FARC leader Ivan Marquez has threatened Bogota with renewing the group’s five-decade-long armed struggle against the government. Here’s what experts think about his threat.
A recent statement from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has reminded Colombians that the country’s crucial peace process could be in grave danger as guerilla leaders showed up in uniform last week to announce the renewal of their armed struggle against Bogata.
The announcement was made by Ivan Marquez, a FARC leader who was party to the peace deal signed in 2016 between Bogata and the group.
“This is the continuation of the rebel fight in answer to the betrayal of the state of the Havana peace accords,” Marquez said in a video released by the group.
While prominent media outlets portrayed Marquez as the architect of the agreement, who might determine the future of the peace process, some experts think otherwise.
Luz Piedad Caicedo, Deputy Director of Corporacion Humanas, a Colombian NGO monitoring Bogota's compliance of its obligations regarding women's rights, is one of them.
“Ivan Marquez, I think, has never been involved in the peace process. Among the delegates of the FARC, he [stayed one of the leaders who] is not very convinced about the peace process,” Caicedo told TRT World.
According to Caicedo, it is not Marquez and other top FARC leaders, but rather mid-level commanders that currently wield more power in Colombia and could determine the fate of the country’s peace process.
The war between the FARC and the Colombian state lasted more than five decades, killing 260,000 people and leaving millions of civilians displaced.
Will FARC pick up arms again?
“High-level leaders have been in Havana for two years, conducting the peace process by doing negotiations [with the government]. But mid-level commanders are still in Colombia and continue to have power,” Caicedo said.
“They are not clear that the peace process is going to benefit them,” she said. As a result, if Marquez is serious to return armed struggle, then mid-level commanders could go with him.
“This is a possibility. But it is too early to know exactly what they would do. They [the mid-level commanders] might also go alone.”
Powerful Colombian public figures also immediately reacted to Marquez’s announcement, mostly with condemnation. Rodrigo Londono, nicknamed Timochenko, one of the most powerful leaders of the FARC, is among them.
“It’s an unfortunate development, but at the same time it leaves things clearer and ends the ambiguity because we had been facing a complex situation for some time,” Londono said, referring to Marquez and his comrades as people who choose illegality over legality.
He believes 90 percent of FARC members are still loyal to the peace process.
“[Thanks to] the amount of people supporting the government and keeping its commitment to the agreement and demobilised individuals, including Timochenko, peace is stronger as a result of what happened today,” said Sergio Guzman, Director of Colombia Risk Analysis group.
While most of the Marxist armed group’s members, around 10,000 to 15,000, have been disarmed, demobilisedand gone through a reintegration process into normal life since 2016, 2,000 have stood as dissidents to the landmark deal.
There is also another powerful armed Colombian group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), which has refused to be party to the peace deal, continuing to fight with the government forces.
Marquez has also indicated that he has plans to collaborate with the ELN, which has been strengthened during the peace process, exploiting the power vacuum created by the absence of the FARC.
The Venezuelan political crisis has also compounded the complications of the peace process as more migrants are coming to Colombia across the border to find a safe haven. The ELN and other armed groups, which control some of the border areas between the two countries, are taking advantage of the instability, and allegedly recruiting poor migrants.
‘Waging war is not the way’
Colombians do not want to go back to the dark era of the war, so renewing the armed struggle will not help anything at all, Caicedo said.
Despite the inefficient responses of the government to the peace process, the FARC’s five-decade armed campaign against Bogota has clearly showed that neither the group nor the country has much to gain from the conflict. As a result, committing to the peace process is better than renewing the conflict, Caicedo believes.
“Many things [government pledges] concerning the peace agreement have not been implemented. But on the other hand, this [announcement] is really a bad decision. It’s not a good political decision,” Caicedo said.
“It’s not possible to change anything with arms. During 50 years, they did not gain anything. Trying to call to arms again and trying to change the situation in Colombia by arms is not the way.”
Caicedo also pointed out that the country now has a right-wing government and most people do not want to see the leftist FARC renew its armed campaign.
“The peace process is very important for [Colombian] democracy,” she said.
Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez, who has been elected through a political platform opposing the peace process, called Marquez and his comrades as “a band of narco-terrorists who have the protection and support of the dictatorship of [Venezuelan President] Nicolas Maduro”.
Both the Colombian president and the FARC leader strangely have the same name.
The president also offered a reward of $900,000 for each commander who stood next to Marquez in the recent video, where the FARC leader threatened the government.
But the president has also been warned by the two main architects of the peace deal, who were former senior officials, on conducting negotiations with the FARC on behalf of Bogota.
“Again and again, we told the government that its permanent attacks on the peace process and the risk to legal stability that come with it, could push commanders to make a wrong decision,” said Sergio Jaramillo and Humberto de la Calle in a written statement.