Santrich was born in 1966 in Toluviejo, a town in the Caribbean Sucre province.
At age 16 he entered the Atlantico University in Barranquilla to study law. He graduated and continued studying Social Sciences, Education and History. While in university, Santrich joined the Communist Youth movement.
After leaving university, Santrich briefly became the ombudsman of the Coloso municipality.
He joined the FARC in 1988 amid a far-right extermination campaign of members of the leftist Patriotic Union party that cost the lives of thousands of activists and political leaders.
Santrich became one of the ideologues of the FARC’s 19th Front, which was active in the Caribbean region, and became a leading voice with the guerrillas’ “Voice of the Resistance” radio station.
While part of the Caribbean Bloc, the guerrilla leader became the right-hand man of Bloc commander “Ivan Marquez,” another former politician who took up arms in the 1980s.
Over the years, Santrich’ vision worsened because of a genetic illness. Over the past few years he has been wearing sunglasses and has said to be almost blind.
Santrich was one of the first members of the FARC’s peace delegation and was present at the formal beginning of talks in Norway in 2012.
After the talks ended and a peace deal was agreed with the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos, the former guerrilla leader took part in the three-party verification commission.
Santrich was the FARC’s delegate in this commission and in charge of monitoring alleged violations of the 2016 peace deal with the government and the United Nations.
As part of the agreement, the FARC was granted 10 seats in Congress for a period of two terms. The former guerrilla leader was appointed the leader of the Marxists’ faction in the House of Representatives after the group laid down its weapons in August 2017.
Santrich was arrested in April 2018 after a surprising US extradition request on an unsubstantiated drug trafficking charge. The US Department of Justice claimed the FARC leader took part in a conspiracy to send cocaine to the United States after the peace deal.
Colombia’s war crimes tribunal ruled in May 2019 there was no evidence to extradite the FARC leader and the Supreme Court ordered Santrich’s immediate release while investigating the drug trafficking claim.