The Second Marquetalia is a group made up of former FARC guerrillas who refused to demobilize after the group’s peace agreement with the Colombian government in 2016.
It is led by one of the most influential former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) leaders, Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” who took up arms again in 2019 after abandoning the peace process.
The group operates mainly in mountainous regions along the Colombia-Venezuela border, seemingly with the tacit approval of the Venezuelan government, but it is unknown how many men it has at its disposal.
The Second Marquetalia (Segunda Marquetalia) is in a curious position as its leaders are among the most well-known and sought-after criminal leaders in Colombia, but little is known about its size, geography or the criminal economies it is involved in.
On May 18, 2021, one of the Second Marquetalia’s most senior figures, Seuxis Pausías Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich,” was killed in Venezuela. Following this, two more senior leaders, Hernán Darío Velásquez, alias “El Paisa,” and Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias “Romaña,” were killed in Venezuela, presumably in clashes with the 10th Front, also dissidents from the FARC.
Márquez allegedly went to ground in December 2021, seeking to avoid a similar fate. He was not heard of until July 2022 when widespread rumors surfaced that he had been killed during an operation in Venezuela. Leadership of the group has now allegedly been taken over by veteran FARC commander, José Vicente Lesmes, alias “Walter Mendoza.”
In August 2019, a number of former FARC commanders, led by Márquez, released a YouTube video announcing their return to arms and the creation of the Second Marquetalia, alleging that the Colombian government had betrayed the 2016 peace accords.
The group claimed to be continuing the FARC’s political struggles and stated they were the “heirs to the legacy of Manuel Marulanda Vélez,” the former leader of the demobilized guerrilla group.
El Paisa abandoned the FARC training and reincorporation camp he had been based at in Miravalle, Caquetá, around April 2018 and appears to have headed for Venezuela. In August 2018, Márquez disappeared from the same camp after Santrich was arrested on drug trafficking charges, allegedly committed after the FARC demobilized.
Romaña went missing in March 2019 after failing to appear at a mandated court appearance.
As for Santrich, after his 2018 arrest for drug trafficking charges, he faced potential extradition to the United States. This extradition request was denied for a lack of evidence and he was freed in May 2019. He briefly took up a seat in congress that had been reserved for members of the FARC political party, but he fled shortly afterwards to Venezuela and joined up with his old comrades. He was killed in May 2021 in Venezuela.
The further deaths of El Paisa and Romaña in December 2021, along with unconfirmed information that Márquez was on the run, appears to have left the group somewhat rudderless, although still able to muster up significant profits from its current territorial control of coca plantations and drug trafficking routes in Colombia and Venezuela.
In July 2022, Colombian authorities were trying to confirm whether Márquez had also been killed in Venezuela.
In the August 2019 video, Márquez and his commanders stated that their group would continue “collecting taxes that serve as financing for the rebellion … and that are applied to the illegal economies and multinationals which loot our wealth.”
The Second Marquetalia has maintained strong operations along the Colombia-Venezuela border, controlling much of the cocaine trafficking between the Colombian department of Arauca and the Venezuelan department of Apure. While it has sought to extend its influence into other parts of both countries, it has not succeeded to retrieve much of the criminal territory left behind by the FARC.
The main leader of the Second Marquetalia is Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” who was a member of the FARC Secretariat and the guerrilla group’s second-in-command at the time of its demobilization.
Other prominent leaders included Hernán Darío Velásquez, alias “El Paisa,” former commander of the FARC’s Teófilo Forero Mobile Column, and Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias “Romaña,” former leader of the FARC’s 53rd Front and who likely played a key part in the Second Marquetalia’s military strategy, until their deaths in December 2021.
With the rumored death of Márquez in Venezuela in July 2022, command of the group may have passed to another veteran FARC commander, José Vicente Lesmes, alias “Walter Mendoza.”
Allies and Enemies
In the video announcing the creation of the Second Marquetalia, Márquez called on the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN) to “coordinate efforts” with the new group inside Colombia. In doing so, Márquez suggested reforming the defunct Simón Bolívar Guerrilla Coordinating Board (Coordinadora Guerrillera Simón Bolívar), a movement created in the 1980s and 1990s by the FARC, the ELN and the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación — EPL) to carry out joint operations.
The 18th Front of the ex-FARC Mafia has also recognized the leadership of Márquez. But to date, it is the only front made up of former FARC fighters to have sworn allegiance to Márquez.
In 2018 and 2019, the group’s leaders met on two occasions with members of the ELN in the Venezuelan state of Apure, according to a number of media reports. The discussion reportedly revolved around the coordination of cocaine shipments between Colombia and Venezuela, especially in the Colombian department of Arauca, which the ELN has a strong presence in.
Beyond these ties to the ELN, the Second Marquetalia has planned to unify ex-FARC Mafia groups, including those led by Miguel Botache Santillana, alias “Gentil Duarte.” However, any such unification seems distant. Many of the fighters now under Gentil Duarte may not value Márquez’s legacy enough to follow him and may even view him harshly for participating in the peace process at all.
This rivalry appears to have worsened in 2021 with the ex-FARC 10th Front reported to have clashed with Second Marquetalia forces in Apure, Venezuela, as well as perhaps having been involved in the death of Santrich, El Paisa and Romaña.
The Second Marquetalia seems to be operating mostly along the border between Colombia and Venezuela, especially in the state of Apure in Venezuela and Colombia’s Arauca department.
With the adhesion of the ex-FARC Mafia’s 18th Front, Márquez’s group has gained a presence in municipalities in the north of Antioquia, such as Ituango, and the southern part of Córdoba department. But for now, this appears to be the only satellite group that the Second Marquetalia has in other areas of Colombia.
Márquez appears to be trying to make the Second Marquetalia a unifying force for ex-FARC Mafia groups across Colombia, but he also needs to increase his number of fighters and criminal income to stay afloat.
Since their high-profile announcement in August 2019, the leaders of the Second Marquetalia have remained largely underground. It appears most of their sway has been along sections of the Colombia-Venezuela border, especially in Apure and Arauca. In 2021, reports of sporadic clashes between Second Marquetalia fighters and members of other ex-FARC factions seemed to confirm this.
It appears their best chance at reuniting the guerrillas who refused to demobilize would be to ally with Gentil Duarte, another former FARC commander who has been trying to bring disparate splinter groups together. But reports of clashes between the two groups appear to have ruled this out.
In Venezuela, the group may have received help from the Venezuelan government after President Nicolás Maduro welcomed Márquez and Santrich to come to the country in 2019. Like the ELN, the Second Marquetalia is likely using Venezuelan territory as an operating base safe from reprisals from Colombian armed forces.
The killing of Jesús Santrich inside Venezuela in May 2021, however, seems to indicate a change of fortunes for the group. The death of one of their most prominent leaders in uncertain circumstances suggests Venezuela is no longer the safe haven it once was.
The group has been left further weakened following a series of bitter setbacks against the 10th Front in Venezuela in late 2021 and early 2022. While it still controls enviable criminal real estate and drug trafficking routes, it may no longer have a chance of accomplishing its original goal: unifying the ex-FARC.
Should it be confirmed that Iván Márquez has also been killed, then the group may rapidly fragment into disparate, smaller criminal gangs with little to no connections to the FARC’s former political ideology.
What are your thoughts?
Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.
We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.