FARC guerrillas rearm, say the Colombian government has violated 2016 peace agreement
The much-celebrated 2016 peace agreement between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as FARC, is over, according to a FARC commander. Ivan Marquez, who served as chief negotiator of the peace deal, announced on Thursday morning that the FARC is taking up arms again and will resume its battle with the government.
The announcement has sparked fears in Ecuador that violence may increase on the northern border with Colombia, prompting President Lenin Moreno to order more army troops to the area.
“We proclaim to the world that the second Marquetalia [the birthplace of the FARC half a century ago] has begun under the universal right that assists all the peoples of the world to rise in arms against oppression,” Márquez announced in the video posted on the internet.
He blamed the Colombian government, and President Ivan Duque in particular, for repeatedly violating the terms of the peace agreement. “They have refused to stop, and have in fact abetted, the killing of hundreds of community leaders and ex-guerrillas since peace was announced. We can no longer tolerate the arrogance and indolence of a government that ignores the rights and interests of the poor and oppressed.”
According to several sources, almost 500 social leaders have been murdered along with 125 former FARC guerrillas since 2016. The United Nations reports that most of the murders were committed by right-wing para-military groups, some with ties to the government.
In the video, Márquez appears with about twenty armed men and women in camouflage, armed with military rifles. Among those shown is Seuxis Paucias Hernández, alias “Jesús Santrich” and Hernán Darío Velásquez, alias “El Paisa,” former FARC leaders wanted by the United States for alleged drug trafficking.
Márquez said the new FARC will attempt to form an alliance with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the other major guerrilla group that failed to reach an agreement with the government.
Presidents of several South American countries, including Ecuador, said they regretted the FARC decision and would work to resolve conflicts between the Colombian government and the guerrillas. President Lenin Moreno said, however, that he feared an increase in violence on Ecuador’s northern border with Colombia. “We are forced to strengthen our forces on the border and do what is necessary to protect our citizens.”
Following the FARC announcement, Duque insisted that FARC is no longer a true guerrilla movement but a “gang of narcoterrorists” supported by the Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. He offered a three million peso award for information that leads to the capture of FARC leaders.
The U.S. State Department also expressed its concern with the FARC announcement. “It is our fear that this move will initiate increased bloodshed in Colombia in a war we hoped had come to an end.” Even after the 2016 peace agreement was in force, the State Department estimated that 12 to 15 percent of Colombian territory was controlled by crime gangs, including drug cartels controlled by former guerrillas and right-wing para-militaries.