New Colombia rebel chief blasts president

AP News
Posted: Nov 21, 2011 12:33 PM
New Colombia rebel chief blasts president

The new leader of Colombia's main rebel army is accusing President Juan Manuel Santos of gloating over the combat death of his predecessor, and says the guerrillas won't be intimidated.

"We will all die, Santos, all of us," Timoleon Jimenez says in his first message as commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. "But this business of flaunting power and acting threatening and brutal can't win anyone's sympathies."

"History shows us that the great majority of human beings consider this type of braggadocio to be repugnant," Jimenez says in the message posted Sunday on the Internet site of the Agencia Bolivariana de Prensa, which often carries guerrilla statements.

Jimenez, 52, tells Santos that the military's Nov. 4 killing of the previous rebel chief, Alfonso Cano, will backfire.

"The FARC are thousands and thousands of revolutionaries who cope with the most difficult conditions because they believe in their cause," he says, reminding Santos that they have been at it for a half century.

Largely a peasant army, the FARC recruits in region's where the state's presence is weak and where there is great resentment over the high concentration of land ownership in the hands of the few.

Jimenez, whose given name is Rodrigo Londono, was named leader of the FARC's ruling seven-man secretariat the day after Cano's death.

In the aftermath of the military strike on Cano, Santos has repeatedly called on the rebels, who number about 8,000 fighters, to lay down their arms. He has called Cano's killing the most important blow ever against the FARC, though he has cautioned against triumphalism.

Last week, he publicly suggested Jimenez "think about it or very soon he will meet the same fate as Alfonso Cano."

Santos has said he is open to negotiating with the FARC but it must first prove itself serious about a truce by halting such actions as the kidnapping of civilians.

The FARC has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years, including the violent deaths of four secretariat members since February 2008.