The war party threatens Colombian and Latin American stability once again

The resumption of the armed conflict in Colombia is threatening the precarious peace process of the Latin American country and regional stability, due to its manipulation by far-right and leftist radicals

The war party threatens Colombian and Latin American stability once again
A Colombian flag reads "No more kidnappings, no more lies, no more deaths, no more FARC" - Photo: Ivan Alvarado/REUTERS
English 06/09/2019 18:02 Gabriel Moyssen Mexico City Actualizada 18:02

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The resumption of the armed conflict in Colombia is threatening the precarious peace process of the Latin American country and regional stability, due to its manipulation by far-right and leftist radicals in order to endorse their own political and economic interests.

Last week, a dissident fraction from the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Popular Army (FARC-EP) commanded by Luciano Marín Arango, better known by his nom de guerre Iván Márquez, surprisingly announced its return to arms, accusing the conservative government of President Iván Duque of betraying the historic peace agreement signed in Havana in 2016.

In a 30-minute video, Márquez stressed that “the second Marquetalia (birthplace of FARC) has begun under the protection of the universal right that assists all of the peoples of the world to raise arms against oppression.”

Accompanied by Jesús Santrich and other leaders, Márquez said that they would seek to coordinate efforts with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the largest remaining insurgent group in the country.

The video marked the first appearance of Márquez in more than one year. The former rebel chief negotiator considered the guerrilla ideologue, as well as FARC’s international spokesman, was last seen in public at the Territorial Reincorporation Zone in Caquetá. Last January, he published a communiqué declaring that the handover of weapons was a “serious mistake” 

For his part, Santrich (his real name is Seuxis Paucias Hernández Solarte) was the head of FARC’s organization and propaganda divisions. After the signing of the peace agreement, he was arrested on drug trafficking charges and released—in spite of Duque’s opposition—in order to enable him to take his seat in Congress.

However, last week Interpol issued a red notice for Santrich, who the United States wants to be extradited for alleged conspiracy to export 10 tonnes of cocaine.

After the rebel announcement, attempting to revive his popularity—64% of Colombians disapproved the government in a recent Gallup poll—Duque has used the bellicose rhetoric of his political patron, former president Álvaro Uribe.

He referred to the security forces as “heroes of the motherland”, and said that “Colombia is united to confront these bandits," contradicting pollsters that indicate most Colombians believe in a negotiated solution to the 50-year long conflict which caused more than 220,000 dead, and nearly seven million displaced.

Immediately, the army launched an offensive against guerrilla groups in seven departments of the country and created an elite corps dedicated to search and capture Márquez. Army commander Nicacio Martínez also confirmed that Mexican drug cartels are trading arms for cocaine with FARC dissidents.

In response to the new developments, most political parties condemned Márquez’ position. Rodrigo Londoño, leader of the political party of FARC, Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, underscored that more than 90% of the former rebels remained committed to the peace process, “despite the obstacles and difficulties ahead.”

Support and refuge

In Caracas, a statement from the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Ministry rejected Duque’s accusations that it had played a role in the breakdown of the peace deal offering “support” and “refuge” to Márquez and Santrich. The Colombian government, it added, has turned a blind eye to human rights violations, including “hundreds of targeted assassinations.”

Former president Juan Manuel Santos, the architect of the Havana agreement, accepted that social leaders promoting land reform have been killed by “people who do not want progress in this point of the deal.”

The 2016 Nobel Peace Prize told BBC in Mexico, days before FARC dissidents' announcement, that even war victims have been demonized, while he faced the “implacable opposition” from Uribe and Duque, who campaigned for the “no” in the referendum to ratify the peace agreement arguing it was too lenient with the insurgency.

As a result, 50.2% of Colombian citizens voted against the agreement, forcing to reopen the negotiations. Afterward, Congress ratified the revised deal on November 29-30, 2016.

During the interview with BBC, Santos—who served as Defense Minister in the Uribe administration—affirmed that the peace processis in a point of no return, irreversible," highlighting the verdict from Colombia’s Constitutional Court banning any modification of the deal in the next three presidential periods (12 years), and the demobilization of 6,000 guerillas.

Nevertheless, as Santos himself admitted, the South American nation’s history is filled with treachery and a constant struggle between far-right landowners, often allied with paramilitary death squads as well as drug traffickers, and progressive politicians.

Under the leadership of Duque and Uribe—he is currently a senator—Colombia has systematically failed to comply with productive projects that were created through the agreement to help the economic and social transition of former combatants.

The threat of Santrich’s extradition to the U.S. symbolized the attacks on the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, which is a transitional justice system with the mandate of investigating, judging, and sentencing all those responsible for crimes committed during the conflict.

Over 800 ex-combatants from FARC, their family members, human rights defenders, trade unionists, and social leaders have been assassinated since 2016 by state and paramilitary forces, while Duque asked the Constitutional Court authorization to resume aerial fumigation of coca leaf and other illicit crops, ignoring the damage to human health and displacement of indigenous communities.

In this context, it should not be forgotten that the brutal period known as The Violence erupted in 1948 after the killing of socialist presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in Bogotá. During the 80s, more than 5,000 members of the Patriotic Union, a legal political party considered close to FARC, were also murdered; numerous leaders from the disbanded M-19 guerrilla group suffered the same fate, including presidential candidate Carlos Pizarro Leongómez.

A year ago, this column addressed the inauguration of Duque, highlighting the enormous challenges ahead for the youngest head of state in Colombia’s recent history. Facing higher unemployment and slower economic growth, the 43-year-old president should be aware that war is not an option in the current post-peace deal scenario.

Unfortunately, the Duque administration appears to be betting for a closing of ranks with the past and intolerance—as the new media law passed in Congress and the end of Noticias Uno, the nation’s most awarded news program demonstrates,—wasting the opportunity to go its own way, just as Santos did for the sake of the Colombian people.

Editing by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen