BOGOTA – The political party formed by the former rebel group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) confirmed on Saturday its commitment to Colombia’s peace agreement a day after one of its leaders was arrested again.
The Common Alternative Revolutionary Force – the name adopted by the new party, whose initials coincide with the defunct guerrilla’s – sent a letter to its militants following the arrest of Jesus Santrich, who was admitted to a hospital in Bogota on Saturday after being taken into custody.
The leaders of this party, which emerged after the peace accord between the guerrilla group and the government in Nov. 2016, held an emergency meeting in Bogota to analyze the situation that led to the arrest of Santrich by the attorney general’s office, which claimed to have new evidence of his participation in drug trafficking.
The meeting was convened by FARC party President Rodrigo Londono, known by the alias “Timochenko,” who was not present but asked the former guerrilla members to stand firm by the peace agreement despite Santrich’s arrest.
“Despite the adversities, we remain consistent in upholding the process. They are trying to push us to resort to desperate actions, which once carried out will be more than useful to them to give the final blow to the process,” he said in a letter.
The emergency meeting was attended by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the United Nations’ Special Representative for Colombia; Raul Rosende, the director of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia and several former guerrilla leaders, including Carlos Antonio Lozada, currently a senator, and Pastor Alape, a FARC delegate to the National Reincorporation Council.
After the meeting, the party issued a statement in which it asked President Ivan Duque to receive a delegation of that movement to “personally show him” their concerns and added that the arrest was due to a lack of awareness by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the country’s transitional justice tribunal.
“The illegal arrest of Jesus Santrich, hatched by the Attorney General’s Office, is a result of a lack of awareness of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace – and therefore the political constitution – in trying to circumvent one of its failures while seeking to weaken the fundamental pillar of the peace accord,” the party added.
Seuxis Paucias Hernandez, aka Jesus Santrich, was admitted to the Mederi Hospital in Bogota on Saturday due to “an alteration in the state of consciousness and positive neurological signs” after being into taken custody soon after being freed from the La Picota jail, where he spent 13 months at the request of the United States, who asked for his extradition for drug trafficking.
The hospital said the former FARC leader was stable and receiving all the attention his medical condition required.
Around 30 supporters of Santrich gathered at the hospital demanding his release and criticized the attorney general’s office for arresting him again.
Some of them carried banners that read “Freedom for Santrich,” “Respect human rights” and “Save peace” among other slogans.
One of the supporters, Daniel Leftaro, said that what had happened to Santrich went against the human rights of people and was very serious, as the JEP had already ordered his immediate release this week.
Santrich was arrested in Bogota on April 9, 2018 under orders of Colombian prosecutors following charges filed by the US for drug trafficking, an offense which, according to the complaint, he allegedly committed after the signing of the peace agreement.
If the complaint turns out to be true, the case would be decided by regular courts and not the JEP, a court created to try crimes committed during Colombia’s half-century-long armed conflict.
In this regard, Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Saturday in Pasto, the capital of the southwestern Narino department, that he supports the appeal by the attorney general’s office against the JEP’s ruling, which granted Santrich a non-extradition guarantee, alleging insufficient evidence by the prosecution.
“We publicly support the prosecutor’s decision to appeal this ruling and in addition to seeking that this appeal fulfills what should have happened a long time ago and that was the extradition of this citizen who had conducted a drug-trafficking operation, which is clearly a relapse and offends the victims and Colombian people,” said Duque, adding that those genuinely leaving the path of violence would always have the support of the state.