Following the explosive revelation of US drug charges against a guerrilla fighter turned politician in Colombia, another former rebel is reportedly under investigation by US authorities, potentially deepening demobilizing fighters' concerns about a peace agreement that promised them judicial leniency.
According to an April 28 report from the Wall Street Journal, US and Colombian authorities are investigating alleged cocaine trafficking by a former top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), Luciano Marín Arango, who still uses his nom de guerre “Iván Márquez.”
Contradicting the Wall Street Journal's report, however, Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office responded on Twitter by denying that authorities in the South American country are investigating the former guerrilla leader.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the investigation stems from a “cell phone video intercepted by investigators" in which Márquez allegedly "speaks to an associate of a known Mexican drug trafficker.”
The November 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC created a special justice system for dealing with crimes committed during the course of a half century of armed conflict. But the video was reportedly taken after the signing of a peace agreement, which would mean any criminal charges stemming from that evidence would be exempt from the provisions of the peace deal.
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Márquez was set to assume one of ten seats allotted to the FARC in congress as a means of providing the demobilized fighters with political representation. However, just days before the Wall Street Journal report was published, Márquez announced that he would not take the seat due to the April 9 arrest of another former FARC leader turned prospective congressman, Seuxis Paucis Hernández Solarte, who still uses the nom de guerre “Jesús Santrich.”
Santrich was arrested by Colombian authorities based on a US indictment for post-agreement drug trafficking charges. Márquez pointed to Santrich's arrest as an example of the Colombian government not living up to promises made under the peace deal, which included not extraditing demobilized guerrillas.
“How can I try and become a senator when they’ll come and accuse me of being a drug trafficker?” he said.
In a tweet posted the same day the Wall Street Journal's article was published, Márquez seemed to describe the reported investigation as the “last straw,” and said that those targeting him want to “take the peace process to hell.”
InSight Crime Analysis
It is unclear whether the reported investigation of Márquez will lead to any criminal charges against him. But it seems certain that the former guerrilla leader is rapidly losing faith in the Colombian government's commitment to the peace deal. And that lack of confidence could spread to other demobilized fighters, encouraging them to join a significant number of their counterparts in abandoning the peace process and returning to criminal activities.
“If Márquez feels that the authorities are closing in on him with flimsy evidence, then he will return to the jungle and probably take a big faction of the FARC with him,” Adam Isacson, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) think tank, told InSight Crime.
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Indeed, the FARC's political leadership named Márquez the party’s political advisor, and according to Isacson, he has a lot of loyal followers among the FARC’s rank and file. The peace deal could be jeopardized further if Márquez and some of his closest followers decide to desert back into the jungle and reintegrate themselves back into criminal activities in the wake of the latest allegations, a dynamic authorities have already struggled to curtail.