Colombia’s Armed Forces have retracted previous claims that the Army had killed of one of the FARC rebel group’s top military leaders, acknowledging that the announcement was “premature”.
According to National Police Commander General Rodolfo Palomino, the man killed in a military operation Saturday was not in fact Alfredo Alarcon, alias “Ramon Ruiz,” but the chief of his security, a one Oscar Dario Posada, alias “Oscar Timo.”
Palomino apologized for statements made Saturday claiming the death of Ruiz, the commander of the FARC’s 18th Front, one of the largest blocs in Colombia’s largest rebel army.
The general said the results of DNA testing had not yet come in when he told Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzon that Ruiz had been neutralized. Santos, who had put out a $500,000 reward on Ruiz’s head, called the kill a “big blow” to the FARC, with whom the Santos government has been negotiating since November 2012.
It’s unclear what, if any, effect the announcement will have on Sunday’s presidential elections. Santos has drawn criticism from hardline opponent Oscar Ivan Zuluaga over his handling of peace talks, which Zuluaga says have been overly favorable to the FARC.
Ruiz’s kill might have given a campaign boost to Santos, who has been characterized as soft on the guerrillas, despite the litany of high-level FARC commanders killed during his presidency.
The FARC’s 18th Front is an important fighting unit for the rebels, active in the north of the central state of Antioquia and south of the northern state of Cordoba. It is one of the fronts working most closely with fellow rebel group ELN, with whom the FARC reached a deal to jointly fight the building of a hydroelectric dam in the municipality of Ituango.