Up to seven commanders of dissident groups of the now-defunct FARC have been killed between 2021 and 2022, with the latest likely being Iván Márquez, head of the Second Marquetalia.
Since early July, Colombian authorities have scrambled to confirm the reported death of Luciano Marín Arango, alias "Iván Márquez," once second-in-command of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) and one of the most prominent guerrillas left active.
Colombian media reports have stated he may have been killed in Venezuela during an attack carried out by a rival faction of dissident FARC, known as the ex-FARC Mafia.
However, his death is only the latest in a long series of ex-FARC Mafia leaders. The killing of former guerrilla leader, Seuxis Pausías Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich,” in May 2021 was the first.
The Colombian Army is not the only participant in this assault against former FARC leaders. Killings have also been attributed to rival dissident factions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC).
Facing offensives by Colombian security forces and rivals, many FARC dissidents looked to neighboring Venezuela for refuge. But up to five eof the guerrilla leaders were killed in the Bolivarian country.
InSight Crime recounts how these ex-FARC Mafia leaders were targeted and eliminated in just over a year.
Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez”
Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” was the second-in-command of the FARC before their demobilization in 2017. His political and diplomatic skills made him a crucial part of the peace process. He was the chief negotiator for the FARC in the peace talks with the Colombian government starting in 2012. And he was also elected as a senator and director of the FARC political party that was created after demobilization.
However, in 2018, Márquez famously rejected his seat in congress, after his comrade, Seuxis Pausias Hernández Solarte, better known as "Jesús Santrich," was arrested on drug trafficking charges. Márquez felt that this proved the peace process would not change the way the authorities saw the former FARC commanders and believed they would be continually persecuted. recently been charged with drug trafficking.
He soon moved to a FARC reintegration camp in Miravalle, a town in the municipality of San Vicente del Caguán, in the department of Caquetá, but then went into hiding. In August 2019, wearing military clothing and carrying a rifle, Márquez appeared in a video announcing the creation of the Second Marquetalia (Segunda Marquetalia), a criminal group which sought to reunite the dissident FARC into a united fighting force.
Despite this promising start and becoming a considerable security threat in Colombia and Venezuela, the Second Marquetalia has never come close to accomplishing its goals. The ex-FARC Mafia have remained increasingly fractured into smaller groups with little connection or interest in pursuing the former FARC's political aspirations.
Rumors of Márquez's death began circulating on July 2, when the president of Colombia, Iván Duque, confirmed that reports had been received concerning his death. According to Caracol, there are three theories surrounding Márquez's death: a retaliation by rival FARC dissidents under the command of Néstor Gregorio Vera Fernández, alias "Iván Mordisco," for the death of Gentil Duarte; a betrayal by corrupt Venezuelan military officers who denounced him in exchange for a reward; and a criminal alliance between rival criminal groups to gain control over drug trafficking routes controlled by the Second Marquetalia. According to Blu Radio, his death had occurred in the Venezuelan state of Apure during last week.
Seuxis Pausias Hernández Solarte, alias 'Jesús Santrich'
Seuxis Pausías Hernández Solarte, better known as “Jesús Santrich,” was a FARC commander who established himself as one of the most important ideological leaders of the guerrilla's 19th Front of the Caribbean Bloc. Managing the insurgent group's communications was one of his most important tasks. He used clandestine radio stations, such as Cadena Radial Bolivariana and the Voice of Resistance, to broadcast FARC propaganda.
Despite participating as a delegate in the peace talks between the guerrilla group and the Colombian government, Santrich took up arms again in August 2019 and co-found the Second Marquetalia, one of the most foremost dissident factions to emerge after the signing of the Final Peace Agreement.
His time in hiding ended on May 18, 2021, when it was reported that he had been killed in the Venezuelan state of Zulia, located on the country’s border with Colombia. There are multiple versions of the story of his death. While some attributed his death to Colombian armed forces and the Bolivarian National Guard, others pointed to rival armed groups and even mercenaries. To date, the details surrounding his death remain a mystery.
Hernán Darío Velásquez Saldarriaga, alias 'El Paisa'
As the leader of the special forces of the defunct FARC, Hernán Darío Velásquez Saldarriaga, alias “El Paisa,” was the mastermind behind some of the guerrillas' bloodiest attacks in Colombia in the 2000s. Not only was the country’s first mass kidnapping attributed to him, in which 18 hostages were kidnapped from a building in the Huila department, in 2001, but he was also accused of planning the 2004 car bomb attack at the El Nogal Club in Bogotá, which left 36 people dead.
Although El Paisa had reservations about negotiating with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, he joined the FARC peace delegation in Havana in April 2016. But shortly after taking charge of the Territorial Space for Training and Reincorporation (Espacio Territorial de Concentración y Reincorporación - ETCR), in Miravalle, Caquetá, instituted as part of the demobilization efforts following the peace agreement, El Paisa left to participate in the creation of the Second Marquetalia.
On December 8, 2021, Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano confirmed the rumors of El Paisa’s death in the Venezuelan state of Apure. As in the case of Santrich, it is unclear exactly who was behind the killing. Some reports maintain that El Paisa was killed in an ambush by the FARC's 10th Front, while other theories suggest drug traffickers planned the murder to settle scores with the Second Marquetalia.
Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias 'Romaña'
Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias "Romaña," was a protégée of Jorge Briceño, alias “Mono Jojoy,” once second-in-command of the FARC. As the commander of the 53rd Front of the now-defunct guerrilla organization, Romaña not only ordered the murder of members of the country’s security forces, but also implemented mass kidnappings, known as “pescas milagrosas,” or miracle fishing, which would become one of the FARC’s most lucrative criminal economies.
Like El Paisa and Santrich, Romaña joined the insurgent group's delegation for the peace negotiations with the Colombian government. However, after being tasked with overseeing demobilization efforts in the municipality of Tumaco, in the Nariño department, he fled. He reappeared in August 2019, along with his comrades El Paisa and Santrich, as a leading figure within the Second Marquetalia.
According to Colombian press reports, Romaña was killed in an attack on his camp in the state of Apure, Venezuela. Although there is no clarity regarding who was responsible for the assassination, the Segunda Marquetalia accused the dissident 10th Front of collaborating with the Colombian army to kill their leader.
Miguel Botache Santillana, alias 'Gentil Duarte'
As a member of the central leadership of the Eastern Bloc of the FARC, Miguel Botache Santillana, alias “Gentil Duarte,” became one of Colombia’s most wanted criminals in 2010. Like Santrich, El Paisa and Romaña, Gentil Duarte participated in the peace talks with the Colombian government; nevertheless, in 2016, he abandoned the process to found what would become the first FARC dissident group along with Néstor Gregorio Vera Fernández, alias “Iván Mordisco.”
Before his death, Duarte planned to turn the scattered units of the dissidents into a unified fighting force. While he managed to evade attacks by Colombia's armed forces for six years, on May 24, 2022, Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano announced the presumed death of the guerrilla leader.
Though the details of his death are still unclear, Molano said that Botache Santanilla was killed in the Venezuelan state of Zulia during a confrontation between ex-FARC Mafia groups. According to a statement released by the dissidents, Duarte's demise was the result of efforts by cooperation between the Colombia's armed forces and the US.
Ricardo Abel Ayala Orrego, alias 'Cabuyo'
Ricardo Abel Ayala Orrego, also known as "Cabuyo,” was one of the military’s top targets in the Antioquia department in northwestern Colombia. Under the framework of the peace negotiations with the Colombian government, Cabuyo went from being in charge of the finances of the 36th Front of the FARC dissidents in 2015, to the representative of the demining plan in the Orej area of Briceno, Antioquia.
Despite receiving benefits for laying down arms, Cabuyo continued to commit crimes and he remained a target for the armed forces. In 2018, he was accused of extorting companies associated with the Hidroituango hydroelectric project, located on the Cauca River, and of participating in the murder of three geologists from the Canadian multinational, Continental Gold, in the Yarumal municipality.
Ayala Orrego was wounded at least twice between 2018 and early 2022, but had managed to recover. He did not have the same luck in June 2022, when he became the fifth dissident leader to fall in just over a year. Cabuyo was killed in the rural Barbosa municipality, to the north of Colombia's Aburrá Valley.
Leider Johnay Noscué, alias 'Mayimbú'
As the top leader of the dissident Jaime Martínez Mobile Column, Leider Johnay Noscué, better known as “Mayimbú,” led a group of peace process deserters in the Cauca department between 2018 and 2021. He became a top target for the Colombian government, which blamed him for the 2019 murder of mayoral candidate Karina García in the Suárez municipality and for a wave of violence against indigenous leaders in the region.
By January 2022, Mayimbú had assumed leadership of a confederation of dissidents in Cauca, Nariño, Valle del Cauca and Huila. But despite this rising power, just five months later, President Iván Duque confirmed that the Army had killed Noscué, in Suárez, Cauca.