Despite a 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and FARC, Colombia has remained unsafe because of FARC dissidents, the ELN and other powerful criminal organizations. Now, three senior FARC members have denounced the peace deal, which suggests even more violence lies ahead — with consequences for regional relations.
Three senior members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on Aug. 29 denounced the group's 2016 peace plan with the Colombian government and said they were resuming armed struggle, El Colombiano reported Aug. 29. The announcement came in a video that included Luciano Marin Arango, aka Ivan Marquez, the former lead negotiator for the peace deal; Seuxis Pausias Hernandez, aka Jesus Santrich, a former member of the Colombian congress; and Hernan Dario Velasquez Saldarriaga, aka El Paisa, a former FARC operational commander.
In the video, Marquez read a manifesto rejecting the peace agreement and urging dissident FARC groups to align and find common cause with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country's largest remaining militant group. Marquez said that the new FARC would not actively target soldiers or police, but it would "respond to aggression," citing the killings of about 500 social activists as the reason why poor people need FARC protection. Apparently, Marquez is attempting to cast the new FARC as the defender of marginalized populations that have numerous grievances against the government in Bogota.
Why It Matters
Such a move will exploit underlying tensions in Colombia and help the new FARC reestablish a power base and legitimacy. Making common cause with dissidents and the ELN will help force high-level cooperation between factions even though violent clashes between local elements over resources are likely to continue. The announcement was supposedly shot in rural southern Colombia, but it is likely that all three men and their followers have found a haven in Venezuela. The continuing role of Venezuela in serving as a haven for FARC and ELN militants will also continue to fray the already-acrimonious relations between the two states.
The continuing role of Venezuela in serving as a haven for FARC and ELN militants will also continue to fray the already-acrimonious relations between the two states.
The FARC has long positioned itself as an advocate for the poor, and it has used such rhetoric to justify protecting farmers who grow coca and opium poppies and drug traffickers. Such activity, along with kidnapping and extortion — which FARC refers to as "revolutionary taxes" — allowed the group to fund its operations after the end of Soviet and Cuban support for its armed struggle. Despite the 2016 peace deal, Colombia has remained unsafe because of FARC dissidents, the ELN and other powerful criminal organizations known as Bacrim (a Spanish acronym for criminal bands). In many places, Bacrim and ELN have filled the void left by the FARC demobilization.
What Lies Ahead
Should the FARC attempt to reassert control in areas Bacrim and ELN have taken over, it could lead to additional criminal infighting. The return of these three senior FARC leaders to armed struggle will likely accelerate the trends of former militants leaving demobilization zones and of marginalized communities serving as a source of fresh recruits and havens. In the long term, these trends will erode the marginal gains from the peace deal and worsen security in Colombia. As a result, businesses will be at greater risk of kidnapping and extortion.