Brigadier General Juan Pablo Rodriguez, commander of the Colombian army’s 5th Division, who is currently leading the search for the FARC leader, told the paper “there are a lot of women, who due to their criminal capacity have earned the confidence of the guerrilla leader.”
The capture last Sunday of a female rebel leader known as “Araceli” in the border region between the south-west departments of Cauca and Huila along with the death of “Mayerly” one week ago in Las Hermosas Canyon, central Colombia, have been seen as significant steps towards dismantling the group’s central command.
The loss of “Araceli” constitutes a particularly serious blow to Cano’s security network. The rebel, accused of killing three policeman and two teachers in the Cauca region as well as further counts of extortion and murder, operated Cano’s third security ring and was responsible for ensuring the guerrilla leader’s safe access along a corridor in the region stretching from Marquetalia to the Black River, which has for a long time stood as a FARC stronghold.
According to the newspaper, “Araceli”, – real name Rubiela Patiño – joined the rebel group aged sixteen years old. However, it was the “harshness and cold manner” which characterized her 25 years as a militant, that ensured her swift rise up the ranks. On her capture, Araceli was leading of the FARC’s 66th Front, having been appointed to the position following the death, during operation “alchemy” of her former commander and lover, known by the alias “William.”
General Rodriguez said Mayerly’s “criminal capacity coupled with her boldness and skill in detonating explosives” made her an obvious choice for Cano’s security team. The rebel was responsible for a raid in the town of Roncesvalles, Tolima in 2000, which killed thirteen policemen.
Rodriguez also identified a further figure known as “Yaritza” or “La Mona,” said to be the wife of fellow guerilla “Pablo Catatumbo,” who was a nurse at the Central Joint Command of the FARC. The guerrilla, who was killed in an army raid in January, was tasked with convincing local families to surrender their children for training as FARC insurgents. Rodriguez said Yaritza herself had spent twelve of her 29 years in armed combat.
For now, operations to close down Cano’s inner circle are focused on a FARC member known as “Vicky,” who is responsible for the movement’s political activities in Tolima. General Rodriguez told El Tiempo that he is hopeful that operations may result in her capture soon.