with diabetes, life on the run in the jungle cannot be good for Mono Jojoy’s condition and a weakened physical state may interfere with his ability to command the Eastern Bloc or take part in the FARC’s internecine power struggles.

What this means for the future of the FARC is difficult to say.

Mono Jojoy, who was born Victor Julio Suarez Rojas, and is also known as Jorge Briceno Suarez, has a background similar to the late Tirofijo, the FARC’s founder. Like Tirofijo he was born to very modest rural circumstances. He joined the FARC as a boy, served as Tirofijo’s bodyguard, and has a reputation as a very capable commander. Mono Jojoy represent’s the FARC rural roots and commitment to autonomy that were embodied by Tirofijo. If Mono Jojoy fades, the better educated, more urban leaders such as Alfonso Cano may be more inclined to increase FARC’s political presence while demoting its military activities. (These hopes should be tempered by the reality that Cano too is a deeply committed radical who, among other things, may have been plotting to take FARC operations international by attacking Colombians in Madrid.)

Still, the political leadership may be more inclined to end the terrible hostage crisis (including the release of the three American contractors held by the FARC for five years), which has brought FARC almost no benefit whatsoever. At the very least, if Mono Jojoy is ill, it is yet another sign of the FARC’s decline and hopefully an end to the armed struggle that has ravaged Colombia.

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