Thursday a splinter group of Marxist guerrilla fighters, known as FARC, announced a return to violence despite a peace deal it signed with the government of Colombia in 2016. From NPR:
In a 32-minute YouTube video posted Thursday, more than 20 armed fighters stood in green fatigues and in front of a sign that read, “As long as there is a will to fight there will be hope for victory.”
A guerrilla leader involved in the peace negotiations accused the government of betraying key components of the deal. “The state has not fulfilled its most important obligation, which is to guarantee the life of its citizens and especially avoid assassinations for political reasons,” said Luciano Marin, known widely by his nom de guerre, Iván Márquez…
In the video, which appeared to be filmed in the jungle, Marin said the group planned to work with the National Liberation Army (ELN), another leftist guerrilla army which has resorted to kidnapping, extortion and violence.
Colombia’s president immediately blamed the return to violence on Venezuela’s dictator Nicolas Maduro. The government also said the group’s video was filmed inside Venezuela. From the Miami Times:
“Venezuela is becoming South America’s Iran,” Francisco Santos, Colombia’s ambassador to Washington, told me. “Much like Iran uses Hezbollah to destabilize neighboring countries, Venezuela uses terrorist organizations to destabilize its neighbors.”…
Maduro is against the ropes as Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis continues to deteriorate. He may have decided to step up his support for Colombian guerrillas to divert attention from his country’s crisis and weaken his biggest enemy in the neighborhood.
The Venezuelan dictator has often publicly stated his sympathy for Colombia’s leftist guerrillas. In July, he reiterated that fugitive Colombian rebel leaders would be welcome in his country.
The United States has offered amnesty to Maduro, i.e. promising he would not be prosecuted if he simply decided to step down and live out the rest of his life off whatever plundered riches he has amassed. State Department envoy to Venezuela Elliot Abrams was reported by the NY Times to have said, “This is not a persecution. We’re not after him. We want him to have a dignified exit and go.” But it seems Maduro has no intention of leaving.
Helping to fire up guerrilla fighters in Colombia might be Maduro’s way of threatening to drag others down with him. Alternatively, Maduro may also be counting on the US to step in on Colombia’s behalf which would help him sell his claim that the glorious revolution is under attack by US imperialists. Back in 2009, computer files seized from FARC rebels revealed that former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was supporting and protecting the group.
FARC fought the government of Colombia for 52 years in an effort to make the country a socialist paradise like Cuba:
It began in 1964, after the success of the Cuban revolution, with the rebels wanting to forcibly redistribute wealth.
In the more than 50 years since then, the armed group has seized territory, attacked government forces and interfered with political life through high-profile kidnappings. The rebels hijacked a commercial airliner to kidnap a senator in 2002, one of at least three passenger plane hijackings in the early part of the century. One of the group’s most notorious feats was the capture of presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt in 2002, who was held deep in the jungle for six years before she was rescued in a Colombian military operation.
FARC also turned to the drug trade, making millions from trafficking in cocaine. It was designated a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.
The rebels forced children to become soldiers, training them as guerrillas to lay mines and fight.
As the decades passed, thousands upon thousands of people were killed. Up to 220,000 died in the insurgency and as many as 5 million people were displaced — more than 1 out of every 10 Colombians.
Approximately 2,000 FARC rebels are now returning to that fight. Another 13,000 have said they will continue to abide by the 2016 peace agreement.