Rebels Take More Combat Casualties in Colombia
Fresh violence in the north of Colombia’s Antioquia department claimed the lives of at least nine members of the FARC yesterday. Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon says that “the guerrillas slain included the leader of the 37th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The Colombian air force identified him as Luis Enrique Benitez.” The FARC commander had been a member of the guerrilla group for over thirty years.
Meanwhile, security forces stumbled upon what appears to be a FARC cemetery in southern Colombia. Speaking to journalists, General Alejandro Navas said “‘initial reports are that [the number of graves] are numerous, more than 100, we believe they are murdered ‘narcoterrorists,’ shot by firing squad, and even civilians…’ The graves ‘may also contain many disappeared (people) and FARC guerrillas, since it is one of their cemeteries. But also soldiers and kidnapping victims, from whom there was no news,’ Navas said. Five mass graves containing eight bodies have been dug up so far.”
Many have celebrated the advances seemingly made by the Colombian government, first under Alvaro Uribe and now by his successor Juan Manuel Santos, against the FARC in recent years. But as a photo essay at the BBC by Stephen Ferry reminds us, the heavy-handed approach to combating the guerrilla group has come at considerable cost to Colombian society, and continues to. “‘The guerrillas have been hit hard, but the war goes on, the conflict goes on,’ says Ferry. He notes that the…FARC rebels carried out as many attacks in 2011 as in 2002 when they were said to be at the height of their strength.”