Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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The Death of Jorge "Mono Jojoy" Briceño and the FARC: A Victory Over Terrorism
The Colombian government just passed an historic milestone in its decades long fight against the FARC - a successful airstrike that killed Jorge Briceño, AKA Mono Jojoy, the group's most successful military commander ever. But he was more than that, and his death is a significant strike against terrorism in Latin America.

Briceño was the architect of the FARC's transition from Marxist insurgency to drug trafficking terrorist organization in the early 1990s as a method of survival. It was Briceño who moved his Southern Front (followed by the rest of the FARC) into kidnapping and an almost-total dependency on cocaine trafficking. He targeted Americans, along with the hundreds of Colombian hostages he plucked off. He was remorseless about the human suffering he caused, viewing it as a cost of war. He was the architect of the FARC becoming a true terrorist organization.

Briceño, who commanded great loyalty among the FARC rank and file, was born into the FARC, and has a brother, German, who is also a senior FARC commander. German, who kidnapped and murdered three Native American activists with the consent of Jorge, has been identified by Colombian authorities as one of the FARC commanders under the protection of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in Venezuelan territory.

As a commander, Briceño pioneered the use bombs made of gas canisters that were used to incinerate rural villages, as well as inflict significant damage on the military. His troops operated with relative impunity in the late 1990s against a weak and demoralized Colombian army rife with corruption and more adept at killing civilians than guerrillas. At one point his front inflicted more than a dozen consecutive defeats on the military.

But the tide turned slowly against the FARC beginning in the early 2000s, in part due to policies engineered by the current president, Juan Manuel Santos, when he was minister of defense. Since March 2008 the FARC has lost four of its seven members of the secretariat, after having lost none in the previous 44 years.

But Briceño could be the most important. He was one of the few FARC commanders that commanded a deep loyalty. He had narrowly escaped several recent capture attempts because, unlike those protecting other senior commanders, his bodyguards maintained the security perimeters and died insuring his escape. He maintained a large, hard camp near the Venezuelan border that was finally destroyed in the bombing run that killed him.

Perhaps more importantly, he was the chief ideologue of the FARC's move to a criminalized force willing to do whatever necessary to keep the movement alive. His scorched earth policies against civilians, alliances with drug traffickers, and cold-blooded kidnapping campaigns marked the path the group followed as it moved ever further from the ideals on which it was founded.

While Alfonso Cano, the FARC's overall commander, is a respected ideologue, it was no secret that Briceño was the military leader of the FARC. His death should further weaken a movement that is largely sustained by cocaine and Hugo Chávez, but that cannot replace his leadership.
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