What happens to FARC now is important. That's because Colombia is a crucial American ally in South America and a bulwark against the leftist populism promoted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his so-called Bolivarian Revolution. Colombia receives hundreds of millions of dollars each year from the United States as part of the counternarcotics initiative called Plan Colombia, which represents Washington's largest sum of foreign aid outside the Middle East and Afghanistan. Many of those funds go to counterinsurgency activities. If FARC folds, it would be a big victory for US aid.
More broadly, what happens to FARC matters because it's emblematic of the global struggle to stop guerrilla forces, either by defeating them militarily or persuading them to join the political process.
In 1999, I interviewed FARC leaders who were participating in a peace process. The group's top military commander, Jorge Briceño, aka Mono Jojoy, explained FARC's devotion to Sureshot, a man responsible for countless acts of violence: "He is our symbol, a legend … our political and military master … the reason why many of us became revolutionaries."
With Sureshot gone, some of that loyalty may be gone, too. Some observers hope that FARC, in desperate straits, would opt to negotiate with the government, which it has in the past. Some are also hoping for defections.