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| 11/9/2011 11:00:00 AM

A new air

The death of Alfonso Cano, the maximum leader of the FARC, strengthens the image of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and kick the critics that claimed that his style and his agenda opened opportunities for this guerrilla group., 249121

No news could be more important for President Juan Manuel Santos, than the death of Alfonso Cano. Military blows against the guerrillas, or against the drug cartels have always been very positive, more than any other success, for the image of the presidents in Colombia. That’s why the strike against the Farc's top leader last Friday, will produce an immediate increase in the public support of Santos government, and will also strength the consensus among the political forces that accompany him.

Cano's death could not come at a better time for the government. In spite that the two year of Santos as a president have been positive, it was thought that the security issues was its Achilles heel. The increase of the operations by the FARC and the deaths of 27 soldiers in recent weeks, were attributed to the lack of attention of the government in the security field. It is not a coincidence that the president has recently changed his defense minister and the military leadership.

The success of Operación Odiseo, the name of this operation, cancel all these arguments. In fact, as the defense minister of former president Alvaro Uribe, and now as President, Juan Manuel Santos has given the major strikes in history to this guerrilla: he was the one who, in person, received Ingrid Betancourt and the other freed hostages in the Operación Jaque, planned and executed when he was minister. He was also the one that reported to the country that Ivan Rios, another important guerrilla chief, was killed by his bodyguards. He carried out the bombing of Raul Reyes’ camp in Ecuador, where the Farc leader died. And Santos, as commander in chief of the Armed Forces, presided over the operations against alias Mono Jojoy and now Alfonso Cano. The right wing opposition that criticized him for allegedly allowing an erosion of the moral in the troops, ran out of arguments.

From the external viewpoint, the ambitions of President Santos to project Colombia and to strengthen ties with other regions will be more feasible with Cano's death. In an Andean sub-regional context in which the international position of the neighbor countries has been deteriorated by institutional weakness and precarious democracy, Colombia stands out as a nation that is overcoming its old problems and becomes a more stable partner for the foreign capital and political relations.

Juan Manuel Santos, in general, gets a big political boost at a time when his honeymoon with the citizen was running out. The immediate effect is an endorsement of his program: Santos can now defend that the place that the security issue occupies in his speeches, in his agenda and in his foreign policy is enough to continue the successes in the war against the Farc.

The triumph opens new areas to explore other ways to resolve the conflict. It has always been said that negotiations with the guerrillas would be more likely to happen if they are militarily weak. And if the signs that the government has sent about his willingness to seek a political solution are truth, now there are new opportunities. The coincidence of Cano's death with the election of Gustavo Petro, a man who left another guerrilla group 20 years ago and now has just became mayor of Bogotá, highlights that, to fight for the ideas, democracy is more effective than weapons.

The president's reaction to the news was measured. Let’s not forget that just a few months after Jojoy’s death, his security policy was highly criticized. The successes are transitory. What is a fact, is that the requests that some sectors made to the current government to change its speech, its style or its priorities are now obsolete.
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