A veteran FARC dissident commander was killed in a Colombian military assault, leaving a power vacuum in the volatile Colombia-Venezuela border region.
On February 24, an operation by Colombian security forces reportedly led to the death of Jorge Eliecer Jiménez Martinez, alias “Arturo,” the leader of the 10th Front, a dissident group of the extinct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), according to a post by Colombia President Ivan Duque’s on his official Twitter account.
According to Semana, another 21 members of the 10th Front, also known as the Martín Villa Front, were also killed during the operation, which was carried out in the Puerto Rondón municipality in the Arauca department. The 10th Front, an aggressive ex-FARC Mafia group, has been linked to a faction of dissidents commanded by Miguel Botache Santillana, alias “Gentil Duarte.”
SEE ALSO: 10th Front - Ex-FARC Mafia
Arturo was one of the main people responsible for the clashes between the dissident front and the Second Marquetalia, another ex-FARC Mafia faction which is led by former commander Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez.” The 10th Front is also in a battle with the Colombian guerrilla force, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN), and Venezuelan security forces.
The 10th Front, which did not accept the government's peace agreement with the FARC in 2016, maintains an active presence on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, in the departments of Arauca and Apure, respectively, where it has sought to control critical drug trafficking routes.
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The military attack leaves the 10th Front without its commander and almost a dozen combatants at a time when the group is embroiled in several conflicts with various armed groups along the Colombia-Venezuela.
While the 10th Front arrived in Venezuela thanks to the tacit approval of the government, it found itself under attack by Venezuelan troops in early 2021 in Apure. Despite being at a disadvantage, the ex-FARC fighters withered the assault, with Arturo and his men even managing to strike back on Venezuelan soil, as demonstrated by a recent investigation by InSight Crime.
The 10th Front has also clashed with Second Marquetalia since September 2020, due to differences with the latter over the distribution of criminal economies. Thousands of people living on the border between the two countries have been displaced as a result.
Although the ELN also has a presence in Venezuelan state of Apure, it had stayed out of the clashes between dissidents and Venezuelan forces. But the 10th Front disrupted this relative peace when its fighters moved into Arauca, the Colombia border department. The battlefront between the two groups emerged in January 2022, as the groups clashed on the Colombian side of the border.
Paradoxically, after facing several enemies at the same time, it was the Colombian forces that managed to kill Arturo and his men. According to the official account of Colombia’s president, Arturo "came out from hiding from Venezuela."
With the top leader of the 10th Front dead, it would not be surprising for other criminal elements to try to regain lost ground. However, the 10th Front has proven to bounce back easily in the face of adversity – especially when at a disadvantage.