Replacing FARC leader “Alfonso Cano,” who was killed by the Colombian army Friday, will be difficult as there is no clear successor and the guerrilla organization may take weeks to resolve its leadership issue.
Colombian analysts broadly agree with Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos that Cano’s death is the biggest blow ever given to the guerrilla organization.
The most difficult part will be to appoint a successor without causing internal conflict, maintain order within the ranks and avoid an increase in individual desertions or separation from the central organization by blocks or fronts.
Political scientist Fernando Giraldo of the Javeriana University in Bogota told Caracol Radio that the comnig two or three weeks are crucial for the guerrilla organization.
Giraldo and his colleague Alejo Vargas expect friction between the FARC’s secretariat about who should assume leadership.
Of the four most likely successors, Vargas expects friction between “Ivan Marquez” and “Timochenko,” both candidates for the leadership, but ideologically divided. Marquez, who has assumed the role of the organization’s “foreign minister” is more political and less radical than Timochenko, who has been leading the feared Bloque Magdalena Medio of the FARC.
According to Vargas, the rivalry between Marquez and Timochenko “is going to cause tensions between the secretariat … This is going to cost time and will be causing conflict,” the analyst told Caracol Radio.
Both leaders have the geographical disadvantage of being in the northeast of the country or even in Venezuela and would need time and a risky journey if they want to reach the area from where Alfonso Cano ran the entire guerrilla organization.
Two other possible successors mentioned by analysts are “Pablo Catatumbo,” commander of the Western Bloc, and “Joaquin Gomez,” commander of the Southern Bloc, who both do not have the geographical disadvantage of their fellow-guerrillas in the northeast.
Gomez is widely considered the FARC’s wealthiest commander because of his control over the FARC’s drug trafficking operations in the Nariño and Putumayo departments and contact with international drug traffickers.
Catatumbo, who was increasingly collaborating with Cano to avoid the supreme leader being captured or killed, has easier access to well-trained fronts and “special forces” units who have been spreading havoc in the Cauca and Nariño departments.
However, according to analyst Alfredo Rangel, none of the four possible successors “has the influence within the guerrilla group” Cano had, which can delay the appointment of a successor, an increase in demobilization, infighting or even a fracture within the group.