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Colombia Rebel Commander ‘Jesús Santrich’ Killed, Venezuelan Officials Say

Colombia Rebel Commander ‘Jesús Santrich’ Killed, Venezuelan Officials Say
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Colombia Rebel Commander ‘Jesús Santrich’ Killed, Venezuelan Officials Say

Colombia Rebel Commander ‘Jesús Santrich’ Killed, Venezuelan Officials Say

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — A distinguished former commander of Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, who was recognized by the nom de guerre Jesús Santrich, has been killed in Venezuela, in accordance with three senior Venezuela authorities officers near the nation’s safety forces.

The officers, who requested anonymity to debate nationwide safety points, didn’t say how he died. The armed group he ran confirmed his demise in a message on its web site, blaming the killing on Colombian particular forces, with out offering any proof. Colombian officers say they’re nonetheless working to substantiate his demise, and didn’t instantly reply to the group’s allegation.

The insurgent chief, whose actual title was Seuxis Hernández Solarte, helped lead the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, earlier than turning into one of many negotiators who struck a peace take care of the Colombian authorities in 2016, ending 5 many years of warfare.

He then turned towards the deal, and returned to arms.

Mr. Hernández — recognizable all through the nation as a result of he usually wore darkish glasses and a checkered scarf — was, in some ways, an emblem of the tough steadiness Colombia has needed to strike as it really works to go away behind the bloody battle that displaced thousands and thousands, killed at the least 220,000 and outlined the nation for generations.

When the disarmed rebels created a political celebration and had been granted seats in Congress as a part of the peace settlement, one of many positions went to Mr. Hernández — however he by no means served, as authorities in Colombia and the US accused him of returning to the drug commerce, a violation of the accord.

Following his detention on these prices and eventual launch from jail, he vanished from public view, solely to reappear alongside one other insurgent chief, Luciano Marín, recognized by the alias Iván Márquez, in a 2019 video during which they issued a brand new name to arms, arguing the federal government had did not uphold its finish of the discount.

That announcement by the 2 ex-leaders was an additional blow to Colombians’ hopes for lasting peace, with the settlement having already been undercut by failures by either side to adjust to its phrases. The nation’s countryside remains to be the location of mass killings, compelled displacement and the recruitment and killing of kids.

Critics of the deal mentioned Mr. Hernández was proof that the FARC would by no means hand over combating, or crime, whereas supporters of the settlement identified {that a} overwhelming majority of former fighters have certainly given up arms — and claimed that the Colombian authorities’s failure to carry up its finish of the deal was serving to to push some folks again to the jungle.

Colombian officers have claimed, with out offering concrete proof, that Mr. Hernández was hiding out in neighboring Venezuela, the place President Nicolás Maduro, the leftist rival of the conservative Colombian authorities, has allowed Colombian armed teams to take refuge and even flourish. A number of Colombian teams have taken over drug smuggling routes and unlawful mining inside Venezuela, in accordance with safety analysts and other people dwelling on the Colombia-Venezuela border.

Following the 2016 peace deal, about 13,000 FARC fighters laid down their arms. However some refused to take action, and have fashioned new insurgent teams generally known as the FARC dissidents. Mr. Hernández had change into a pacesetter of a kind of teams, the Segunda Marquetalia.

In a message on its web site Tuesday evening, the group claimed that Mr. Hernández had died on Monday on the Venezuelan facet of the distant Perijá mountains, which separate the 2 international locations. He was touring when his truck was attacked with gunfire and grenades, the group mentioned. The New York Instances couldn’t independently confirm this model of occasions.

Adam Isacson, a Colombia knowledgeable for the Washington Workplace on Latin America, mentioned that the demise of Mr. Hernández was a “symbolic blow” to the Segunda Marquetalia — and that the insurgent chief’s presence in Venezuela reveals how deeply the dissidents had penetrated the nation.

His demise comes at a interval of heightened stress between Colombia and Venezuela — each of which have blamed the opposite for harboring insurgents — and between the governments of each these international locations and the FARC dissidents inside their borders.

In March, the Venezuelan army launched its largest army operation in many years in an effort to rout a second FARC dissident group — a rival group of the Segunda Marquetalia generally known as the Tenth Entrance. This broke with years during which the Venezuelan authorities had tolerated the Colombian guerrillas in its nationwide territory.

Simply earlier than the demise of Mr. Hernández, the Colombian Supreme Court docket had indicated it was in favor of extraditing him to the US to reply to drug prices. U.S. officers accuse him of working to supply and distribute about 10 tons of cocaine to the US.

Julie Turkewitz reported from Bogotá and Anatoly Kurmanaev reported from Mexico Metropolis. Mariana Martínez contributed reporting from Caracas.

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