BOGOTA – Colombian opposition parties rejected on Monday the decision taken by the ex-number two of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other former leaders of that guerrilla to take up arms again and invited civil society not to give up on the quest for peace.
On Aug. 29, Ivan Marquez, who was a leading figure in the conclusive peace talks with the government in 2016, announced in a video that he was taking up arms again.
“We join the nationwide call of rejection of the decision taken by this group of people, which is a violation of the commitments agreed to in the peace agreement,” Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, the chairman of Colombia’s Common Alternative Revolutionary Force – a communist political party that is the political successor to the former FARC rebel group (and shares its acronym) –, said in a video.
Londoño made these remarks in response to a speech by Colombian President Ivan Duque following Marquez’s announcement.
Marquez, whose whereabouts had been unknown for more than a year, reappeared in a 32-minute video dated Aug. 29, flanked by around 20 armed militants, and along with other former FARC leaders to announce the start of a “new phase of the armed struggle.”
Other familiar faces in the footage included Seuzis Paucias Hernandez, alias “Jesus Santrich” and Hernan Dario Velasquez, alias “El Paisa,” both of whom stopped fulfilling their commitments in line with the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the judicial body set up to facilitate the peace agreement, several months ago.
In a televised address to the nation on Aug. 29 following Marquez’s announcement, Duque accused leftist Venezuelan head of state Nicolas Maduro of being behind the renewal of the armed struggle in Colombia.
“We Colombians must be clear that we are not seeing the birth of a new guerrilla movement, but rather the criminal threats of a band of narcoterrorists who enjoy the hospitality of Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship,” Duque said.
On Monday, representatives of the opposition parties argued that “proven breaches by the (Colombian) State cannot be responded to with other breaches.”
Londoño said that the messages coming in from communities from different parts of Colombia and the immediate reaction surrounding the agreement as well as the more than 95 percent of ex-guerrillas who remain steadfast to peace are all a reflection of the country’s deep desire for harmony.
According to the chairman of the FARC party, who was known as “Timochenko” during his guerrilla days, those wanting peace far outnumber those who don’t and, therefore, have an obligation not to lose heart.
The opposition parties also rejected statements aimed at taking advantage of the rearmament of Marquez and his followers to call for non-compliance of the agreement signed between the Colombian government and FARC in Nov. 2016.
Londoño concluded his speech on Monday by stating that “the desire of the majority of Colombians to live in peace calls us all, without exception, to strongly defend the agreement.”
He added that people must persist in the search for a comprehensive peace, which, as history shows, will not only come from police and military persecution of the various phenomena disrupting the tranquility of communities across Colombia.