[Marxism] Colombia’s Former FARC Guerrilla Leader Calls for Return to War
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 30 07:40:00 MDT 2019
(Despite the NYT's bias against guerrillas as well as the political
dead-end of the FARC and ELN, this article is worth reading.)
NY Times, Aug. 30, 2019
Colombia’s Former FARC Guerrilla Leader Calls for Return to War
By Nicholas Casey and Lara Jakes
MEDELLÍN, Colombia — A former top commander of Colombia’s largest rebel
group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, vowed a return to war and issued
a new call to arms on Thursday, almost three years after the rebels
signed a peace deal to disarm.
The commander, whose real name is Luciano Marín but is known by the
alias Iván Márquez, said in a video that his group, known as the FARC,
would return to fighting because of what he called the government’s
violations of the peace agreement.
The announcement could signal a shattering of the agreement, which ended
a war that lasted 52 years, displaced millions from their homes, and
left at least 220,000 dead.
Mr. Márquez was a crucial part of the peace talks three years ago, and
now, by turning away from the deal, he could have an equally important
role in tearing it apart.
By unifying dissident fighters and reaching out to Colombia’s most
violent rebel group, the National Liberation Army or ELN, which has made
inroads in crisis-ridden Venezuela, Mr. Márquez and other FARC leaders
could embolden drug traffickers and significantly destabilize the region.
“Today the risk is returning to armed, political conflict,” said Ariel
Ávila, the deputy director of the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, a
Colombian research group. “What we had hoped to see was an end to
politics justifying violence — now we are looking at a new guerrilla war.”
In the video, Mr. Márquez called for “a new phase of the struggle” for
the group under “the universal right that all people have to raise arms
In the video, Mr. Márquez appears alongside two rebel commanders whose
whereabouts had been unknown. All appeared armed and in uniform, flanked
by rebels in what seemed to be a new guerrilla camp in the jungle.
The call to arms marked one of the biggest blows yet to the accords
signed by the FARC in Cuba, which raised hopes for a lasting peace when
the rebels initially disarmed and reorganized as a political party. But
the agreement was steadily undercut as both the government and former
fighters failed to make good on their promises to each other.
[Although Colombia’s peace deal promised a new era, at least 500
activists and community leaders have been killed.]
In a statement Thursday, President Iván Duque of Colombia vowed to stop
Mr. Márquez, saying that the country “will not accept threats of any kind.”
Mr. Duque described Mr. Márquez not as a revolutionary leader, but as
part of a “band of narco-terrorists,” seeking to enrich themselves with
drug profits while “shielding themselves with fake ideological clothing
to hold up their criminal structure.”
Colombia’s top official for peace implementation, Miguel Ceballos, also
downplayed Mr. Márquez’s call to arms, saying he only represented a
small faction of the former rebels and that his main goal was to
re-establish a narcotics network and evade drug trafficking charges at
home and in the United States.
Mr. Ceballos said government officials had begun to suspect the new
movement was afoot as far back as April 2018, when Mr. Márquez stopped
complying with obligations under the transitional justice tribunal,
established as part of the peace accord.
“These guys are going to destroy the peace process if they go on in
creating this kind of group,” Mr. Ceballos said. “Because they are
against the peace process and against their own people who are committed
to the process.”
Mr. Ceballos expressed confidence that the vast majority of former FARC
soldiers, including Rodrigo Londoño, who is known as Timochenko and was
the guerrillas’ former commander, would remain committed to the
reconciliation process. He said he had spoken to Mr. Londoño as recently
as Monday about ensuring peace in elections on Oct. 27.
But many former FARC members who have committed to the peace deal and
are living as civilians have repeatedly expressed fears, echoing Mr.
Márquez’s criticism, that the government is not holding up its end of
Many, arguing the government was not protecting them, have already
joined the dissidents, taking up arms to fight paramilitary groups out
of fear for their safety. At least 120 rebels have been killed since the
peace deal was signed.
Some estimate the number of fighters at 3,000, between new recruits and
veterans who have picked up arms again.
Mr. Márquez on Thursday laid blame on the government and returned to the
Marxist language of class struggle championed by his movement.
“This is a continuation of the guerrilla struggle in response to the
state’s betrayal of the Havana accords — it’s the march of Colombia’s
poor, ignored and despised, toward justice, which glimmers in the hills
of the future,” he said.
Mr. Márquez appeared to offer olive branches to some Colombians, saying
his group would not attack soldiers or police officers who were
“respectful to popular interests,” and would renounce kidnappings for
ransom as a source of income.
He indicated, however, that he had plans to work with the country’s most
violent rebel groups, such as the ELN, which the authorities blame for a
car bombing that killed 22 people, including the bomber, in the capital
Mr. Ceballos, the government peace commissioner, said an alliance with
the ELN was troubling, because the group had reached deeper into the
The ELN also has made use of the political and economic instability in
neighboring Venezuela to expand into its territory. More than half of
the ELN’s members — about 2,400 fighters — are now based in western
Venezuela, he said, including two of its top commanders: Antonio Garcia
and Gustavo Aníbal Giraldo Quinchía, known as Pablito.
The group now controls sections of the border with Colombia, raising
worries that the insurgency could become a broader, regional conflict.
Mr. Ceballos accused President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela of supporting
both Mr. Márquez and the ELN and letting them use the border as a
“There is a direct link between the dictator, Maduro, and these groups
that are trying to affect our democracy and our rule of law,” Mr.
Elliott Abrams, the State Department’s special envoy to Venezuela, also
described a “significant” dissident FARC and ELN presence in Venezuela,
and that it had received the help and cooperation of Mr. Maduro’s
The guerrilla groups are “deeply engaged” in drug trafficking, with a
direct effect on the United States, Mr. Abrams said on Thursday.
But he also expressed concerns about the guerrillas’ ability to
destabilize security in the region, which could force more people to flee.
“Of course it would hurt the security situation in western Venezuela and
in Colombia,” Mr. Abrams told reporters at the State Department in
Washington. “That in itself is likely to mean greater flows of migrants
out of Venezuela, into Colombia and then other South American countries.”
More than four million Venezuelans have fled their country’s economic
collapse — and many have sought refuge in Colombia, straining its resources.
“It’s a great concern,” Mr. Abrams said. “The regime in Caracas seems to
be fomenting this kind of activity, in essence turning over parts of the
country to the ELN.”
Mr. Márquez remains a powerful figure among former rebels, and his call
for a new war has been long feared in Colombia. He expressed doubts
about making peace with the government even as talks were underway, and
after the deal was signed he disappeared from public view, refusing to
take a Senate seat promised to the rebels in an apparent rejection of a
crucial part of the deal.
Many Colombian voters became disenchanted with the deal as well, at
first voting against it in a referendum and then electing President
Duque, whose right-wing party has argued that the agreement was too soft
on the rebels and needed to be changed.
Since taking office, Mr. Duque has proposed an overhaul of a special
justice system the rebels had accepted, on the condition that their
confessions would not result in jail sentences. Mr. Duque’s proposal
raised concerns that the new president was seeking to imprison commanders.
These concerns were heightened when Mr. Duque called for Jesús Santrich,
a former commander who had been jailed on drug trafficking charges, to
be reimprisoned after the country’s top court ordered him released for
lack of evidence. Mr. Santrich had also vanished from public view.
On Thursday he appeared again — this time alongside Mr. Márquez, calling
Two former officials who had negotiated the deal for the government,
Sergio Jaramillo and Humberto de la Calle, issued a statement condemning
Mr. Márquez’s call to arms, saying that a majority of guerrillas had
chosen civilian life.
They also said the government shared the blame, however.
“Again and again, we told the government that its permanent attacks on
the peace process and the risk to legal stability that come with it,
could push commanders to make wrong decision,” they said.
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