Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias “Timochenko,” is only the third commander-in-chief in the FARC’s nearly 50-year history. Of the three, Timochenko has the most mysterious past.
Some sources say Timochenkois a trained medical doctor, but there is no record of his studies. Most say he hails from Quindio, a coffee-growing province in central Colombia, which saw some of the country’s worst political violence during a decades-long upheaval that began in the 1940s and ended just before groups like the FARC emerged in the mid-1960s.
Timochenko was trained in Cuba and Russia, and his nom de guerre was presumably chosen in honor of Semyon Timoshenko, a famous Soviet general during World War II. Timochenko’s rise through the ranks took place in some of the group’s most important strategic zones of influence. He is believed to have started his career with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the violence-torn province of Antioquia, before moving on to the Magdalena Medio region in central Colombia.
DOB: January 22, 1959
Criminal Activities: Drug trafficking
Status: At large
Area of Operation: Northeastern Colombia
Both of these areas of Colombia saw the guerrillas face tremendous pressure from the military and paramilitary groups in the 1980s. Suspected guerrilla sympathizers were massacred by right-wing paramilitaries of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) and, gripped by paranoia, some local FARC commanders carried out brutal purges within their own ranks, until Timochenko stepped in and took command. This tale fed his reputation as a radical hardliner within the FARC.
By 1993, Timochenko was the head of the FARC’s Magdalena Medio Bloc, which was thought to be one of the toughest guerrilla divisions to command. Soon after, he was named to the Secretariat, the seven-man commanding unit of the organization.
Timochenko is known for his military skills, and although he has some experience managing international contacts in Venezuela, he relies on Luciano Marin, alias “Ivan Marquez,” for the diplomatic and international side, as the latter is head of the FARC’s International Front. Timochenko also reportedly has experience as the rebel head of intelligence and counter-intelligence, something he needs in order to keep an eye on his inner circle.
Timochenko is wanted by US authorities on drug trafficking charges, but the FARC claims that its participation in the drug trade is limited to taxing coca growers.
Since leaving the Magdalena Medio Bloc, Timochenko has operated mostly in the northeast corner of Colombia, along the border with Venezuela. This region has grown in importance for the rebels over the last 15 years for two reasons: the growth of the FARC as a drug trafficking organization, and the emergence of elements in Venezuela as partners in criminal and insurgent activities.
Allies and Enemies
The FARC has alliances with both the National Liberation Army (ELN) and criminal groups known as BACRIM (from the Spanish for “criminal bands”). The FARC has engaged in joint military operations with the ELN and some FARC fronts collaborate with BACRIM in the drug trade.
Under Timochenko’s command, the FARC has entered into the first round of formal peace talks with the Colombian government for over a decade. However, Timochenko has a $5 million bounty on his head from the United States and it remains unclear whether or not US authorities will ask for his extradition if the FARC demobilize.