The Fight Against Insurgency Would Be Easier Without Maduro: Colombian Foreign Minister

The capture and prosecution of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish) and National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish) dissident commanders would be easier if disputed Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro weren’t in power, said Colombia’s foreign minister, stressing that Caracas protects these illegal armed groups.
Voice of America | 27 September 2019

Transnational Threats

A man sells the Q hubo newspaper in Medellín, Colombia, on August 30, 2019. The front page features pictures of Iván Márquez, former senior commander of the FARC, and his colleague Jesús Santrich, a day after Márquez announced that he is taking up arms again along with other guerrillas who have distanced themselves from a historic peace accord signed with the Colombian government. (Photo: Joaquin Sarmiento, AFP)

These statements came after demobilized FARC guerrilla leaders announced in an August 29 video that they were taking up arms again, accusing the government of violating the peace accord. The group’s declaration threatens to reactivate a long and violent internal conflict.

“There’s no question about it. Maduro’s regime gives them protection; it has opened its doors, facilitating their actions from its territory,” Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo told Reuters in an interview.

The Colombian government maintains that leaders of ELN and FARC dissidents who abandoned the peace accord, such as Iván Márquez and Jesús Santrich, who appear in the video announcing a return to the armed struggle, are taking refuge in Venezuela with Maduro’s approval.

Duque’s government and the United Nations (UN) condemned the dissidents’ announcement, while the political party born from the guerrillas’ demobilization said that most former members are still committed to peace, despite “difficulties and risks.”

Maduro denies claims that Colombian illegal armed groups have taken refuge in Venezuela. In late July, the socialist leader said Márquez and Santrich were welcome in Venezuela.

A U.S. Department of State official told Reuters that Maduro’s government is increasingly providing refuge to Colombian insurgent groups.

End of dictatorship best for Colombia

Venezuela, which blamed the rearming of dissidents on Duque’s government for not complying with the 2016 peace accord, expressed concern for the “imminent reactivation” of the conflict that left 260,000 dead and millions displaced in more than 50 years.

Maduro later said via Twitter that his government was committed to promoting peace in Colombia, and that it would work to resume conversations between both parties.

“The end of this dictatorship, of this tyranny, is best for Venezuela, best for Colombia, best for the region, best for the international community,” said Trujillo, adding that Duque would denounce Maduro’s support for the insurgents at the next session of the UN General Assembly.

Venezuelan opposition leader and Interim President Juan Guaidó, recognized by more than 50 countries as the lawful president of his country, has committed to fight against Colombian illegal armed groups.

Maduro, who clings to power with the help of the military, accuses Guaidó of being a U.S. puppet.

Trujillo said that Colombia will start proceedings against Márquez, and other leaders who have walked out of the peace process, to be included in Interpol’s red list that identifies the world’s most wanted criminals. Colombian security forces estimate that FARC dissidents have about 2,000 fighters.

When Trujillo was asked if Colombia had any proof of the presence of insurgents in Venezuela, he said: “There are indications, there are hypotheses.”

“But what’s certain is that Venezuela, under Maduro’s regime, has sheltered Colombian terrorists. The ELN is there, ELN leaders are there. Those ELN leaders will work in coordination with this narcoterrorist group that made the announcement [on August 29],” he concluded.

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