Rogue FARC leader ‘Guacho’ killed in raid
Walter Patricio “Guacho” Arizala Vernaza, one of the most notorious FARC leaders, was shot dead in a joint military and police raid, Colombian President Iván Duque told a national television audience Friday.
The President thanked the police and members of the military for their “heroic” efforts.
“Colombia deserves to breathe more freedom every day. Today many communities in Colombia are going to sleep calm because one of the most horrendous criminals that has known our country has fallen,” Duque said in Medellin.
Arizala Vernaza was a leader of a rogue offshoot of FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. In June his group was blamed for the killings of two journalists for Ecuador’s El Comercio newspaper, Javier Ortega and Paúl Rivas, and their driver, Efraín Segarra. The three were abducted in March.
Arizala Vernaza was one of the most wanted fugitives in Ecuador and Colombia.
In a joint statement, relatives of the slain journalists said they were disappointed that Airzala Vernaza was killed rather than captured.
“After his death, the chances of learning what he knew about what happened with Paúl, Javier and Efraín are now gone,” they said.
“This in no way means that justice has been served in the kidnapping and murder of Diario El Comercio’s journalists,” their families added. “There are still many questions that have not been answered and many doubts that neither Ecuador nor Colombia have been willing to clear.”
The main body of FARC disbanded after signing a peace deal with the government earlier this year.
As part of the peace deal, FARC members agreed to lay down their arms, leave their jungle camps and re-enter Colombian society. The government agreed to give them 10 seats in Congress until 2026.
As long as the new Congress does not make changes to the conditions of the agreement, the new legislators will be able to debate policy proposals but will not have the right to vote.
FARC was formed in 1964 with the aim of overthrowing the government. At one point in the early 2000s, it comprised more than 16,000 troops, though that number dwindled in the next decade.
The group clashed regularly with government troops, and the United States considered FARC a terrorist organization.
FARC also carried out kidnappings. Among the most high-profile kidnappings was that of Ingrid Betancourt, a presidential candidate who was held for six years before being rescued in 2008.