Conservatives in Colombia are concerned that a feared former FARC commander could be rearming guerrilla forces after he abandoned the camp where he was leading the reintegration of demobilized guerrillas.
Marquez published a video on Twitter in which the disappeared former commander demanded “the immediate liberation of ‘Jesus Santrich‘, the same goes for the 600 prisoners who continue to be held” against the agreement signed in November 2016.
A US extradition request for Santrich spurred an unprecedented crisis in the peace process that has been marred by state failures to comply with the peace deal that sought to end more than half a century of armed conflict.
“Those who have done so much damage to Colombia want to again blackmail the country,” said Duque, whose political patron and debate chief are investigated over alleged ties to far-right death squads.
“Let me tell Mr. ‘Paisa’ that if he plans to form a dissident group we will pursue him relentlessly,” said Vargas, a dynasty politician who survived an assassination attempt allegedly ordered by the disappeared FARC commander.
Analysts have warned of El Paisa’s ability to mobilize hundreds of FARC members in the event the government violates the peace deal.
Guerrilla sources have spoken of up to 1,200 combatants, with access to hidden weapons, who were (and perhaps still are) willing to resume armed struggle if the government fails to play its part in the peace agreement, or if FARC leaders become victims of systematic murder threats. Sources indicate that Hernan Dario Velasquez, alias “El Paisa”, was in charge of this unit and its possible actions.
Interior Minister Guillermo Rivera tried to calm the conservatives’ nerves and stressed that FARC guerrillas are free to leave their reintegration camps.
Rivera called El Paisa’s demands “unacceptable” and warned that “those who return to crime will be pursued.”
The United Nations, which monitors the peace process, has been highly critical of the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos, claiming that high-ranking government officials “interpose their personal and career interests over the rights of the population.”
More than half of the FARC’s guerrillas have abandoned the reintegration camps, the UN said last year.