Politics, World, Americas

Regrouping of armed rebels stirs fear in Colombia

FARC rebels in social media video say they have withdrawn from 2016 peace deal, will resume war

Susana Noguera Montoya   | 04.09.2019
Regrouping of armed rebels stirs fear in Colombia

*This story is translated from the original copy in Spanish written by Anadolu Agency's Colombia office

BOGOTA, Colombia 

A 32-minute video uploaded on Youtube last week has stirred a political storm in Colombia.

It shows a group of high-ranking Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, guns in hand, announcing they had withdrawn from a 2016 peace deal and would resume their war against the country.

Ivan Marquez, the former chief peace negotiator of FARC, said he was not happy with how Colombian President Ivan Duque was implementing the peace accord.

The video also featured Seuxis Pauses Hernandez, aka "Jesús Santrich", another senior member of the guerrilla, who interestingly was still a congressman at the time, thanks to a seat given by the peace agreement to the FARC party.

Other middle-ranking former guerrilla commanders also appeared in the video, such as Hernan Dario Velasquez, aka “El Paisa”; Henry Castellanos Garzon, aka “Romana”; Jose Manuel Sierra Sabogal, aka 'Zarco Aldinever'; and José Vicente Lesmes, aka ‘Walter Mendoza’.

A blame game has started in the South American nation as politicians fear the decades-old conflict which claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people will be reignited.

Senator and former President Alvaro Uribe blamed his successor former President Juan Manuel Santos for signing a peace deal which was weak and poorly constructed.

The opposition political leaders blamed incumbent President Duque and his political party for trying to change the agreement and creating judicial instability that pushed former combatants back to arms.

FARC party distances itself

Former guerrilla commander and now the leader of the FARC political party Rodrigo Londono, aka ‘Timocheko’; was one of the first to respond to the announcement.

"The FARC party states that it does not share any of the terms of that speech," he said about the video.

“Proclaiming the armed struggle in Colombia today is a delusional mistake,” he added at a news conference in the FARC political party headquarters in Bogota, a few hours after Marquez video was released on Thursday.

President Duque waited also waited a few hours to respond to the national turmoil.

“We are not facing the birth of a new guerrilla but a threat of a criminal gang of narcoterrorists who have the shelter and support of the dictatorship of [Venezuelan President] Nicolas Maduro," he said in an official statement.

Duque also talked about the need for peace in Colombia. “All Colombians want peace. A peace with legality, that is sustainable and without impunity”, he said. But he also spoke about a strong military approach to the problem. “Let the criminals be notified: Colombia is going to defeat terrorism.”

Former President Santos called on all parties to seek a political solution, adding that a vast majority of FARC members were in the process of returning to civilian life.

"They constitute the vast majority and deserve all our support," said the former head of state.

Global outcry

The international community issued various statements calling for peace.

EU's Foreign Affairs and Security Policy spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said that the dissidents of the demobilized FARC to resume the armed struggle in Colombia are "a small group".

"The only way to adequately address differences and overcome difficulties in the implementation of the peace agreement, a valuable and widely successful agreement, is through dialogue and political participation," she said.

The UN Verification Mission in Colombia rejected and emphatically condemned the rearmament announcement. "The construction of peace is complex and long-term, and recognizing the commitment of the parties, the Mission urges to redouble efforts for the comprehensive implementation of the Final Peace Agreement."

Turkey reiterated its support for the peace process in Colombia. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said: "Our support for the peace process in Colombia will continue.”

Ariel Avila, sub-director of the Center of Thought on Armed Conflict, Peace and Post-Conflict in Colombia, told Anadolu Agency that in the last few months regions of Colombia like Norte de Santander, at the border with Venezuela, and other regions in the south of the country have seen a rise in violence caused by illegal armed groups.

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