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FARC commander gives up, calls for dialogue

  • Story Highlights
  • Rebel "Karina" and her male companion surrender
  • Karina was a commander of Colombian rebels
  • She says, "The solution is not through war. There must be dialogue"
  • She says she fears possible retribution from FARC loyalists
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BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- The commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia's Force 47 told reporters in Bogota Monday -- a day after surrendering -- that "the solution is not through war. There must be dialogue."

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Nelly Avila Moreno, center, alias Karina, is escorted by soldiers after surrendering.

Nelly Avila Moreno, 45, whose nom de guerre was Karina, said she and her longtime male companion made the decision jointly to abandon the FARC group, based in the jungle, at 5 a.m. Sunday.

She said pressure from Colombian soldiers had been key to their decision, and she called on her fellow rebels to follow her example.

"I invite them to change the sensibility that is among the guerrillas," she said, seated by her companion, who said nothing during the news conference.

She also had a message for the Colombian people: "It is important to do something for peace in Colombia, and that need to do something is precisely one of my motivations."

After 24 years with the FARC, Karina said she wants to reintegrate with society. "At this moment, what I am thinking about is reuniting with my family and with all of society," she said.

Karina said she had had no contact with the group's leaders for the past two years. During that time, she said, "I was trying to stay alive."

She said she knows nothing about the group's leaders, because "everything in the FARC is very compartmentalized."

Still, she did hear through the news media about the killing by another member of FARC of Ivan Rios, a member of the group's central high command. "We suffered a very strong blow," she said.

She acknowledged that news led her to worry about the possibility that one of her fellow guerrillas might consider doing the same thing to her.

"A person has a lot of combatants alongside, but you don't know what each one is thinking," she said.

Asked about news reports of guerrilla operations she may have participated in, Karina admitted to nothing. "They accuse me of a lot of things I wasn't part of," she said.

But Miguel Antonio Paez told CNN en Espanol that he remembers well the woman who, with a band of guerrillas, stopped the bus he was on in 2004 in northwest Colombia, ordered him and the other passengers off and the bus be burned.

"The commander of that guerrilla group -- a dark-haired woman, tall, with one eye missing -- called herself Karina," he said.

"She ordered me tied up. Here, I have the marks from the wires, and there, while I was tied up, she lopped off my penis and testicles and I remained castrated for all my life."

Asked specifically about the killing of the father of President Alvaro Uribe in 1983, she said she did not know who carried out the act, and added, "I don't have my hands stained in that deed."

She said that with her surrender have come new fears about possible retribution from FARC loyalists, who consider her a traitor.

Wearing a red sweatshirt and what appeared to be a diamond earring in her left ear, she said she once believed the FARC would rule Colombia. "I once dreamed of that," she said.

Gen. Mario Montoya, chief of the army, said two Colombian air force helicopters were sent Sunday to pick up Karina and her companion, who had given authorities their general location.

"With this, we have given a confounding strike to the FARC structure," particularly to Front 47, which at this point is practically dismantled," he said.

Since the killing of Rios, 45 members of the group have laid down their arms and accepted a government plan for reinstallation into society, he said.

"We want to send a message to all members of FARC who persist in the mountains," he said. "To tell them, what Karina has done is the road all the members of FARC should go down. If they don't, we are going to continue combating them. Today, more than ever, I invite them to lay down their arms, take the plan. We don't want them dead. We want them alive."

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