The leader of a major FARC front has been killed during an aerial bombardment staged by Colombia’s armed forces, the defense minister said Monday.
Virgilo Antonio Vidal Mora, known as “Silver”, was the commander of the 57th front of Colombia’s main rebel group FARC. The guerrilla front controls the border with Panama, one of the main drug-trafficking routes, and allegedly runs cocaine directly to Mexican cartels.
The rebel ringleader was killed in Riosucio, the municipality considered the home of the FARC front.
Silver was considered by authorities to be the most important player in the FARC’s drug-trafficking operation in the area, as well as being behind 70% of the kidnappings in Choco and Antioquia, the departments in which the 57th front operates.
Within the FARC rank and file, Silver was known for his obsession with witchcraft, chanting incantations before battle so that the bullets would pass right through him.
“He says that the enemy’s bullets don’t touch him during combat,” said a former member of the 57th front in an interview with newspaper El Tiempo in June 2012.
“He would walk around draped in lucky charms hanging from chains,” said the former guerilla, who added that at night Silver would bathe in magical concoctions and demand that no one interrupt him.
Silver, who had spent almost 30 years with the FARC, was also renowned for his gluttonous whisky parties and the various women that were shipped in for him from different parts of Antioquia.
At the time of his death the authorities were investigating his links with Mexican drug cartel “Sinaloa”, considered one of, if not the, most powerful drug trafficking organization in the Americas.
It is thought that the 57th front used semi-submersibles built by the FARC’s 30th and 18th fronts to transport cocaine up the Pacific. There have even been reports suggesting that the FARC have been selling drug trafficking franchises in Colombia to the Sinaloa cartel.
In addition to moving cocaine north, the 57th front moves munitions south to Choco, Colombia’s poorest department, and beyond to Cauca. It is already known that the 57th front has links with ruthless neo-paramilitary group “Urabeños”.
As one of the richest units in the FARC – crime analysis website Insight Crime estimates its earnings to be over $50 million a year – the death of Silver represents a major blow for the rebel group, who have been in peace talks with the government since last November.
Apart from Silver, the bombardment caused the death of another guerrilla fighter, who has not yet been identified, and led to the capture of a significant arms and communications cache.
Silver took over the command of the 57th front after its former leader, “El Becerro”, moved to head up the FARC’s 5th front, after the death of its long-time leader, “Jacobo Arango”, on January 31st of this year. Both fronts are part of the Ivan Rios Bloc, currently commanded by Ivan Marquez, chief negotiator for the FARC delegation at the peace talks in Havana, Cuba.
Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos has refused to call a ceasefire during the peace talks, claiming that a ceasefire would merely give the FARC time to regroup and rearm.
- En bombardeo a las Farc, abatido cabecilla del Frente 57 (El Espectador)
- Así cayó el capo de las Farc que le confiaba su vida a la brujería (El Tiempo)
- Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC’s Most Vulnerable Fighting Division (Insight Crime)
- Cayó alias “Silver”, cabecilla del frente 57 de las Farc (El Colombiano)
- Honores por siempre a los mártires del Alto Sinú (Official FARC website)
- US government Extradition Order (Wikileaks)