By Sinikka Tarvainen (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez on Thursday said the judiciary would pursue ex-commanders of the former guerrilla movement FARC who announced they were taking up arms again.
In a video released overnight, Luciano Marin, better known by his guerrilla name Ivan Marquez, announced “a new phase in the armed struggle” and accused the government of not having honored the peace deal that led to the demobilization of about 7,000 FARC fighters.
Marquez had gone missing more than a year ago. In the video, he was flanked by about 20 people dressed in fatigues. They included former FARC commander Seuxis Hernandez, alias Jesus Santrich, who is facing drug trafficking charges and who went missing on June 30, as well as two other ex-commanders.
“The ones making the announcements are those who have always been drug traffickers,” Ramirez told journalists, adding that Interpol was expected to issue arrest warrants for them.
The peace agreement negotiated in Havana ended 52 years of conflict in 2016. FARC was turned into a political party and given 10 seats in Congress.
Armed conflict in Colombia has left more than 260,000 people dead since 1958 and displaced nearly 8 million people, according to the governmental National Centre for Historical Memory.
Marquez said he would seek an alliance with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, which is estimated to have more than
2,000 fighters and which has not been able to reach a peace deal with the government.
He said FARC members would not target police and soldiers “respectful of the people’s interests,” but Colombia’s “oligarchy,” and would not kidnap civilians for ransom.
Marquez demanded the establishment of a new government and of a constituent assembly.
In a video published on Twitter, one of the ELN leaders, known as Uriel, said the group was “open” to Marquez’s proposal.
Rodrigo Londono, leader of the FARC party, rejected Marquez’s announcement. “The common goal for the vast majority is peace in Colombia,” he tweeted.
Londono told Blu Radio it was “a shame” that Marquez and his allies had resumed armed struggle and “apologized” to the international community that had backed the peace process.
Marquez’s announcement encouraged critics of the peace process, who regard it as being too lenient on the ex-rebels.
“The country needs to be conscious that there was no peace process, but a pardon to some people responsible for atrocious crimes,”
tweeted former president Alvaro Uribe, who campaigned against the peace deal.
He called for the agreement to be removed from the constitution and to be “reformed.”
Peace Commissioner Miguel Ceballos said Marquez’s plans would not “in any way affect” the implementation of the peace deal.
He said the video was probably shot in Venezuela and accused President Nicolas Maduro’s “dictatorship” of supporting the rebels.
The Organization of American States, the Venezuelan opposition and the embassies of Spain and Germany expressed their continuing support for the peace process, broadcaster Caracol reported.
Centrist Senator Roy Barreras, who helped to negotiate the peace agreement, dismissed Marquez’s group as having “no operative capacity” and representing no threat.
Former president Juan Manuel Santos, who signed the peace deal, said that 90 per cent of former FARC fighters supported it.
The country’s post-conflict tribunal, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), which investigates war crimes, called Marquez’s announcement a “serious” blow to the peace process.
It said it will deny those rearming the possibility of participating in its investigations, thus depriving them of the possibility of being handed mild sentences if found guilty of crimes.
President Ivan Duque, who sees the peace deal as being too lenient on the ex-rebels, has been accused of trying to undermine it.
Critics also say the government is not affording sufficient protection to former FARC fighters and community leaders who are being killed by paramilitary, criminal and guerrilla groups around the country.
“In two years, more than 500 social leaders have been killed and 150 guerrilla fighters are dead amid indifference and indolence on the part of the state,” Marquez said in the video.
Not all FARC fighters initially joined the peace process, and others have abandoned it since then. Even prior to Marquez’s announcement, about 2,000 FARC dissidents were estimated to be operating in the countryside.