"The symbol of terrorism in Colombia has fallen," said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who ordered the air strike on the jungle guerrilla camp.
Mono Jojoy was a veteran leader who was considered invincible. He masterminded a series of fatal attacks on southern towns and military bases during the 1990s and took hundreds hostage, including Colombian politicians and three U.S. contractors.
What impact the warlord's death will have on the FARC, however, is uncertain and still the subject of hot debate in Colombia. Some are hoping that the warlord's death represents a fatal blow for the FARC, signaling the beginning of the end for the rebel group. Others wonder whether the rebels will soon surrender and come to the negotiating table.
But while most analysts agree the FARC will have difficulty recovering from the loss of such an important military commander, few believe the armed conflict is over. As yet, the leftist rebels show no signs of interest
in peace talks.
The military victory has provided a much-needed boost to the Santos administration. The FARC has pulled off a series of ambushes since Santos' inauguration in early August, killing about 40 Colombian soldiers. The almost-weekly rebel attacks, including the bombing of a local radio station in the capital, Bogotá, sparked concern that the FARC might be making a comeback, and prompted a decline in Santos' approval ratings.
But any doubts about the ability of the hardline Santos government to take on the rebels vanished with the attack that left Mono Jojoy dead.
"For Santos, who was seen to be losing his grip, it was a very important step for him and the government. Mono Jojoy has been a key figure, and a significant power structure was dealt a major blow," said Silke Pfeiffer, an analyst at the Bogotá office of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
While analysts say it is too early to measure the impact of the latest blow on the rebels, most agree that the FARC will resort increasingly to guerrilla warfare tactics, including the use of landmines and other home-made explosive devices as well as hit-and-run operations.
"They will change tactics, work in smaller and more mobile units, use guerrilla warfare and mass forced recruitment," said Pfieffer. "We expect a further fragmentation and criminalization of the FARC."
But according to Pfeiffer, the rebels can regroup. "Mono Jojoy's death will further weaken the FARC for sure, but its command and control structure can still function," She said. "We have seen the FARC transform [in the past]. It has survived the loss of other leaders."
As long as drug trafficking provides a steady flow of money and arms for the FARC and other illegal armed groups, there is little chance for Colombia's conflict to end soon, Pfeiffer argues. "Colombia's quite porous borders means the flow of arms and drugs will continue, and that's what keeps the FARC going and fuels the conflict," she said.
To boost their share of the lucrative cocaine-smuggling trade, the FARC are increasingly forming new alliances with other illegal armed groups and criminal gangs, particularly along Colombia's Pacific coast. These new drug alliances could make Colombia's security situation even more complicated.
For some, the death of Mono Jojoy is the ideal opportunity for Santos to seize the momentum and open the door to peace talks. "Now is the time to open genuine negotiations and bring this long conflict to an end," U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern said in a statement.
For now, however, talks between the government and guerrilla leaders seem remote. Maintaining the uncompromising stance of his predecessor, Santos has reiterated that for any kind of peace talks to begin, the guerrillas must first agree to a ceasefire, put an end to their drug trafficking and release all hostages.
The fact that many Colombians are apathetic about a negotiated solution with the FARC, who have lost any political legitimacy and support they may have enjoyed in the past, also makes talks unlikely under current circumstances.
The Santos government remains bent on a military offensive that aims to leave the rebels no option but to come to the negotiating table. This includes hunting down the No. 1 FARC commander, Alfonso Cano, who is thought to be hiding in mountains to the far west of Bogotá.
While the military offensive against the FARC continues in full swing, a spiral of drug-fueled crime in Colombia's major cities, in particular Medellin, is becoming an urgent problem for the Santos government.
Other government priorities include pushing through major legislative reforms, including a land-reform bill to return stolen land to millions of people displaced by illegal armed groups. That measure is being hailed as a landmark initiative to tackle the country's long-running land tenure problem. If the bill is approved, the government says it plans to return 5 million acres of seized land to approximately 3 million people over the next four years.
The government is also proposing a justice bill that would allow Colombians who have suffered at the hands of state agents, rebels or right-wing paramilitary groups to claim compensation from the government. "If the bill passes, it would be a major step in broadly recognizing the rights of all victims," said Pfieffer.
Whether or not the ambitious reforms get passed, the government of Juan Manuel Santos will be remembered for delivering the hardest blow to the guerrilla insurgency in its history.
**Anastasia Moloney is a Bogotá-based journalist and a World Politics Review contributing editor. She has lectured on U.S. foreign policy in Latin America at the Javeriana University in Bogotá. Her coverage of Colombian politics, education, human rights and culture has appeared in the London Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the Times Higher Education Supplement and the Times Educational Supplement, among other publications.