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LATIN AMERICA | 18-07-2022 14:19

Colombian forces kill FARC dissident leader

Death of rebel leader Nestor Vera described by Colombian government as “final blow” to FARC.

Colombian forces have killed top FARC dissident leader Nestor Vera in a raid the government said Friday had dealt the "final blow" to the movement.

Vera, aka Iván Mordisco, died with nine other rebels in a raid in the country's southwest last week, according to Defence Minister Diego Molano.

"The last major leader of the FARC has fallen and a final blow has been dealt to the dissidents," the minister told reporters.

Hundreds of dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have continued fighting after their comrades lay down arms under a 2016 peace accord that ended more than half a century of armed conflict.

Vera, one of Colombia's most wanted men, recently took command of a group of some 2,000 dissidents, the so-called Armando Rios front, after the presumed death of leader "Gentil Duarte."

Colombian intelligence believes Duarte died in fighting with a drug gang in neighbouring Venezuela in May.

A reward of US$700,000 had been on offer for information on the whereabouts of Vera, one of Colombia's most wanted men.

According to General Luis Fernando Navarro, some 500 soldiers were deployed in the Colombian jungle several weeks ago on a mission to find Vera, who was ultimately killed with his comrades in an air force-led operation on July 8.


'Fundamental blow'

His nine companions included Vera's partner, known as "Lorena," and two other women.

Just months before the 2016 agreement was signed, Vera became the first FARC leader to renounce the peace process with several of his subordinates.

Despite the agreement, Colombia has seen a flare-up of violence due to fighting over territory and resources among the dissidents, the hold-out ELN rebel group, paramilitary forces and drug cartels.

The government says Vera and his fighters were engaged in a fierce dispute over drug trafficking routes with another dissident faction called Segunda Marquetalia, led by former FARC chief Iván Márquez.

Márquez had signed the 2016 peace pact only to take up arms again, in 2019.

Bogotá says Márquez was injured in a recent attack in Venezuela, and is hospitalised there, though Caracas insists this is mere speculation.

"Today in Colombia there are none of the leaders, the big capos of the former FARC... it is a fundamental blow to the plans they had for regeneration," Molano said after Vera's death.

Police released a photo of a green beret with a red star pin and hammer-and-sickle which is presumed to have belonged to the late dissident and was found in the area of operation.

"The structure of 'Iván Mordisco' was one of the worst threats to Colombia, and has been destroyed by the heroes of our security forces," President Iván Duque said on Twitter.

With no unified command, FARC dissident fighters are thought to number some 5,200 scattered around the country, according to the Indepaz monitoring group.

They are financed mainly by drug trafficking and illegal mining.

More than 80 percent are new recruits who were never FARC members, according to Indepaz.


– TIMES/AFP

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by AFP / Juan Sebastian Serrano

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