The announcement by a FARC party heavyweight that he would not take a senatorial seat he was offered as part of a 2016 peace agreement may further jeopardize an already shaky peace deal.
Luciano Marín Arango, who still uses his nom de guerre "Iván Márquez" and is currently the number two of the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común – FARC) political party, announced during an April 24 interview with Canal 1 that he would renounce the seat he was offered in the Senate.
A former high-ranking member of the now largely demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), Márquez had been chosen by the FARC political party to take up one of the ten congressional seats -- five in the house of representatives and five in the Senate -- reserved to demobilized guerrilla fighters, as agreed under the 2016 peace accords.
Márquez's decision to steer clear of public office came after the arrest on drug trafficking charges of former FARC commander Seuxis Paucis Hernández Solarte, who also still uses his nom de guerre “Jesús Santrich."
“How can I try and become a senator when they’ll come and accuse me of being a drug trafficker,” Márquez argued, in line with previous claims that the case against Santrich is a political set up meant to bar him from public office.
Colombia's Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez said that no other former FARC member apart from Santrich was in the authorities’ crosshairs. Still, Márquez may feel additional pressure from the arrest of his nephew, Marlon Marín, who has been accused of participating in Santrich’s alleged drug scheme, reported Semana.
As Márquez made his decision public, the FARC party heavyweight was carrying out implementation work for the peace accords in a so-called concentration zone in Miravalle, in eastern Colombia, where former guerrilla fighters have been grouped during the demobilization process.
Earlier this week, Márquez announced that Hernán Darío Velásquez, alias “El Paisa,” formerly the head of one of the FARC guerrilla’s most powerful military wings, left the Miravalle concentration zone in protest of Santrich’s arrest.
While blaming the government for the lack of implementation of the peace accords, Márquez insisted that El Paisa remained involved in the peace process.
“[El Paisa] isn’t thinking about war, he’s not thinking about the dissidence, he’s thinking that they [should] release Santrich and that they [should] come with resources to finance the productive projects, because those [funds] are yet to arrive …. Here [in the concentration zone], not a single peso has arrived,” Márquez said.
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Santrich’s capture and the US extradition request that hangs over him threaten a peace agreement already weakened by allegations of corruption and flawed implementation.
The Santrich case has split the FARC leadership. Heavyweights such as Márquez and El Paisa are calling for Santrich's release from prison. However, Rodrigo Londoño, the FARC's top leader who goes by the nom de guerre “Timochenko,” has tried to ease tensions and preserve the accords.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of FARC peace
In the meantime, it is uncertain what will become of Santrich's and Márquez's senatorial seats. The National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral) is navigating in unchartered waters.
Even if the FARC retain both seats, the party’s rift may tear it apart for good, and the consequences for Colombia’s criminal landscape could be dire.
Despite Márquez’s assurances that El Paisa remains attached to the peace process after having left the concentration zone, he may lose the benefits that came with the accord.
That would accelerate his drift towards ex-FARC mafia, who may be eagerly waiting to feed on the FARC’s steady disintegration.
* Angela Olaya contributed to reporting for this article.