HomeNewsAnalysisDire Outlook for Colombia Peace Process After FARC Leader's Arrest
ANALYSIS

Dire Outlook for Colombia Peace Process After FARC Leader's Arrest

COLOMBIA / 10 APR 2018 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

The bold arrest of one of the FARC’s top leaders on drug charges has shaken Colombia’s peace process, uncovered ties between a FARC politician and criminalized splinter groups wreaking havoc in the countryside, and may scare more former rebels away from reintegrating themselves in society.

On April 9, Colombian authorities arrested Seuxis Paucis Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich,” a top former member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC).

The arrest was the product of an INTERPOL arrest warrant based on a US federal indictment unsealed this week that leveled drug charges against Santrich and several associates.

Santrich and three others, all “members and associates” of the FARC, stand accused of conspiring to traffic 10 metric tons of cocaine (worth $200 million in the US market) to the United States. All four are in custody and are wanted for extradition.

During an investigation by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Justice Department, the suspects claimed to have cocaine laboratories and US-registered airplanes to move the drugs, and provided prospective buyers with cocaine samples.

Santrich apparently sourced drugs from the Urabeños, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN) guerrillas and a violent FARC dissidence led by alias "Guacho" on the Ecuadoran border, Blu Radio reported after consulting Colombian and US investigators. The suspects thought they were working with the Sinaloa Cartel, but the supposed Mexican narcos may actually have been undercover law enforcement agents.*

(Alleged drug trafficking organization involving Santrich and the other defendants. Credit: Colombia Attorney General's Office)

Santrich is one of the most recognizable faces of the FARC, and was a member of the General Staff and the delegation of negotiators who hammered out a historic 2016 peace agreement, which included amnesty for crimes committed by demobilized FARC fighters prior to the deal. It also protected members from extradition.

Following Santrich’s arrest, President Juan Manuel Santos reaffirmed that he would not extradite any ex-FARC member for old crimes. However, he added, “If, following due process … there is a possibility of extradition for crimes committed after the signing of the peace deal, my hand will not shake as I authorize it.”

(Santos giving a statement following Santrich's arrest)

According to High Commissioner for Peace Rodrigo Rivera, Santrich can present his case to the transitional justice system created by the peace deal, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz - JEP), which would decide whether or not the crimes were committed post-agreement. If the JEP rules that Santrich committed the crimes after the signing of the peace accord, that would exempt him from receiving judicial benefits under the terms of the deal.

The peace agreement guaranteed 10 seats in congress for the FARC, now a political party. Prior to the release of the indictment, Santrich was about to assume one of those seats.

The FARC leadership came out in support of Santrich, stating that the arrest had brought the peace process to "its most critical point, and risks becoming a true failure.”

InSight Crime Analysis

The arrest of one of the most visible faces of the FARC will likely have a chilling effect on former fighters who already have doubts about the peace process. This could push more demobilized rebels to join growing dissident criminal groups around the country.

The FARC are painfully aware of their vulnerability on several fronts. Dozens of former rebels have been assassinated in recent months, and authorities are uncovering new FARC money laundering schemes that could also expel members from the peace process.

As InSight Crime has previously pointed out, the threat of extradition to the United States in particular could be a red line for the FARC. Dozens of former rebels -- some now dead -- have been indicted over the years and could therefore be extradited, including the leadership. This prospect may push many demobilized fighters back into the shadows.

Additionally, Santrich’s alleged contact with a powerful FARC dissidence could raise speculation regarding ties between criminalized rebels and their former commanders. If this is not an isolated event, it would devastate the political ambitions of the group and put even greater scrutiny on funding for the peace process, especially money granted to former FARC fighters.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of FARC Peace

It is hard not to draw comparisons with the surprise extradition of demobilized paramilitary commanders a decade ago. Following a demobilization deal with the government, the top bosses of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - AUC) were jailed and unexpectedly extradited to the United States in the dead of night, purportedly for continuing to commit crimes. Their deal had also barred extradition, and the move sowed doubts about the government's commitment to that agreement.

While Santrich's pending extradition is also likely to shake confidence in the government's commitments, this news is just the latest in a series of recent blows to the legitimacy of the FARC peace deal. Authorities have discovered a kickback scheme related to peace deal contracts, a top transitional justice official has resigned, and many coca farmers are on the fence about withdrawing support for the accord.

Events that delegitimize both the deal and the FARC party are likely to give momentum to the political opposition in the final weeks leading up to presidential elections. Right-wing candidate Iván Duque has already promised “structural changes” to the peace deal, including the peace courts, if he is elected.

* An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Santrich and his group were accused of working with the Sinaloa Cartel. In fact, the supposed cartel members may have been undercover agents.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

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.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COCAINE / 26 MAY 2021

A Turkish mafia boss has claimed cocaine is being trafficked directly from Venezuela to Turkey in a viral video, pointing…

AUC / 8 SEP 2021

As gold prices have skyrocketed, criminal groups once solely dedicated to the trafficking of drugs and arms have moved into…

COCAINE / 9 SEP 2021

A gang, which modified aircraft to be able to carry cocaine from Colombia to the United States and Mexico, has…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…