FARC leader is ill but not dying: Colombia

February 22nd, 2009 - 5:35 am ICT by IANS  

Bogota, Feb 22 (IANS) Colombia has dismissed the report that the country’s rebel guerrilla group chief is dying of serious illness in southern forests, EFE reported Saturday.
US newspaper El Nuevo Herald reported Friday that Jorge Briceno Suarez, the military head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is waiting his death in a clandestine camp in the Colombian jungles due to lack of treatment for chronic diabetes.

“Everything is true except that he (Suarez) is dying; we in intelligence don’t have information about that,” Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos said, confirming that the rebel leader is seriously ill.

“We know that he’s ill, finished, surrounded and harassed because the military pressure on him is relentless, but we don’t have information that he’s dying,” Santos said.

The paper quoted judiciary sources confirming that Suarez “is dying (and) cut off at his camp in the jungles of southern Colombia.”

According to the sources, the guerrilla leader has been in a grave state of health for two years and his condition has recently deteriorated to the point that it is now “terminal”.

“He’s nothing but bones … he doesn’t have food or medicine and his people have to carry him when they have to move him to another camp,” the sources told the daily.

According to the daily, the FARC leader is protected by two security cordons made up exclusively of veteran combatants who enjoy his fullest confidence and “a lot of women”.

The FARC is the largest rebel guerrilla group in Colombia operating in a large swathe of the southeastern Colombia.

However, experts believe the efforts of US-backed President Alvaro Uribe have left the FARC, which has fought a decades-old revolution against a succession of Colombian governments, reeling and more isolated than ever in remote jungle regions.

The organisation’s top leader and founder Manuel ‘Sureshot’ Marulanda died of an apparent heart attack last March and just weeks after another top member, Raul Reyes, was killed in a cross-border military air strike in Ecuador.

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