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Viewing cable 08BOGOTA2024, MARULANDA'S DEATH SPARKS SPECULATION ON FARC'S

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08BOGOTA2024 2008-06-03 19:07 2010-12-08 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bogota
VZCZCXYZ0003
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #2024/01 1551921
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 031921Z JUN 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3044
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0498
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JUN 9467
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6233
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 1810
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6903
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4446
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 002024

SIPDIS

FOR WHA/AND

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/03/2018
TAGS: CO PTER PGOV PREL SNAR
SUBJECT: MARULANDA'S DEATH SPARKS SPECULATION ON FARC'S
FUTURE

Classified By: Political Counselor John S. Creamer
Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d)

-------
Summary
-------

1. (C) Most GOC officials and outside analysts believe the
death of FARC founder Pedro Marin (Manuel Marulanda) will
have little impact on the FARC's approach to a humanitarian
hostage exchange or broader peace talks with the GOC. Peace
Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo called new FARC leader
Guillermo Saenz (Alfonso Cano) a "Leninist ideologue" who
will need to consolidate his leadership position. Polo
Democratico official Daniel Garcia Pena agreed Cano is
committed to "all forms of struggle," and predicted he will
try to strengthen ties with Venezuela. Restrepo and other
observers speculated that Marulanda's death will accelerate
desertions and fragmentation within the FARC, creating
opportunities for the GOC to pursue deals with individual
commanders. End Summary

--------------------------------------------- ---
Marulanda's Death: Improved Prospects for Peace?
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (U) The death of FARC founder and long-time leader Pedro
Marin (Manuel Marulanda) has triggered speculation about what
this means for the FARC's approach to a humanitarian hostage
exchange, prospects for broader GOC-FARC peace talks, and the
FARC's military strategy. In the immediate aftermath of
Marulanda's death, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner
said Marulanda's death "raises great hope" and urged new FARC
leader Alfonso Cano to release the FARC's civilian hostages.
Similarly, Yolanda Pulecio, mother of FARC hostage and former
presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, called Cano a
"cultured and progressive man" and said any FARC move to
release the hostages would be well-received by the
international community.

--------------------
Or More of the Same?
--------------------

3. (C) Still, in its May 27 communique acknowledging
Marulanda's death--and the appointment of Guillero Saenz
(Alfonso Cano) as his successor--the FARC ratified its
proposal conditioning humanitarian exchange talks on the
GOC's demilitarization of Florida and Pradera municipalities.
GOC Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo told us May 30
that Marulanda's death will not lead to any progress on a
humanitarian accord or peace process in the near future.
Cano is a "Leninist ideologue" who founded the Colombian
Clandestine Communist Party and the Bolivarian Movement. In
the short-term, he will need to consolidate his position and
will not be able to show any sign of weakness. In fact,
Restrepo said Cano may push for heightened military action to
show he is in charge.

4. (C) Restrepo downplayed the notion of a rivalry between
Cano and FARC military leader Jorge Briceno (Mono Jojoy),
noting that Cano's political hard-line complements Jojoy's
military toughness. It would have been more difficult for
Cano to assert control if Raul Reyes, who saw himself as the
FARC's political leader, were still alive. Restrepo
dismissed the other Secretariat members as lacking stature,
saying the Secretariat is effectively a Cano-Jojoy
organization. New Secretariat member Jorge Torres (Pablo
Catatumbo) functions as Cano's secretary; Milton Toncel
(Joaquin Gomez) will follow Jojoy's line; Rodrigo Londono
(Timochenko) is an "errand boy" who does not command any
troops and lives in Venezuela; and Luciano Marin (Ivan
Marquez) also spends most of his time in Venezuela.

5. (C) Former Peace Commissioner for Presidents Barco and
Gaviria Carlos Eduardo Jaramillo told us the FARC identified
Cano as Marulanda's eventual successor near the end of the
Caguan process. He agreed with Restrepo's assessment that
the FARC would not change its strategy in the short-term,
noting that "the Secretariat functions as a collegial
decision-making body." Marulanda's death signals a

generational shift in the FARC leadership, with power passing
from the peasant founders to more urban, Communist Party
educated leaders who were active in protest movements in the
1970s, but the group's commitment to armed confrontation is
unlikely to change.

6. (C) Polo Secretary General and former President Samper
peace advisor Daniel Garcia Pena also predicted Marulanda's
death will mean little to the FARC's day-to-day management of
the war. Marulanda was a FARC icon and unifying figure, but
the transition to Cano--who was Marulanda's choice--was
relatively smooth. The murder of Secretariat member Manuel
Munoz (Ivan Rios) by his own men and the desertion of Nelly
Avila (Karina) were bigger blows to the group because of what
they say about FARC morale. Garcia Pena views Cano as an
intransigent ideologue who is less pragmatic than Jojoy and
is committed to "all forms of struggle." He added that the
FARC has yet to name a replacement for Raul Reyes as head of
the FARC's International Relations Department, making any
change in position on a humanitarian accord more difficult.
Restrepo noted that the disruption of the FARC's
international network after Reyes' death will also complicate
any FARC shifts on an exchange.

----------------
FARC-Chavez Ties
----------------

7. (C) Garcia Pena expects Cano to try to strengthen the
FARC's political ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez,
since Chavez provided the group important "political oxygen"
before the Colombian military attack on the Reyes camp in
Ecuador. Chavez will need to be careful about supporting the
FARC given the Reyes computer files, but Chavez and important
sectors of his movement continue to see the FARC as a
potential military ally in the event of a U.S. invasion.
Hence, Chavez will continue to look for ways to help the FARC
and, to a lesser extent, the ELN. Restrepo also believes
Chavez will continue to help the group, but said Marulanda's
historical role held a special attraction for Chavez. With
his passing, Chavez would no longer have an interlocutor of
equal stature within the FARC.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
Prospects for Increased FARC Desertions, Fragmentation
--------------------------------------------- ---------

8. (C) Prior to Marulanda's death, local ICRC delegate
Barbara Hintermann said the increasing Colombian military
pressure on the FARC was disrupting Secretariat
command-and-control over FARC fronts, giving greater autonomy
to individual FARC commanders and leading to more desertions.
She speculated that the death of FARC Secretariat members
Raul Reyes and Ivan Rios would accelerate FARC desertions,
including some senior FARC officials. Presidential advisor
Jose Obdulio Gaviria told us Marulanda's demise completes the
Secretariat's disintegration. The Secretariat's members
cannot communicate or take decisions. Only Cano and Jojoy
give it a sense of national structure and international
projection. He said the GOC needs to try to negotiate a
partial peace deal with Jojoy--who he considers more
reasonable than Cano--or to seek deals with individual front
commanders.

9. (C) Restrepo told us that on May 22, he spoke with FARC
commander Jose Cabrera (Fabian Ramirez) who questioned
Restrepo about the legal benefits he might receive if he were
to turn himself in with Ingrid Betancourt. Ramirez said he
did not have physical control of Ingrid, but implied he might
be able to negotiate her release as well. Restrepo noted
that Ramirez' profile--substantial narcotics wealth managed
by his family, unhappiness with his superiors, and concern
about the FARC's future--applies to other FARC commanders
such as 1st Front commander Gerardo Aguilar (Cesar). He
promised to keep us posted as the Ramirez situation evolves.

--------------------------------------------- -------
The ELN Path: Internal Division and Military Decline
--------------------------------------------- -------

10. Former Foreign Minister and current Cambio editor

Rodrigo Pardo speculated that Marulanda's passing opens the
prospect that the FARC will end up like the ELN after the
death of "Father Manuel Perez" in 1998. Without its
long-time leader, the ELN has entered a steady process of
decline, characterized by internal divisions, diminishing
military capacity, and erratic participation in peace
processes with the GOC.

BROWNFIELD