FARC Boss Reappears on Film, Disproving Reports of Death

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High-ranking FARC commander alias “Fabian Ramirez,” who was thought to have died in a bombing raid in 2010, has reappeared with an interview in which he claims to want peace with the Colombian government.

Caracol published an interview with the rebel boss by independent journalist Karl Penhaul (see video of extracts below).

In the interview, Fabian Ramirez, whose real name is Jose Benito Cabrera, claims that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) want to end the war. He says that lower ranking soldiers also want it to end, but that the government and the military leadership have economic interests in carrying on with the “war business.”

“We must end the war,” Ramirez told Penhaul. “But the government is not so interested in that. They blame the guerrilla, they blame other things.”

Ramirez said that there should be a peace deal without conditions imposed by the government: “They shouldn’t just say, ‘Hand over your arms and stop attacking the security forces.’ It’s not like that. Here, to finish the war, we must end the causes of the war.”

The guerrilla commander, who led some of the FARC’s most historic victories against the army in the 1990s but is also charged by the United States with trafficking cocaine, also spoke of humanizing the conflict, and confirmed that the FARC have ceased kidnapping for economic gain, though he said they would not stop detaining members of the security forces, as they are prisoners of war.

InSight Crime Analysis

President Juan Manuel Santos announced the guerrilla leader’s “apparent” death in November 2010, after his personal possessions were found in the debris of an air force raid on a FARC camp. However, in June the following year the armed forces said that Fabian Ramirez was likely still alive, based on intelligence from demobilized guerrillas. InSight Crime’s sources said that Ramirez went to Ecuador to recover from wounds he received in the bombing. He heads the FARC’s Southern Bloc.

The FARC leadership rarely gives interviews to the press. This, and the fact that Ramirez chose to end any doubts over whether he was alive, suggests that the rebels thought there was significant strategic gain to be made through the interview.

Ramirez’s statements were designed to promote the rebels’ position that they are trying to make peace with an uncooperative government, and that they are respecting human rights by ending kidnapping for ransom. It is highly unlikely that the government will give in to his demand for a peace without conditions, as they have repeatedly stated that the FARC must cease attacks and kidnapping before talks can begin.

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