In 2016, Colombia's government signed a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), ending five decades of insurgency. The deal split FARC into some factions that continued to participate in criminal activities and some that chose to join the peace agreement. But some of the militant leaders that chose to join the peace deal likely also remained involved in cocaine trafficking, extortion and other crimes — and they may leave the agreement as they come under investigation.
Colombia's peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) ended a lengthy insurgency, but some rebel leaders may be heading back to a life of crime. According to an Aug. 16 report, a FARC spokesperson said that three of the group's senior leaders were under threat of arrest by Colombian armed forces. The leaders, Luciano Marin Arango, Hernan Dario Velasquez and Henry Castellanos Garzon, had reportedly left camps in the departments of Caqueta and Meta because military forces were moving into the areas to arrest them. Marin Arango is a key member of the FARC secretariat, and Velasquez and Garzon were senior field commanders.
Why It Matters
If the three rebel leaders are under threat of arrest as the FARC claims, their departure from the peace process will likely have a limited effect on crime-related violence. The leaders are likely to take additional FARC militants with them as they leave the camps. And introducing more former militants into Colombia's already-crowded criminal landscape will lead to more violence as the groups compete for revenue from illicit activities. In Meta and Caqueta, competition with members of the Clan del Golfo criminal group is likely, as are confrontations with former FARC rebels already operating there. The rebels that leave the camps may number no more than a few hundred, but they could plausibly re-enter areas in Meta where oil companies operate and will compete for the same extortion revenue as other groups — a situation that will drive violence. Colombian state energy company Ecopetrol and its contractors, which have the greatest number of operations in the area, face the greatest risk of physical violence and operational interruptions.
The rebel leaders received amnesty for certain crimes, such as drug trafficking and extortion, that they committed before the 2016 peace agreement with the government. But they have no immunity for criminal activity after the deal went into effect. On April 9, Colombian authorities arrested Seuxis Hernandez, a senior FARC commander allegedly involved in cocaine trafficking to the United States. He currently awaits extradition to the United States and may have provided authorities with information on other leaders' criminal activities.