Former FARC commanders announce return to arms

By bogotapost August 29, 2019

Former peace negotiator Iván Márquez announces the ‘armed struggle’ will continue.

Iván Márquez accuses the government of failing to keep its promises. Photo: FARC-EP

FARC leader Iván Márquez announced the return to combat of a group of key former guerrillas after accusing the government of “failing to keep its promises and failing to protect the lives of citizens.”

Márquez, surrounded by about 20 former FARC members holding guns and dressed in combat fatigues, said in the video that “We were never beaten, nor defeated ideologically, which is why the struggle continues.”

“When we signed the peace agreement in Havana, we did it with the conviction that it was possible to change the lives of the poor and the dispossessed,” he said. “But the state has not kept its biggest promises to guarantee the lives of citizens, and particularly to prevent political assassinations.”

News of this potential rupture of the 2016 Peace Agreement, which shocked Colombia today, was tempered by a follow-up announcement by FARC political chief Rodrigo Londoño that, “The large majority [of FARC] continue to be committed to the agreement, despite all the problems and difficulties, we are with peace,” he told El Espectador.

Former president Juan Manual Santos, who brokered the historic peace agreement after a drawn-out process that started in 2013, claimed today that “90% of former FARC are still following the peace process.”

Meanwhile demobilised former FARC who have taken up rafting trips Caquetá told us today that their community and tourism business were “committed to peace” and would continue preparation for an upcoming rafting competition.

Related story: Rafting with the FARC in Colombia

Despite these positive signs, the defection from the peace process by such senior figures as Márquez – who was a senior negotiator in the Havana held talks – throws considerable doubt over the fragile agreement, which has been strained in the last year by continued killings of retired combatants and social leaders particularly in areas formerly controlled by the guerrilla group.

In the video, Márquez was joined by other former commanders known as El Paisa, Romaña and Jesús Santrich, who mysteriously disappeared from his security details in Colombia two months ago. It is unclear where the video was recorded.

Márquez, whose real name is Luciano Marín Arango, said these senior figures were rejecting the agreement because of changes made by the current Duque government, and its inability to protect the lives of former combatants.

Antioquia Colombia, Río Claro Colombia
How will the move to take up arms again affect former FARC members who are building new lives, such as this rafting company in Caquetá. Photo: Oli Pritchard

“More than 500 social leaders have been assassinated and more than 150 guerrillas have died in the middle of the indifference and inactivity of the state,” he said. The fighters would now seek a peace that guarantees human rights, “a peace with food, health, water, employment, connectivity, education and democracy.”

The renegades would look for support from former dissident FARC guerrillas who remained outside the peace process, and rebel group the ELN, said Marquez, standing with his fellow fighters under a banner that proclaiming  “While there is a will to fight, there is a hope of winning.”

At the end of the half-hour video, in which Márquez spoke of environmental as well as social issues, including the group’s opposition to fracking, Santrich (aka Seuxis Paucias Hernández) lead a rallying cry of “Long live the FARC-EP.”