Photo: Alfonso Cano
Colombian military forces have killed the top leader of the country’s main leftist rebel group.
Alfonso Cano, the top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was killed Friday during a military raid in the southwestern Cauca region.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said in a televised address Cano’s death is the “biggest blow” against FARC in its entire history. He urged the FARC guerrillas to “demobilize” now that their leader is dead. The president said “violence is not the way.”
Cano became the leader of the rebel group in 2008 after the death of Manuel Marulanda Velez, the group’s founder.
Cano, whose real name is Guillermo Saenz Vargas, was born into a middle-class family. His father was an agronomist and his mother was a teacher. He studied anthropology at Bogota’s National University before joining the Communist Party. He is believed to have joined FARC in the 1970s.
FARC rebels have been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s. While most of the group’s funding comes from cocaine trafficking and extortion, the leftist rebels are believed to be holding an unknown number of people for ransom or political leverage.
While the number of FARC rebels has dwindled over the years, analysts estimate the group retains as many as 9,000 fighters.
FARC has been designated as a terrorist organization by Colombia, the United States and the European Union.