Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos disclosed a purported internal FARC rebel group message in which a high-ranking guerrilla commander orders his comrades to kill the head of state “by whatever means.”
Santos unveiled the message during a meeting with Nasa Indians on the La Maria reservation in the southwestern province of Cauca, hours after receiving the news from Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón.
The message was sent in the form of an e-mail to a leader of the Northeastern Bloc of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
“(Santos) owes us for Alfonso (Cano) and Jorge (Briceño) and other valued comrades. In this effort, we must spare no resources, contacts or accords. The blood of our men demands a forceful and radical response,” the president said in reading aloud one portion of the text.
Cano, the FARC’s top commander, was killed in a military operation in late 2011 that Santos hailed as the biggest blow to the rebel organization in its nearly 50-year history.
Briceño, a.k.a. “Mono Jojoy,” who was killed in an armed forces operation shortly after Santos took office in 2010, was the rebel group’s second-in-command and top military commander.
The text went on to say “war to the death to the oligarchy that today seeks to decapitate the insurgency by removing its commanders. Under these circumstances, ethics authorizes us to ally ourselves with whomever. We have to unleash all dynamics and initiatives.”
The president revealed the content of the message while engaging in a direct dialogue with the more than 12,000 Nasa people in La Maria.
Santos asked forgiveness for the suffering Colombia’s internal armed conflict has caused in Cauca province, where incessant combat between guerrillas and security forces has prompted the Nasa people to declare themselves in peaceful resistance against “all armed actors.”
“I’ve never considered you guerrillas and I respect the dignity of the indigenous peoples,” the president added, alluding to recent generalizations from some sectors of the political right, including former President Alvaro Uribe, concerning Indians’ alleged links with the rebels.
The Nasa walked away from talks with Interior Minister Federico Renjifo on Sunday and demanded a direct dialogue with Santos, saying their demands for autonomy and sovereignty within the scope of the Andean nation’s decades-long armed conflict must be heard at the highest level.
Colombia’s 1991 constitution guarantees autonomy for the nation’s indigenous peoples and gives them the right to exercise control over their officially designated territories.
Intense fighting in Cauca between government forces and the FARC drove more than 2,800 indigenous and mestizo people from their homes in July.