Tuesday 21 November 2017

Top Colombian rebel leader in intensive care after stroke

Rodrigo Londono gives a speech during an act to commemorate the completion of the disarmament process of FARC rebels (AP)
Rodrigo Londono gives a speech during an act to commemorate the completion of the disarmament process of FARC rebels (AP)

The leader of Colombia's largest rebel movement is in intensive care following a stroke, days after his group handed over the last of its individual weapons in a historic peace deal.

Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), checked himself into a hospital emergency room in the city of Villavicencio shortly after 8am on Sunday with slurred speech and numbness in his arm, doctors said.

They said he remained in intensive care as a precautionary measure but his speech and mobility had recovered 90% from what they described as a temporary blockage of blood to his brain.

If there are no complications Londono could be released in the next 24 to 48 hours.

"Of course he's conscious and making jokes," another rebel leader known by his alias Pastor Alape said at a press conference.

Londono, who is in his 50s, has suffered a number of health scares lately, partly the result of a lifetime in jungle trenches.

Recently the FARC confirmed that in 2015 Londono suffered a heart attack during peace negotiations in Cuba and earlier this year, after the deal was signed, had another unspecified medical setback for which he received treatment on the communist-run island.

Alape said initially Londono brushed off the symptoms and had to be convinced by his comrades to undergo medical tests.

"Thank you to everyone who is concerned about my health," Londono said on Twitter.

"Everything is going well. I also thank the medical team for their care."

His latest health scare comes less than a week after Colombia reached a major milestone on its road to peace, with the FARC rebels relinquishing some of their last weapons and declaring an end to their 50-year uprising.

The historic step was taken by Londono, along with Colombia's president Juan Manuel Santos, at a demobilisation camp in Colombia's eastern jungles near Villavicencio.

Though hundreds of FARC caches filled with larger weapons and explosives are still being cleared out, the United Nations has certified that all individual firearms and weapons, except for a small number needed to safeguard the soon-to-disband camps, have been collected.

The step put Colombia closer to turning a page on Latin America's longest-running conflict, which caused at least 250,000 deaths, left 60,000 people missing and displaced more than seven million.

AP

Press Association

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