Tensions in Colombia rise after FARC leaders disappear

"Ivan Marquez" (L) and "El Paisa." (Image: FARC)

The political party of Colombia’s demobilized FARC guerrillas said Thursday that three former commanders have gone into hiding after military operations near their reintegration camps.

The group’s political leader, Luciano Marin, a.k.a. “Ivan Marquez,” and two of the group’s most feared former guerrilla commanders, Hernan Dario Velasqueza, a.k.a. “El Paisa” and “Romaña,” left their reintegration camps without a trace.

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While the demobilized guerrillas are free to leave their compounds, FARC Senator Victoria Sandino expressed concern, saying she was unaware of the whereabouts of her former fellow-guerrillas.

According to Sandino, the FARC leaders disappeared amid an increase of military operations near the compounds of FARC members who were fighting the military to death until a bilateral ceasefire in mid 2016.

“They left their camps as a result of a number of situations that have arisen in the past month when a number of pretty complex operations were carried out,” presumably by military units in the vicinity of the former guerrilla compounds.

The situation is also tense in Bogota where the FARC was nearly banned from congress earlier this week had it not been for intervention by other opposition parties.

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The FARC laid down their weapons last year and vowed to submit to a war crimes tribunal in exchange for political representation. State failures to implement the 2016 peace deal, however, have created growing distrust among demobilized members of the group.

No peace process is exempt from uncertainty, but peace implementation in Colombia has been dogged by levels of uncertainty that have raised deep and understandable misgivings among FARC members reintegrating into society.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres

Sandina warned that multiple former FARC members have disappeared after “several complex situations like the illegal arrest of [former FARC ideologue ‘Jesus] Santrich’, which has generated distrust.”

Furthermore, more than 50 FARC members and their family members have been assassinated, according to the United Nations, which monitors the peace process.

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The Marxist senator told Blu Radio that “hooded men arrived at the home of Ivan Marquez early this morning but they left before that.”

Hours after the alleged incursion in the reintegration camp in the southern Caqueta province, conservative radio network RCN reported that Marin, Velasquez, “Romaña” and a guerrilla commander known as “El Zarco” disappeared over the past few days.

Sandina said “we have no information about where they are,” but vowed that the FARC will continue to honor the peace deal.

The United Nations, which monitors the peace process, has been warning for a year that the state’s failure to comply with the peace agreement has led to more than half of the guerrillas leaving the compounds where they would be reintegrated through agricultural and fishing projects.

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The election of Duque, who has vowed to unilaterally change the peace deal, has amplified the former guerrillas’ distrust in the government’s commitment to the peace process.

Civilian organizations and the United Nations have also criticized the government’s failure to implement the peace deal that seeks to end more than half a century of armed conflict that has killed more than 260,000 people.

Guerrillas responsible for 17% of civilian deaths in Colombia’s armed conflict

More than 1,200 former FARC members of 14,000 people who demobilized last year are believed to have joined dissident groups.

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