“This is the biggest blow the organization has seen in its history,” President Juan Manuel Santos said at an impromptu speech in Cartagena. He also called on the FARC’s members to put down their arms. “If you don’t…you will end up in jail or in a grave.”Alfonso Cano- whose real name is Guillermo León Sáenz- was operating out of the southern province of Cauca and had a $5 million dollar bounty on his head. According to Colombian officials, the military was acting on intelligence they received from a collaborator inside of FARC.
Pinzón said soldiers started bombing Cano’s rural camp at about 8:30 am. Friday and then landed troops in the area. Once on the ground, authorities knew they were on Cano’s trail because they found his glasses and wallet.
Soldiers managed to surround Cano and a group of his closest followers. As the day wore on, his chief of security was captured and Cano’s “sentimental partner” was killed in the operation, Pinzón said.
Authorities showed a picture of Cano’s body - uncharacteristically clean-shaven - and said it had been positively identified and taken to the city of Popayan.
Troops also recovered seven computers, some 30 memory sticks and more than $107,000 in cash.
Operation Odyssey, as it was called, is just the latest in a string of high-profile attacks on the group. The FARC’s second-in-command, Raul Reyes, was killed in 2008 during a cross-border raid on his camp in Ecuador. The FARC’s top military commander, Jorge “Mono Jojoy” Briceño, was gunned down by authorities in September 2010.
Cano took the helm of the rebel group in 2008, after FARC founder Manuel “Sure Shot” Marulanda died of heart failure.
Usually bearded and bespectacled, Cano became one of the most iconic members of the rebel group. He studied anthropology in Bogotá, and joined the FARC in the 1980s where he became one of its political and ideological leaders. He rose to prominence as he headed failed peace talks in 1991 and 1992
This is thought to be the most serious blow dealt to FARC since a 2008 cross-border raid by Colombia into Ecuador on a guerilla encampment sparked diplomatic tensions with Colombia and Ecuador as well as FARC benefactor Venezuela. Interestingly, current Colombian President Juan Santos was Minister of National Defence at the time of the Ecuador raid.
FARC has been at war with the Colombian government and military for more than 45 years and has increasingly been financing their armed campaigns through kidnappings, extortion and trafficking narcotics.