The escapes of guerrilla leaders like Ivan Marquez, alias “El Paisa,” alias “Romaña” and now most recently Jesus Santrich have threatened the agreement between the FARC guerillas and the government of former resident Juan Manuel Santos. Besides being fugitives from justice, they claim supposed legal insecurities and disagreements in political matters and the implementation of the Havana agreement by the government of President Ivan Duque.
Despite the annoyance of the guerrilla leaders, intelligence reports detail a possible formation of a FARC 2.0. Middle commanders of the previous guerrilla such as alias “Gentil Duarte” and “Ivan Mordisco” may have been in contact with the guerrilla leaders who are missing.
PanAm Post brings an account of the actions of the current FARC guerrilla leaders who decided to escape justice.
The case of the historical guerrilla leader Jesus Santrich is the most famous one because his judicial case resembles a movie. After being accused and investigated for drug trafficking, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) did not extradite him to the United States.
The escape of the guerrilla leader to Venezuelan territory occurs one month after he regained his freedom and took office as representative to the House by the Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Common (FARC) party, despite the fact that he Colombian and U.S. authorities continue to investigate him for the crime of drug trafficking. Many analysts agree that the responsibility lies in the hands of the Colombian justice system.
“The justice system does have much responsibility in this because all the evidence provided by the DEA and the Attorney General’s Office was available and known to the Colombian people and the media,” Lawyer and analyst D’ mar Cordoba told the PanAm Post.
Moreover, if that was not enough, the guerilla leader had already received his first salary as Congressman. A check for $4,600 was written for the days he attended Congress after regaining his freedom. The legal argument that the State Council maintained in the Santrich case was that he had not taken office as a congressman because of a case of “force majeure” given that he was in prison when he was supposed to take office.
While some point out that Santrich has not fled because he has complied with the JEP citations in case 001 for kidnapping, it is clear he had to seek permission from the special justice to leave the country. In this case, Santrich had not submitted a request to the peace tribunal.
The guerilla leader insists that he is innocent and repeatedly produces rulings in his favor, saying, “the JEP has torn down the dirty setup against me.”
The other guerilla leader who has escaped and whose whereabouts are unknown is Ivan Marquez.
On 2oth July 2018, Marquez did not take his FARC party seat in the Senate for 2018-2022. He cited the “lack of guarantees” as the reason behind his actions. However, he did not present any justifiable evidence for the same. Therefore, the State Council declared “void” his seat according to an agreement with the Santos government.
The JEP has summoned the guerilla on more than three occasions. He has been absconding since April 2018 when he left the Territorial Space for Training and Reincorporation (ETCR) in the municipality of Miravalle.
At the same time, he has pointed out that he has “insurmountable” reasons for not taking the seat, among them because the Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were making an alleged fabrication to indict him for crimes committed after the signing of the agreement. The same happened with the Santrich case in which his nephew Marlon Marin is involved and now serves as a protected witness in the United States.
For now, his whereabouts are unknown. However, according to military intelligence reports, the guerrilla leader is presumably in Venezuelan territory, where Nicolas Maduro’s regime has not hesitated to support and shelter terrorist organizations.
Marquez has been active on social media, especially in his Twitter account where he writes criticisms of the Duque government and the manner of implementation of the agreement.
Alias “El Paisa”
Another guerrilla leader who continues to generate concern and delays in the implementation of the agreement is Hernan Dario Velasquez Saldarriaga, alias “El Paisa.”
Due to the repeated non-compliance of “El Paisa,” the recognition department of the JEP ordered his arrest. However, his whereabouts are unknown. It is also said that he could be in Venezuela along with the other guerrilla leaders. Last October, with a document, addressed to the Senate Peace Commission, Ivan Marquez and “El Paisa” stated that they had been “betrayed,” stressing that “soulless predator had destroyed the peace agreement.”
According to a statement by the mayor of the municipality of San Vicente del Caguan, Humberto Sanchez, “El Paisa” is committing a crime in the department of Caqueta.”
“El Paisa” is allegedly responsible for the extortion of the oil company Emerald Energy, which operates in the area’s oil wells. Sanchez told Caracol radio that men who are under the command of the guerrilla chief “have placed several explosive devices on the tank cars. There is an underlying threat of a possible attack on the builders.”
Accordingly, the government has offered a sum of 936,840 USD as compensation for any information obtained about the whereabouts of the guerilla leader and his arrest. For his part, General Oscar Atehortua, the director of National Police, revealed that the search is ongoing after reactivating the 35 arrest warrants against “El Paisa.”
Henry Castellanos Garzon alias Romaña is another guerilla leader who has not heeded to the request of the JEP despite having an incident of contempt for not appearing at the trial for kidnapping case 001.
It is important to remember that Romaña led the ‘pescas milagrosas’ or the indiscriminate kidnapping that the guerillas executed in the main roads of the country.
The JEP is determining the legal status of the guerrilla leader since it must decide whether or not he actually abandoned the process and verify the information of alleged rearmament of former combatants who took part in the peace process but subsequently deserted to continue committing crimes.