Colombian minister says "end" of FARC rebel group is near
The death of the leader and founder of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is "the beginning of the end" of the rebel group and could facilitate the release of its hostages, Colombian Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo said Monday, dpa reported.
"We are starting to see more clearly the end of that organization, because blows and strikes are happening ever faster," Araujo told Peruvian radio station RPP in a phone interview from Bogota.
FARC founder and leader Pedro Antonio Marin, alias Manuel Marulanda, died of natural causes on March 26, at the age of 78, the rebel group confirmed Sunday.
FARC currently holds an estimated 700 hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.
Araujo - who was a hostage of FARC for six years, until he escaped in 2006 - also stressed the importance of the deaths in March of FARC number-two Raul Reyes and Ivan Rios, another member of the group's seven-member leadership.
The minister said since conservative Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was inaugurated in 2002 there has been progress in the fight against rebel groups in Colombia. He said some 10,000 members of FARC have abandoned rebel ranks over that period.
Araujo said the government's policy fights FARC "firmly and successfully" but also "offers (rebels) the chance to demobilize and get from the state the necessary cooperation to be integrated into society."
According to Colombian daily El Tiempo, authorities in Bogota found out last week in intercepted e-mail messages about Marulanda's death from a heart attack.
On Sunday, FARC confirmed the veteran leader's death and announced that a man known as Alfonso Cano had been designated to succeed Marulanda at the helm of the group.