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.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has set aside $100 million for rebels who leave FARC, and he's indicated they'd receive some sort of amnesty. FARC currently holds about 700 hostages, including three US military contractors, and Ingrid Betancourt, a Franco-Colombian kidnapped while campaigning for president.
A big question is what FARC's new leader, Guillermo Sáenz, aka Alfonso Cano, will decide to do next. Intelligence officials noted that the group was deciding between Mr. Cano, whom some see as an ideologue, and Mono Jojoy, who is considered a tough military strategist.
Cano's background is quite different from that of Sureshot, who was from poor, rural origins. The son of an engineer and a teacher, Cano studied anthropology, was a student activist, and started as a leader of the Communist Party. Considered a hard-liner, he was not very actively involved in the most recent negotiations that took place between 1998 and 2002. FARC has been accused of using those talks as a smokescreen to strengthen its forces.