A US reward of up to $20 million dollars for the capture of two key ex-FARC Mafia leaders raises questions about just why Washington values them so highly.
On June 18, the State Department issued a press release announcing an increased reward of $10 million each for information leading to the capture of Seuxis Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich,” and Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez."
The two Colombians, once top commanders in the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), are accused of drug trafficking while the rewards against them are part of broader efforts to dismantle transnational criminal organizations, according to the statement.
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The document highlights the US and Colombian governments' shared concern about how Santrich and Márquez may be providing support to the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro. It also repeats how the two men are believed to be based in Venezuela, from where they are coordinating efforts to unite FARC dissident groups, collectively known as the ex-FARC Mafia.
The two leaders formally announced their departure from the Colombia peace process in a video surrounded by other FARC dissidents in August 2019.
InSight Crime Analysis
It is unclear why Washington is so focused on Santrich and Márquez. While they are two of the most high-profile criminal figures in Colombia and Venezuela, their reach is not what it once was and arresting or killing them would be unlikely to make a difference on the flow of cocaine to the United States.
Washington's interest in the pair was made clear when they were charged for drug trafficking, among other crimes, in a March indictment alongside President Maduro.
At the time, US prosecutors accused the guerrilla commanders of participation in "narco-terrorism," conspiring to import cocaine into the country and weapons trafficking.
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Alongside these charges, the US government had offered a $5 million reward for Márquez.
Despite having a high profile among FARC leaders, Santrich and Márquez have so far not delivered on the promises made when they announced their return to arms in August 2019. Their group does not have an official name, does not appear to be playing a major role in Colombia or Venezuela's criminal landscape, and has mostly been seen trying to forge alliances with other ex-FARC Mafia factions and criminal actors.
A recent report appeared to confirm Santrich's participation in a 2017 cocaine shipment sent to the Sinaloa Cartel and on to the United States. But it seems Washington's focus on these two leaders is part of a broader campaign targeting Maduro and any of his alleged collaborators.