Colombia's Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos announced Sept. 3 army troops have killed Tomas Medina Caracas AKA "Negro Acacio," a top commander in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), wanted in the US on drug trafficking charges since 2002. The US accuses Medina of being the top contact for the guerilla organization's globe-spanning drug deals—including receipt of some 10,000 AK-47s, purchased in Jordan by arms traffickers thought to be working with then-Peruvian spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos.
The announcement came days after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in a meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, agreed to mediate the release of 45 hostages held by the FARC. Raul Reyes, FARC second-in-command, confirmed to the Mexican newspaper La Jornada that talks on a swap of prisoners and hostages would go ahead: "That is the way we have to go. That will be a historic meeting. It is a meeting that is needed for the good of the entire region, and particularly the Colombian people, who are victimized by the policies of the current government."
Reyes said the rebels were very interested in meeting Chavez, but the head of the FARC, Manuel Marulanda, said the meeting still needed to be arranged. The hostage issue has brought together what AFP calls South America's "oddest couple"—the right-wing, pro-US Uribe and the left-populist Chavez, who have often squabbled about territorial incursions by guerillas and paamilitaries. (AFP, Sept. 4)
Local authorities reported that FARC guerillas torched 45 homes in retaliation for the slaying of Medina in the town of Arará, Vichada department, where the rebel leader was gunned down. (Notimex, Sept. 4)
Meanwhile, the the Greater Community Council of the Integral Campesino Association of Atrato (COCOMACIA) in Chocó department report that guerillas of the FARC's 34th Front kidnapped a founder of the organization, Juana Padilla Mena, 63, in a raid on her home Aug. 30. Rodrigo Rodrigues Cordoba, a lay worker with the local Catholic Diocese of Quibdó, was taken along with her. COCOMACIA is demanding their immediate release, and that all armed groups "respect our community autonomy." (COCOMACIA statement, Sept. 3, via Colombia Indymedia)