Iván Márquez, former guerrilla commander, has reportedly died in Venezuela, with his death likely having far-reaching consequences for Colombia’s “Total Peace” negotiations.
Multiple media outlets reported the death of Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” on July 7, citing Colombian intelligence reports. Newspaper El Colombiano stated that one source from the Segunda Marquetalia, the dissident force of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) that Márquez led, confirmed his death.
The Colombian government has not yet corroborated the reports.
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According to local media, Márquez died from head injuries sustained during a June 2022 armed attack on his camp in Apure, Venezuela, allegedly carried out on the orders of Colombian security forces.
He was mistakenly confirmed dead at the time by the Colombian and US governments. Instead, for the last year, he was cared for in a house in Caracas, guarded by members of the Venezuelan security forces, according to El Tiempo.
After decades of involvement in the FARC, Márquez was the chief negotiator in 2016, when the group signed the peace agreement that brought to an end its 52-year war against the Colombian government. Márquez demobilized after the peace agreement and took a seat on the Colombian Congress as part of the FARC’s political party, Comunes.
Three years later, however, he led a return to hostilities, appearing in a video alongside several other former FARC leaders to denounce the peace agreement and declare the creation of the Segunda Marquetalia dissident faction, so named after the birthplace of the FARC in Marquetalia in the department of Tolima.
The groups of former FARC fighters who opposed the peace agreement and took up arms again are now collectively referred to as the ex-FARC mafia.
Following Márquez’s death, a rival FARC dissident, Nestor Gregorio Vera Fernández, alias “Iván Mordisco,” who leads another faction called the Central General Staff (Estado Mayor Central - EMC), becomes the most powerful of the remaining FARC dissident commanders.
Like Márquez, Mordisco was erroneously reported dead in July 2022 by the Colombian government after an airstrike on his campsite in Caquetá. He reappeared months later to express his interest in the peace plan of current president Gustavo Petro, dubbed “Total Peace”.
On July 9, the Colombian government and dissidents led by Mordisco announced the beginning of formal peace negotiations after an exploratory phase of dialogue that began in 2022.
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Márquez’s death may simplify the path for the Total Peace plan. Mordisco, the first FARC commander to abandon the 2016 peace negotiation, is now the ex-FARC’s primary figurehead in Total Peace talks.
Mordisco leads the self-named Estado Mayor Central, the most powerful ex-FARC mafia groups. The fronts hold the departments of Meta, Guaviare, and Vaupés, as well as other key departments. These territories give them opportunities for coca cultivation and cocaine production, as well as control over several vital drug trafficking routes through Colombia. In the midst of the current global cocaine boom, the drug economy delivers huge returns to the guerrilla force.
President Petro, himself a former guerrilla of the now demobilized M-19 rebel group, is seen by many as the best qualified to negotiate a peace deal with Colombia’s different illegal groups.
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However, he is laboring under many burdens, one being that the 2016 peace agreement has fallen flat, with few accords fully implemented by the Colombian government. Hundreds of former FARC fighters remain in camps built to house them while they reintegrated into society, guarded by the Colombian military for fear of attack from other illegal groups, including FARC dissidents who see them as traitors. Promises of land for farming and financial help to begin businesses have been broken, and the coca crop substitution program has all but failed. For Mordisco, who was the first FARC leader to abandon the 2016 peace process, before the agreement was signed, its weak rollout has justified, for him, his refusal to sign on at that time.
Petro’s Total Peace policy has faced challenges as the government tries to negotiate with diverse criminal and armed groups, but with Marquez’s death, other former FARC factions are more likely to fall under Mordisco’s influence. Around 1,000 fighters under the Segunda Marquetalia flag may choose to join Mordisco’s faction. He commands the largest ex-FARC mafia force, and as a critic of the 2016 peace agreement, his ideological credentials remain strong.
While an influx of fighters from the Segunda Marquetalia to the Estado Mayor Central would simplify the panorama of negotiations for the Colombian government, it would also give Mordisco a stronger hand than the one he had before Márquez’s death.