A leader of what was once Colombia’s largest guerrilla organization has announced the revival of one of its most formidable blocs in northern Colombia — a region with a competitive criminal landscape.
In a video published on YouTube on March 9, Seuxis Pausias Hernández, alias “Jesús Santrich,” one of the leaders of the so-called Segunda Marquetalia — the name the former rebels have given their new insurgency — announced the reactivation of its operations.
In practice, it means the revival of the Caribbean Bloc, which was demobilized following the 2016 peace agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia – FARC) and the Colombian government.
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Santrich said this bloc will be made up of former 19th, 41st and 59th Fronts, which will be located “far and wide across Colombia’s Caribbean region.”
The bloc will operate in the departments of Magdalena, Cesar, Atlántico, Córdoba, Sucre and Bolívar, with a special focus on what are known as the Montes de María region, a strategic mountainous corridor. It will also have a presence in the northern part of Antioquia and part of the border with Venezuela.
Santrich also called on other groups led by Miguel Botache Santillana, alias “Gentil Duarte,” to act in “coordination” with his group, and he gave a nod to Colombia’s other insurgency, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN).
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Efforts to revive the Caribbean Bloc are not a sure thing. The Segunda Marquetalia will have to be strategic because the region is a mix of old and new criminal organizations.
However, the Segunda Marquetalia has some advantages. Two of its leaders, Santrich and Luciano Marín, alias “Iván Márquez,” led fronts in this region during while the FARC was still the FARC. Márquez was the head of the Caribbean Bloc. Both will likely be able to recruit members in these areas, in part because of their history with the guerrillas. Additionally, they know the territory.
On the other hand, there are the Urabeños, the country’s most formidable criminal organization. The Urabeños have been in the Montes de María, the strategic corridor that lies between the departments of Sucre and Bolívar, since February 2020, which they use to traffic drugs.
Montes de María also has historic value. The FARC expanded there in the early 1990s, and it was the site of some of the bloodiest fighting of that period of the war. This could be why Santrich gave a shout-out to other criminal and insurgent groups connected to Gentil Duarte and the ELN.