The recent announcement by Iván Márquez – the second highest commander of the original Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) – that sections of South America's largest demobilised guerrilla movement are returning to war, should come as little surprise to some observers of Latin America. In a recent video, Márquez, whose real name is Luciano Marín, said that the Colombian State has failed to implement its promised land reform for peasants as established in the 2016 Peace accords.
From the rebel's perspective, the Attorney General, ultra right-wing members of Congress, former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez and current president Iván Duque Márquez are to blame for the failure of the peace agreement. The Embassy of the United States in Bogota was also mentioned.
Elaborating on the breakdown of the accords Márquez stated:
When we signed the agreement of Havana, we did it with conviction that it was possible to change the lives of the humble and the dispossessed. But the State has not fulfilled even the most important of the obligations, that is to guarantee the lives of its citizens and particularly to prevent their murder for political reasons. All of this, this trick, this betrayal, this perfidy, the unilateral modification of the text of the accord, the unfulfilled commitments on the part of the State, the judicial setups and insecurity have obliged us to return to the mountains.
The FARC dissidents
Accompanied by close to twenty armed men and women, including ex-rebel leaders Hernán Darío Velásquez (alias 'El Paisa'), who was once commander of the guerrillas' strongest military wing, the Teófilo Forero Column, and Seuxis Pausías Hernández (alias Jesús Santrich), Márquez added that: '[i]n two years, more than 500 social leaders have been killed and 150 guerrilla fighters are dead amidst the indifference and the indolence of the state.'
According to the dissident commander, the majority of Colombians do not support a war with neighbouring Venezuela while this branch of the FARC will look to establish an alliance with the National Liberation Army (ELN) – historically, Colombia's second largest rebel group and currently the only one not to have signed a peace agreement.
Shortly after Márquez's declaration, president Duque Márquez claimed that he ordered an offensive against the 'gang of narco terrorists that has the shelter and support of the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro' in Venezuela. For its part, the FARC, which now goes under the name Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, expelled Márquez along with five other commanders. The FARC claim the majority of their rank and file are still committed to the 2016 Peace accord.
Commenting on developments in Colombia on PBS NewsHour, Latin American studies expert Cynthia Arnson from the Wilson Centre in Washington was recently asked if there was any truth in the accusations made by the dissenting rebels. From her perspective, 'there is truth' in their claims as 'about 130 to 150 members of the FARC that had demobilized have been killed' while there are 'hundreds and hundreds of social leaders, of even government officials that are based in Colombian communities, that have been killed with impunity.' Arnson notes that the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia has condemned these assassinations.
Despite her previous remarks, Arnson does not consider the high number of assassinations of ex-FARC rebels and social activists to be the 'main reason' for some commanders to be taking up arms again. Failing to elaborate on what may be their real motives, Arnson concedes paramilitary groups have predominately been responsible for the spate of recent killings.
Uribistas and paramilitaries
The long-standing connection between paramilitary groups, the drug cartels and the Colombian State of course cannot be ignored. Historically, all these actors have been closely connected with the paramilitaries long doing the dirty work for the cartels, the military and private corporations. At a political level, ex-president Álvaro Uribe Vélez stands out as he has exercised vast power through his connections to these groups while directing the most aggressive aspects of State policy in its attempts to destroy the guerrillas.
In a 1991 report by U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) operatives in Colombia, Uribe (at that time a Senator) was considered to be a 'close personal friend of Pablo Escobar' who was 'dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín [drug] cartel at high government levels.' The country's president from 2002 to 2010, Uribe's administration, writes researcher Alejandra Silva Ortega, 'was riddled with secret wiretapping, corruption, blatant support of right-wing paramilitaries and severe human rights abuses.'
Commenting on numerous Uribe minsters who ended up in prison on corruption charges, Silva Ortega adds that an even more serious concern was:
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