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Colombia: Activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ­ (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) after the death of their leader Alfonso Cano, including information on his replacement; government activity since the death of Cano (November 2011)

Publisher Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 6 November 2012
Citation / Document Symbol COL103910.E
Related Document Colombie : information sur les activités des Forces armées révolutionnaires de Colombie (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) depuis la mort de leur dirigeant Alfonso Cano, y compris sur le remplacement de ce dernier; les activités menées par le gouvernement depuis la mort de M. Cano (novembre 2011)
Cite as Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Colombia: Activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ­ (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) after the death of their leader Alfonso Cano, including information on his replacement; government activity since the death of Cano (November 2011), 6 November 2012, COL103910.E, available at: [accessed 23 April 2014]
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Operation "Odiseo"

On 4 November 2011, the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC), Alfonso Cano (whose real name was Guillermo León Sáenz Vargas), was killed in a military operation in a rural area of the department of Cauca (AFP 5 Nov. 2011; AP 15 Nov. 2011). Cano had become the leader of the FARC in 2008 when the group's former leader and founder, Pedro Antonio Marín, also known as Manuel Marulanda Vélez or "Tirofijo," died of "natural causes" (ibid.; AFP 5 Nov. 2011). The Madrid-based ABC newspaper reports that, along with Cano, the army also killed his [translation] "romantic partner" and a radio operator, and captured four other guerrillas, including his security chief (5 Nov. 2011). Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that between 800 and 1,000 troops participated in the operation (5 Nov. 2011), which was reportedly called "Odiseo" (El Espectador 5 Nov. 2011; Colprensa 5 Nov. 2011).

The New Leader of the FARC

A day after the death of Cano, the FARC (which refers to itself as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army [FARC - Ejército del Pueblo, FARC-EP]) issued a communiqué on its website indicating that [translation] "peace in Colombia will not be born out of guerrilla demobilization" and promised that the FARC would continue its previous policy (FARC 5 Nov. 2011). Similarly, in further statements posted on its website, the FARC equated any demobilization initiative to [translation] "inertia, cowardly surrender, rendition and betrayal to the popular cause and the revolutionary idea" (ibid. 13 Nov. 2011), and indicated that its guerrillas would never demobilize (ibid. 15 Nov. 2011).

Semana, a Bogota-based news magazine, cites an analyst and a political scientist as indicating that decisions in the FARC are made by a secretariat, regardless of whomever the leader is (15 Nov. 2011b). Following Cano's death, the remaining members of the secretariat are Rodrigo Londoño, also known as (a.k.a.) Timoleón Jiménez or Timochenko; Luciano Marín, a.k.a. Iván Márquez; Félix Antonio Muñoz, a.k.a. Pastor Alape; Milton de Jesús Toncel, a.k.a. Joaquín Gómez; Jorge Torres Victoria, a.k.a. Pablo Catatumbo; and Mauricio Jaramillo, a.k.a. "the Doctor" (el doctor) (Reuters 5 Nov. 2011; AP 15 Nov. 2011). On 15 November 2011, the FARC announced that on 5 November 2011 its secretariat had designated Timochenko as the new leader of the organization (FARC 15 Nov. 2011, Semana 15 Nov. 2011a).

Timochenko was born on 22 January 1959 in Calarcá, department of Quindío (AP 15 Nov. 2011; INTERPOL n.d). According to sources, he became a member of the FARC in 1982 after returning from Eastern Europe where he had received military training (Agencia EFE 16 Nov. 2011; Semana 15 Nov. 2011a). He is reportedly [translation] "one of the oldest members of the FARC secretariat" (Reuters 15 Nov. 2011; Semana 15 Nov. 2011a). Sources indicate that Timochenko is the leader of the Mid-Magdalena Bloc (Bloque Magdalena Medio) of the FARC, that he has 800 guerrillas under his command, and that he is in charge of intelligence and counter-intelligence within the FARC (Semana 15 Nov. 2011a; El Tiempo 15 Nov. 2011). Several sources also indicate that, according to analysts, Timochenko is considered a hard-line supporter of the FARC's [translation] "military line" (Reuters 15 Nov. 2011; AP 15 Nov. 2011; Agencia EFE 16 Nov. 2011). He has 117 arrest warrants for crimes such as [translation] "terrorism, kidnapping, rebellion, aggravated homicide and forced disappearance" (El Tiempo 15 Nov. 2011; Agencia EFE 16 Nov. 2011). He is also on INTERPOL's wanted person's list for some of these same crimes (INTERPOL n.d). Both the United States (US) Department of State and the Colombian government offer rewards of US$5 million and US$2.6 million respectively for any information that could lead to his arrest (AP 15 Nov. 2011; Agencia EFE 16 Nov. 2011).

Sources report that it is presumed that Timochenko is located near the Venezuelan border (El Tiempo 15 Nov. 2011; Semana 15 Nov. 2011a). Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos indicated that he has an agreement with Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez to [translation] "act immediately" should any member of the FARC secretariat cross the border into Venezuela (El Tiempo 21 Nov. 2011; CM& 21 Nov. 2011).

Activities of the FARC since the Death of Cano

El Meridiano, a Córdoba-based newspaper, reports that the FARC has been threatening [translation] "several" municipalities in the department of Cauca where Cano was killed (14 Nov. 2011; see also ESISC 7 Nov. 2011). Sources report that, on 6 November 2011, the FARC detonated a car bomb in Jambaló, Cauca, killing one police officer and injuring three people, and that it also attacked the police station in Piendamó, Cauca, with gas pipettes, killing one person (Colprensa 14 Nov. 2011; NOTIMEX 6 Nov. 2011). On 12 November, the FARC detonated an explosive charge against municipal offices in Toribío, Cauca, injuring at least seven persons, including its mayor (El Tiempo 14 Nov. 2011a; Colprensa 14 Nov. 2011; El Meridiano 14 Nov. 2011). El Tiempo, a Bogota-based newspaper, reports that on 14 November, militias from the Jacobo Arenas Mobile Unit of FARC detonated a roadside bomb in the market square in Corinto, Cauca, when a military patrol was passing by; no injuries or fatalities were reported (14 Nov. 2011a).

Similar attacks have also been carried out in other departments (RCN Radio 14 Nov. 2011; Diario del Huila 13 Nov. 2011). RCN Radio, a Bogota-based radio station, reports that, on 13 November in the department of Chocó, Front 34 of the FARC fired at the municipality of Medio Atrato from the Atrato river, and that, in the municipality of Medio Baudó, the same Front kidnapped two indigenous persons (13 Nov. 2011). Also on 13 November, Diario del Huila, a Neiva city-based newspaper, reports that Front 32 of the FARC attacked the police station in Puerto Umbría, Putumayo, leaving a police officer injured (13 Nov. 2011). El Tiempo reports that on 14 November, the Teófilo Forero Mobil Unit of the FARC attacked a military post located at a bridge that connects the municipalities of Puerto Rico and San Vicente del Caguán in the department of Caquetá (14 Nov. 2011b). El Espectador, a Bogota-based newspaper, reports an attack on the Transandino oil pipeline on 23 November in the department of Putumayo (23 Nov. 2011a). The resulting oil spill and fire affected [translation] "various" fish farms and the electricity supply to five districts (El Espectador 23 Nov. 2011a). Earlier in November, RCN Radio reported another attack to the same pipeline in the department of Nariño by Front 29 of the FARC (14 Nov. 2011). In the municipality of Tumaco of this same department, the FARC detonated a field in a rural zone mined with explosives when a military patrol was passing by (RCN Radio 23 Nov. 2011). The explosion killed three soldiers from the 23rd Brigade (RCN Radio 23 Nov. 2011).

Caracol Radio, a Bogota-based radio station, reports the assassination of an indigenous leader from the Embera community in the department of Antioquia (15 Nov. 2011). The radio station also reports that, on 14 November in the municipality of Briceño, Front 36 of the FARC incinerated two trucks and three motorcycles and made telephone threats to the transportation and business sectors, warning of further attacks if they used the road that leads to the municipality of Yarumal (Caracol Radio 21 Nov. 2011). RCN Radio reports that, as a consequence, the municipality of Briceño has been [translation] "cut off and is without food supplies" (21 Nov. 2011a).

Sources also report that authorities have denounced FARC infiltration in the national student protests against the education reforms that were being considered in Congress (CM& 10 Nov. 2011; El Espectador 10 Nov. 2011). According to official sources consulted by El Espectador, the FARC sought to distribute [translation] "subversive propaganda" at public universities that criticized the reform bill, known as Law 30 (ibid.). El País, a Santiago de Cali-based newspaper, reports that President Santos officially withdrew the reform initiative, also known as the [translation] "reform to Higher Education" plan, from Congress after "massive street protests by thousands of students" on 10 November 2011 and the cancellation of academic activities for at least four weeks (12 Nov. 2011).

Sources report that, on 26 November 2011, the FARC killed three soldiers and a police officer who had been held captive for more than 10 years (AFP 26 Nov. 2011; La Vanguardia 27 Nov. 2011). According to the Colombian Ministry of Defence, the killings took place in the department of Caquetá while Colombian troops were in the midst of a [translation] "search and locate" operation based on information that a group of kidnapped people "might" be present in the area (Colprensa 28 Nov. 2011; Vanguardia 29 Nov. 2011). A fifth captive, a sergeant of the National Police, was the only survivor, having escaped from the guerrillas when the shootout began (AFP 27 Nov. 2011; NOTIMEX 27 Nov. 2011). Sources report that the United Nations condemned the killings and considers them a [translation] "war crime" (AFP 27 Nov. 2011; NOTIMEX 27 Nov. 2011). AFP reports that the FARC still has at least 13 soldiers and policemen captive (AFP 27 Nov. 2011; ibid. 26 Nov. 2011); some of them have been captive for more than 10 years (ibid.).

Sources report that after Alfonso Cano's death, 55 guerrillas left the organization (El Espectador 22 Nov. 2011; Agencia EFE 22 Nov. 2011).

Activities of the Colombian Government since the Death of Cano

Colombia Reports, a Medellin-based news source, reports that on 8 November 2011, the Colombian Minister of Defence indicated that the army "[is] already in pursuit of successors to the leadership of the late Alfonso Cano" (9 Nov. 2011). El Tiempo reports that the Defence Ministry will pay the reward promised to those who provided information that led to Cano: 5,000 million pesos (8 Nov. 2011), or about $2.6 million Canadian dollars (XE 29 Nov. 2011).

With regard to military operations, El Colombiano, a Medellin-based newspaper, quotes the deputy-commander of the army as saying that joint military operations with the air force, the police and the navy will concentrate in [translation] FARC "hot spots" such as the southern departments of Nariño, Cauca, Guaviare, and Putumayo, as well as in Antioquia, Córdoba, southern Tolima, Chocó, Norte de Santander, Arauca, and along the border with Venezuela (9 Nov. 2011). In the department of Meta, for example, the army dismantled nine FARC camps, including one that operated its own radio station called the Voice of the Resistance (La Voz de la Resistencia) (El Espectador 19 Nov. 2011; RCN Radio 21 Nov. 2011b).

Sources report that the Colombian police destroyed 24 coca laboratories in the departments of Antioquia, Bolívar and Córdoba; the Antinarcotics Directorate (Dirección de Antinarcóticos, Diran) indicated that 10 of the 24 labs belonged to FARC (Agencia EFE 14 Nov. 2011; Europa Press 14 Nov. 2011). The police also confiscated 250 bars of explosive material known as pentolite from a courier company delivering the bars to a FARC bloc operating in San Vincente del Caguán, Caquetá (RCN Radio 21 Nov. 2011c). The bars weighed at least 113 kilograms (ibid.; La Nación 21 Nov. 2011).

Sources also report that, in different parts of the country, the army captured FARC members (Vanguardia 20 Nov. 2011) and collaborators (CM& 23 Nov. 2011). On 20 November, 13 persons, one of whom was an arms dealer, suspected of collaborating with Front 36 of the FARC were captured in the city of Medellin and the town of Anori, both in Antioquia, and Barranquilla city (Vanguardia 20 Nov. 2011; Radio Santa Fe 20 Nov. 2011). Radio Santa Fe, a Bogota-based radio station, reports that a joint army and police operation resulted in the 13 November arrest of the third in command of the Jefferson Cartagena company of FARC's Column 18 (ibid. 13 Nov. 2011). The company leader was accused of [translation] "rebellion, forced displacement, aggravated homicide, kidnapping and forced disappearance" (ibid.). CM&, a Bogota-based television broadcaster, reports on the arrest of 12 guerrilla support operatives in the department of Córdoba as they were processing coca paste (23 Nov. 2011). In the department of Tolima, the army's fifth division detained seven members of the FARC, including one of Alfonso Cano's security officers (El Espectador 23 Nov. 2011b).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


ABC [Madrid]. 5 November 2011. "El Ejército de Colombia mata a 'Alfonso Cano,' líder de las FARC." (Factiva)

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 27 November 2011. "ONU condena asesinato de cuatro rehenes de las FARC en Colombia." (Factiva)

_____. 26 November 2011. José Bautista. "Cuatro rehenes dela guerrilla FARC fueron asesinados en Colombia." (Factiva)

_____. 5 November 2011. "Jefe de las FARC, Alfonso Cano, fue abatido en operativo militar en Colombia." (Factiva)

Agencia EFE. 22 November 2011. "Un total de 55 rebeldes de las FARC se han desmobilizado desde la muerte de 'Alfonso Cano'." [Accessed 23 Nov. 2011]

_____. 16 November 2011. "'Timochenko,' el médico y militar entrenado en la Yugoslavia de Tito que sustituye a 'Cano'." (Radio Televisión Española) [Accessed 29 Nov. 2011]

_____. 14 November 2011. "La policía antidrogas halla 24 laboratorios en cuatro regiones de Colombia." [Accessed 15 Nov. 2011]

Associated Press (AP). 15 November 2011. Libardo Cardona. "FARC designan sucesor tras muerte de Alfonso Cano." (Factiva)

Caracol Radio. 21 November 2011. "Amenazas de las Farc tienen aislado al municipio de Briceño, Antioquia." [Accessed 22 Nov. 2011]

_____. 15 November 2011. "Asesinado líder indígena en Antioquia." [Accessed 15 Nov. 2011]

CM&. 23 November 2011. "Capturados doce integrantes de las FARC, en Córdoba." [Accessed 23 Nov. 2011]

_____. 21 November 2011. "'Con el presidente Chávez tenemos un acuerdo' de lucha contra las Farc: presidente Santos." [Accessed 22 Nov. 2011]

_____. 10 November 2011. "Autoridades advierten sobre presiones de las FARC para radicalizar marchas estudiantiles." [Accessed 10 Nov. 2011]

Colombia Reports [Medellin]. 9 November 2011. "Colombian Military to Pursue Possible 'Cano' Successors." [Accessed 9 Nov. 2011]

El Colombiano [Medellin]. 9 November 2011. Juan Carlos Monroy Giraldo. "Ofensiva contra guerrillas en sus 'santuarios'." [Accessed 9 Nov. 2011]

Colprensa. 28 November 2011. "Fue una operación de búsqueda y localización: Ministro de Defensa." (El País) [Accessed 29 Nov. 2011]

_____. 14 November 2011. "Cauca aún no se libra de ataques." (El Colombiano) [Accessed 14 Nov. 2011]

_____. 5 November 2011. "Así fue la Operación Odiseo en la que cayó 'Cano'." (El Colombiano) [Accessed 28 Nov. 2011]

Diario del Huila [Neiva]. 13 November 2011. "En Putumayo Farc atacaron estación de Policía." [Accessed 14 Nov. 2011]

El Espectador [Bogota]. 23 November 2011a. "Farc dinamitan tramo del oleoducto Transandino en Putumayo." [Accessed 28 Nov. 2011]

_____. 23 November 2011b. "Detenidos siete guerrilleros que protegían a 'Alfonso Cano'." [Accessed 24 Nov. 2011]

_____. 22 November 2011. "Tras muerte de 'Alfonso Cano' desertaron 55 hombres cercanos a él." [Accessed 22 Nov. 2011]

_____. 19 November 2011. "Ejército desmanteló emisora de las Farc." [Accessed 21 Nov. 2011]

_____. 10 November 2011. "Nuevo jefe de las Farc busca infiltrar marchas universitarias." [Accessed 10 Nov. 2011]

_____. 5 November 2011. "Éxito de Operación Odiseo, muerte de 'Alfonso Cano'." [Accessed 28 Nov. 2011]

Europa Press. 14 November 2011. "La policía colombiana destruye 24 laboratorios destinados a la producción de cocaína." [Accessed 15 Nov. 2011]

European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center (ESISC). 7 November 2011. "Colombia/Terrorism: FARC Carries Out Retaliation Attacks after Leader's Death." [Accessed 5 Dec. 2011]

Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP). 15 November 2011. Bloques Iván Ríos y Martín Caballero de las FARC-EP. "Cayó en combate: a los guerrilleros de las FARC-EP, a las milicias bolivarianas." [Accessed 15 Nov. 2011]

_____. 13 November 2011. "La caída en combate del comandante Alfonso Cano." [Accessed 14 Nov. 2011]

_____. 5 November 2011. "Declaración pública." [Accessed 14 Nov. 2011]

INTERPOL. N.d. "Londono (Echeverry), Rodrigo." [Accessed 29 Nov. 2011]

El Meridiano [Córdoba]. 14 November 2011. "Farc la emprende contra inocentes." [Accessed 14 Nov. 2011]

La Nación [Neiva]. 21 November 2011. "Cae encomienda con 113 kilos de pentolita." [Accessed 21 Nov. 2011]

NOTIMEX, Agencia de Noticias del Estado Mexicano. 27 November 2011. "Califica la ONU como crimen de guerra asesinatos de las FARC." (Factiva)

_____. 26 November 2011. "Piden familiares de rehenes suspender rescate 'a sangre y fuego'." (Factiva)

_____. 6 November 2011. "Reportan primeros ataques de las FARC tras muerte de su líder." (Provincia) [Accessed 28 Nov. 2011]

El País [Santiago de Cali]. 12 November 2011. "'El retiro de la Reforma a la educación es un gesto adicional de buena voluntad': Santos." [Accessed 5 Dec. 2011]

Radio Santa Fe. 20 November 2011. "Capturan a 13 integrantes de red de apoyo de las Farc en Medellín." [Accessed 21 Nov. 2011]

_____. 13 November 2011. "Cayó alias Gelatino, peligroso cabecilla de las Farc en Antioquia." [Accessed 14 Nov. 2011]

RCN Radio. 23 November 2011. "Tres militares murieron al caer en campo minado en Nariño." [Accessed 23 Nov. 2011]

_____. 21 November 2011a. "Además de estar incomunicados, en Briceño escasean los alimentos por culpa de las Farc." [Accessed 22 Nov. 2011]

_____. 21 November 2011b. "Desmantelados 9 campamentos de las FARC entre ellos, donde funcionaba emisora La Voz de la Resistencia." [Accessed 21 Nov. 2011]

_____. 21 November 2011c. "La Policía incautó 125 kilos de pentolita en una empresa de encomiendas." [Accessed 21 Nov. 2011]

_____. 14 November 2011. "Las Farc estarían detrás del nuevo atentado al oleoducto Transandino." [Accessed 14 Nov. 2011]

_____. 13 November 2011. "Tras dos ataques guerrilleros perpetrados en el Chocó, quedan dos indígenas secuestrados." [Accessed 14 Nov. 2011]

Reuters. 15 November 2011. "Guerrilla [de las] FARC [de] Colombia nombra a 'Timochenko' como sucesor [de] Cano." [Accessed 15 Nov. 2011]

_____. 5 November 2011. "Factbox-Leaders of Colombia'a FARC Guerrillas." [Accessed 9 Nov. 2011]

Semana [Bogota]. 15 November 2011a. "'Timochenko' es el nuevo jefe máximo de las FARC." [Accessed 15 Nov. 2011]

_____. 15 November 2011b. "Con 'Timochenko' como jefe, las FARC seguirán por el mismo camino: expertos." [Accessed 16 Nov. 2011]

El Tiempo [Bogota]. 21 November 2011. Luis Guillermo Forero C. "Chávez apoyaría captura de jefes de las Farc que estén en Venezuela." [Accessed 22 Nov. 2011]

_____. 15 November 2011. "'Timochenko' es el nuevo jefe máximo de las FARC." [Accessed 15 Nov. 2011]

_____. 14 November 2011a. "Ataque a Corinto con explosivos." [Accessed 15 Nov. 2011]

_____. 14 November 2011b. "Combates entre el Ejército y las Farc en el norte del Caquetá." [Accessed 14 Nov. 2011]

_____. 8 November 2011. "Gobierno pagará la recompensa de 5 mil millones de pesas por 'Cano'." [Accessed 29 Nov. 2011]

Vanguardia [Bucaramanga]. 29 November 2011. "'Rescate militar es una obligación del Estado'." [Accessed 29 Nov. 2011]

_____. 20 November 2011. "Caen 13 presuntos colaboradores del Frente 36 de las Farc." [Accessed 21 Nov. 2011]

La Vanguardia [Barcelona]. 27 November 2011. Fernando García. "Las FARC asesinan a cuatro rehenes después de un intento de rescate." (Factiva)

XE. 29 November 2011. "Currency Converter Widget."

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Colombia — Ejército Nacional de Colombia, Fiscalía General de la Nación, Policía Nacional de Colombia; European Country of Origin Information Network; Freedom House; Human Rights Watch; International Institute for Counter-Terrorism; Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor; United Nations ReliefWeb; United States — Department of State, National Counterterrorism Center.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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