Mayor in Colombian Guerrilla Stronghold has Brother in FARC

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The mayor-elect of a town in Colombia’s guerrilla heartland reportedly has a brother fighting with the FARC rebels.

In an interview with El Tiempo, Mayor-elect Domingo Emilio Perez Cuellar said that he has had no contact with his brother, one of his 12 siblings, for 10 years.

Perez is a member of the leftist Polo Democratico, Colombia’s only opposition party. He was elected mayor in San Vicente del Caguan, Caqueta. This municipality was the core of a demilitarized zone handed over to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) during the 1999-2002 peace talks.

During InSight Crime’s visit to Caqueta in July 2011, officials identified three FARC fronts and a mobile column operating in the department. Perez’s brother, whom El Tiempo identifies as Fidel Perez, alias “El Grillo,” was not named as a top leader in any of these units.

The 14th, 15th and 49th Fronts are all active in Caqueta. One of the FARC’s most powerful units, the Teofilo Forero Mobile Column, is also active in San Vicente de Caguan. The column was behind the kidnapping of three Chinese oil workers and their translator in June. It is also one of the most aggressive collectors of extortion payments from oil company subcontractors.

The FARC’s strength in Caqueta explains why Perez’s election in San Vicente del Caguan could make some military and businesses interests nervous. Perez has never been charged with links to the FARC.

According to El Tiempo, the mayor-elect’s father was a member of the Patriotic Union (UP), a party founded by the FARC and the Colombian Communist Party in 1984.

A brother of the FARC’s recently slain commander, Guillermo Leon Saenz, alias “Alfonso Cano,” currently serves as a council member in Bogota.

See InSight Crime’s map of FARC units in Caqueta.

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