Ivan Marquez, the chief negotiator for FARC, speaking in 2014. Ramon Espinosa/AP/Press Association Images

Former Colombian rebels announce return to arms despite 2016 peace agreement

FARC fighters criticised the peace agreement in a video posted on Youtube.

A FORMER SENIOR commander of the dissolved FARC rebel army in Colombia announced today that he is taking up arms again. 

He will be joined by other guerrillas who have distanced themselves from a historic peace accord signed with the government.

“We are announcing to the world that the second Marquetalia has begun,” Ivan Marquez said in a video posted on YouTube, referring to the birthplace of the FARC in the 1960s.

Colombia’s conservative President Ivan Duque responded by saying he would send a special army unit to hunt down Marquez and other holdouts, who he said were backed by Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Marquez accused the government of betraying the hard-fought agreement under which most of the FARC’s 7,000 fighters had laid down their weapons after 50 years of armed conflict.

The whereabouts of Marquez, FARC’s number two leader and chief negotiator of the 2016 peace agreement, had been unknown for more than a year. 

“It’s a very worrying announcement,” the Colombian government’s peace commissioner Miguel Ceballos said.

“There is no surprise for the national government. Unfortunately, these people had already made clear, by their behavior, that they turned their backs on the peace accord,” Ceballos told Colombia’s Blu Radio.

In the 32-minute video, Marquez appears in the Colombian jungle flanked by 17 men and women holding rifles. Behind them is a yellow FARC banner.

Marquez said the government had cheated in the implementation of the accord, unilaterally changed its wording and failed to provide legal guarantees for former fighters.

All this “forced us to return to the field,” Marquez said.

“We were never defeated ideologically. Therefore, the fight continues,” said Marquez.

The FARC will coordinate with Colombia’s last active rebel group, the National Liberation Army, “and those comrades who have not folded up their flags,” he said.

Duque said he had ordered a special military unit “with reinforced intelligence, investigation and mobility capabilities” be set up to track down the group.

“Colombians must be clear that we are not facing a new guerrilla, but facing the criminal threats of a gang of narco-terrorists who have the shelter and support of the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro,” the Colombian president said.

2016 agreement

Marquez and another rebel colleague Jesus Santrich have distanced themselves from the 2016 peace agreement.

Santrich, who went underground earlier this year after the United States sought to have him extradited on drug charges, also appeared in the video. 

Although most of the FARC fighters laid down weapons to return to civilian life, around 2,300 distributed in different groups have refused to do so. 

With UN support, the peace accord ended the insurrection by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and turned it into a political party called the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, which uses the same FARC acronym.

“Low blow”

Duque was elected last year with a promise to modify the accord, which he considers too lenient on ex-fighters guilty of serious crimes.

The FARC political party, meanwhile, has denounced delays in the application of the accord as well as a lack of legal guarantees and security for its members.

It has pointed to what it says are the murders of 140 former guerrillas, and 31 of their family members, since the agreement was signed.

The new FARC political party that arose from the rebel army under the peace accord said it regretted the announcement from Marquez.

Party president Rodrigo Londono called it a “low blow”. 

He said most former FARC soldiers still believe in the peace accord. But there are others who are wavering and they might buy into what Marquez is doing now, Londono said.

“It could hurt us,” he said on Colombian radio.

Former president Juan Manuel Santos, who won the Nobel peace prize for bringing about the accord, defended it and insisted most former FARC members still believe in it.

“We must come down hard on deserters. The battle for peace does not stop,” Santos tweeted. 

© – AFP 2019

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