Ivan Marquez, former commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) military rebel group, has threatened to restart “a new phase of armed struggle” in a video posted this week.
Marquez, who is wanted by the U.S. government for drug trafficking offences, has come out of hiding in an attempt to reunite a rebellion movement against the Colombian government. Surrounded by almost two dozen armed men and women in the video posted to YouTube, Marquez said he is pursuing violence “under the protection of the universal right that assists all of the peoples of the world to raise arms against oppression.”
FARC has a deep and bloody history since being founded in 1964. For around a 50-year period, ongoing civil conflicts against the Colombian Armed Forces of the government caused widescale death and displacement. Eventually, FARC’s powers eventually began to decline in the early 2010s as the capabilities of the Colombian Armed Forces increased. By this point, however, estimates of the death toll from the conflicts had already gone beyond 250,000, with a majority of these casualties being citizens. Negotiations for peace began in 2012, and in 2016 a full ceasefire agreement was signed under the guidance of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos—who was then awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
Despite the signing of a peace deal, proper stability has still yet to be reached in Colombia. A new President, Ivan Duque, was elected in 2018 from a party which outwardly opposed the 2016 deal. He has taken an aggressive stance to the video saying, “Colombia doesn’t accept threats of any nature, least of all from drug traffickers. We Colombians need to be clear that we are not facing a new guerrilla group but facing criminal threats from a group of drug traffickers that are being sheltered and supported by dictator Nicolas Maduro.”
Duque is clearly very angry about the possible resurgence of FARC militants and the possibility that they are being sheltered by Venezuelan President Maduro. His disapproval of the way that FARC had been handled in the peace talks paves way for the possibility of senseless violence to again take hold across Colombia. With the extent of social and political polarization that exists in the country today, it would be easy for Duque’s administration to become emboldened into achieving their goals by any means necessary. But it is essential that Duque puts his personal anger aside and takes progressive steps to ensure the peace deal can be strengthened, rather than undermining all of the work that has been done to make Colombia a safe and prosperous country in the future.