An ex-FARC commander said in 2006 that “Alfonso Cano,” now the supreme leader of the guerrilla group, would never negotiate, but that “Ivan Marquez” wanted peace, according to a WikiLeaks cable released by Colombian newspaper El Espectador.
In the diplomatic cable dated June 21, 2006, former FARC commander alias “Nicolas” said, “Mono was pragmatic only because he doesn’t believe in negotiation; he’s a man of action. Cano would never negotiate, for the opposite reason, that he’s too political … Ivan Marquez would be disposed to peace. He said that after 40 years of fighting it’s time to end it but without betraying Marxist principles … The Army should get Cano and Mono, to allow Marquez to breathe and lead.”
Marquez is thought to be in line to succeed Alfonso Cano, who became supreme leader in 2008 after the death of the long-serving head and founder of the FARC Manuel Marulanda. Mono Jojoy was killed last year in an aerial bombardment by Colombia’s armed forces.
The cable speaks at length about the FARC’s ideological position in 2006 and how it had changed from a “Stalinist to a Social Democratic platform,” according to former Peace Commissioner Camilo Gonzalez, who added, “The FARC define themselves as Marxists but their agenda is not.”
Nicolas concurred with Gonzalez, stating that the FARC were at the time most concerned with seeing the illegal land gains made by the paramilitaries reversed in order to address social inequalities in Colombia.
Due to the mellowing of political rhetoric from the FARC, the arena for peace talks was apparently more accommodating, according to Nicolas, although he said that military pressure from the government should continue in order to show the FARC that they could not succeed with violence.
The role of the U.S. in possible peace talks is also emphasized in the cable, with Marulanda stating in a January 2006 communique that because of the North American country’s involvement in Colombia’s conflict, the route to peace must pass through the U.S.
Nicolas echoed this sentiment along with the then-Reparations Commission Chair Eduardo Pizarro. Both said that an international presence at the negotiation table is exactly what the FARC wants as recognition of its relevance. Furthermore, they said that the U.S. had benefits to gain from negotiations in the form of possible extradition of prominent guerrillas.
Though the talk of peace is prominent in the cable, then-U.S. Ambassador William B. Wood ends the cable with a degree of scepticism based on past FARC actions in relation to peace talks, stating that the atmosphere was wary about the FARC’s intentions.
Last year it was revealed in a separate cable that former President Alvaro Uribe secretly sought peace talks with the FARC and ELN during his second term, though without success.
On Tuesday, President Juan Manuel Santos reiterated his call for the FARC to cease all terrorist activities and release the remaining hostages, adding that peace will be achieved in the country “by reason or by force.”