Until his death in September 2010, Victor Julio Suarez Rojas, alias “Mono Jojoy,” was the top military commander of Colombian rebel group the FARC, head of the feared Eastern Bloc and a member of the rebel’s top command, the Secretariat.
In many circles, he was considered the guerrillas’ number two and was respected within the organization for his military strategies and prowess. As Eastern Bloc commander, Mono Jojoy was responsible for the activities of four FARC mini-blocs that operate in the Eastern Plains of Colombia. His death left a giant void for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Mono Jojoy joined the FARC at age 12. He worked his way up to be squad leader and later a company commander. His fearless approach caught the eye of the guerrillas’ top commander, Pedro Marin, alias “Manuel Marulanda” or “Tirofijo,” who became his tutor and was responsible for his meteoric rise through the ranks.
Mono Jojoy later created a school to train special units who use Vietnam-style tactics. He is also recognized for participating in several important attacks on military bases in the southern and eastern parts of Colombia during the mid-1990s, which changed the face of the Colombian war. For a time, he even tried “liberate” zones, a tactic famously used by rebels from El Salvador’s FMLN, albeit unsuccessfully.
Mono Jojoy Factbox
DOB: February 5, 1953
Criminal Activities: Drug trafficking, kidnapping, extortion
Status: Killed in September 2010
Area of Operation: Colombia’s Eastern Plains Region
Mono Jojoy was at the center of the FARC’s drug trafficking activities. In addition to lording over much of the country’s coca production, many FARC fronts under Mono Jojoy’s command created their own drug distribution networks in Venezuela and Brazil. Colombian authorities believe he was also in charge of the group’s hostages and kidnapping businesses, and he stood accused of ordering the kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt and three US contractors in 2002 and 2003 respectively.
At the time of his death there were 62 arrest warrants against the rebel leader in Colombia. Among the charges were drug trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, rebellion and terrorism, and forced recruitment of children. He was also implicated in the 2003 bombing of El Nogal, a posh social and sports club in Bogota, which left 36 people dead and another 100 injured. The US government had requested his extradition to face charges of drug trafficking and murder.
Mono Jojoy commanded the FARC’s Eastern Bloc, which operates in the Eastern Plains region of Colombia near the border with Venezuela.
Allies and Enemies
The FARC have alliances with both the National Liberation Army (ELN) and criminal groups known as BACRIM (from the Spanish for “criminal bands”). The FARC have engaged in joint military operations with the ELN and some FARC fronts collaborate with BACRIM in the drug trade.
Mono Jojoy suffered from diabetes, leading to his constant search for insulin, a factor that helped authorities locate and bomb his encampment in September 2010.