Insurgent Leader Killed in Colombian Military Operation

The Colombian military confirmed the death of Rodrigo Cadete in early February. Cadete was one of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leaders who refused to accept the terms of a peace treaty agreed to by the government in 2016. According to BBC, Cadete was killed in an operation in the southern Caqueta region of the country, along with nine other rebels.

Cadete, whose real name is Edgar Mesías Salgado Aragón, was considered second-in-command of the FARC troops that refused to demobilize. He was involved with the peace treaty negotiation for four years before its completion but was allegedly unsatisfied with the final outcome and refused to sign the agreement. According to the Spectator, Colombian Defense Minister Guillermo Botero said Cadete was planning to unite a smaller group of around 1,700 FARC members who have not abided by the peace treaty, in the hopes of reigniting conflict across the country.

With Cadete’s death, the Colombian military achieved another victory over the FARC dissidents in a short timespan: in just over a month and a half, two key players of the rebel group have been killed. According to InSight Crime, Walter “Guacho” Arizala, who commanded FARC troops on the country’s Pacific coast, was killed in combat in late December.

Despite these bloody encounters, however, the 2016 peace treaty is still hailed as a historic precedent for Colombia. In a country with an extensive violent history of militia fighting, experts called it extraordinary that around 7,000 rebels laid down their weapons after the signing. According to the Guardian, the accord was described as “the start of the construction of peace.”

Nevertheless, recent events appear to paint a bleaker picture. Along with the armed conflict between FARC and the military, terrorist bombings are fairly frequent in Colombia; on January 18, for instance, a car-bomb killed 21 people at a Bogotá police academy campus. According to CBS News, the incident led to three days of national mourning, with President Ivan Duque denouncing the “dementia of these aggressions” following the attack.

Militia-based violence continues to terrorize Colombian citizens despite a recent decrease in overall homicide rates in the country. According to a new United Nations report, as of January 1, 85 FARC rebels had been killed since the signing of the peace treaty; 14 of those killings occurred in the last three months.

According to Al Jazeera, Colombia’s special investigation unit has blamed the “illegal armed groups and criminal organizations” for these deaths, but UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also warned Duque against multiple killings of social activist leaders in areas abandoned by the militias.

Duque, who has previously spoken against the peace treaty signed by his predecessor, however, appeared content with the result of the military operations against the FARC. According to BBC, at an event in Manizales, Duque said, “Today in a seamless operation the criminal known as Rodrigo Cadete, one of the most feared figures of terrorism in our country, was neutralized.”