[Marxism] Colombia’s Former FARC Guerrilla Leader Calls for Return to War

Louis Proyect 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 
against oppression.”

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 
the bargain.

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 
this year.

Mr. Ceballos, the government peace commissioner, said an alliance with 
the ELN was troubling, because the group had reached deeper into the 
drug trade.

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 
staging ground.

“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. 
Ceballos said.

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 
for rebellion.

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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