On Friday, the Colombian government announced it had killed nine former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), including a commander, during a bombing raid in southern Colombia. The move comes 24 hours after former FARC leaders, Ivan Marquez and Jesus Santrich, announced in a Youtube video that they and a group of other ex-guerrillas had retaken up arms.
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In a press conference, President Ivan Duque said on Friday that the men killed were FARC dissidents and died in an operation ordered by him as commander in chief. Defense Minister Guillermo Botero announced that the attack took place in a rural area in the southern department of Caqueta, near the border with Ecuador. "The criminals are warned to surrender or they will be defeated," the official tweeted.
Duque told reporters Friday: "I authorized this operation against this gang of narco-terrorist criminals who are leftovers of what was known as the FARC and who are part of the criminal structures that seek to challenge Colombia." Commander Gildardo Cucho was among the dead.
He added, "Thanks to strategic, meticulous, impeccable and rigorous work, Gildardo Cucho, a leader of this organization, was killed," Duque told journalists in the city of Sincelejo.
It didn’t take long for the government to execute its act of violence after a Thursday morning video was published by a minority of senior leaders of the former FARC announcing their split from the main organization to take up arms again. Among those in the video was Jesus Santrich, a key FARC leader who has been missing since mid-July and Ivan Marquez, a once-senior commander who was integral in negotiating the peace accord, who announcing a “new stage of armed struggle.”
"We announce to the world that the second Marquetalia has begun under the protection of international law that assists all the peoples of the world to rise up in arms against oppression," said Marquez to the camera. Colombia’s Constitutional Court announced Friday it had ordered the arrests of the two leaders who left the peace process they say the current government has derailed.
Meanwhile, president of the FARC party, Rodrigo Londoño, or Timochenko, assured the public shortly after the video was released that "more than 90 percent of ex-combatants remain in the peace process" that began when the Havana Peace Accord was signed in 2016.
The president claimed Cucho was "dedicated to drug trafficking, kidnapping, the intimidation of social leaders,” adding that those who presented themselves in the Thursday-released video are not “a new rebel group, but a narco-terrorist gang."
Duque has strongly opposed the 2016 peace agreement since its inception and during his presidency. Last March, he tried, and failed, to amend six articles of the law outlining the Special Judicial Court (JEP), the backbone of the agreement, that would have allowed the state to further criminalize former FARC who were trying to remain in the system and return to civilian life.
Since the accords were signed over 130 former FARC have been murdered and over 700 social leaders in total have been killed, mainly by paramilitaries, who have been left unprotected by the state that is obliged to ensure the safety of those participating in the peace accord system.
Some 13,000 FARC members, including 7,000 combatants, demobilized under the accord, many joining reintegration efforts or returning home to their families.
Duque added that the military’s move represents a "clear message" to Santrich and Marquez that his administration will continue to take similar measures against the former guerillas who rearm.
Head of the nation’s military, General Luis Fernando Navarro, said that those who take up weapons again “will be faced with all the power of the State and “can be bombed." ¿
No public statements by former FARC and the few dissidents who appeared in the Aug. 29 video could be found.