Nelly Ávila Moreno AKA Karina, commander of the FARC’s 47th Front, surrendered to agents of Colombia’s Administrative Security Department (DAS) May 18 in Sonsón, Antioquia. Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos called it an “important blow” against guerilla organization. Karina was “nearly dying of hunger” when she and another guerrilla, “Michin,” handed themselves in, Santos said. The surrender is a coup for President Alvaro Uribe, who made her a priority target for the security forces and put an $800,000 reward on her head. A military ring had been closing in on Karina for months. Two weeks ago, Uribe sent a public message to Karina, guaranteeing her safety if she turned herself in.
Authorities said many businessmen and ranchers suffered extortion, kidnapping and murder at Karina’s hands in Antioquia department and especially its northern region of Urabá—a key battleground between the guerillas, army and paramilitaries. Karina was attached to the FARC’s Urabá-based 5th Front in the ’90s, and was promoted to command of the 47th Front in southeast Antioquia in 1998. Authorities say she participated in several massacres of suspected paramilitary collaborators in Urabá: at La Chinita in 1994; at Churidó, Apartadó municipality, in 1995; at Carepa in 1995; and at Finca Osaka, also in Carepa municipality, in 1996. She faces charges of rebellion, kidnapping and multiple counts of homicide.
Karina, in her 40s, has lost an eye in combat, has scars across her face and a bullet wound on one of her arms. “We have been after this woman who did such damage to Antioquia and the whole region of Urabá for a long time,” Santos told RCN Radio. (BBC, El País, Cali, May 19; El Tiempo, Bogotá, May 18)
Two top FARC leaders, Raul Reyes and Iván Ríos, have been killed this year, marking an unprecedented reversal for Latin America’s oldest guerilla group.