ABOVE RIGHT – Jesús Santrich

 

https://insightcrime.org/news/death-of-jesus-santrich-throws-wrench-into-conflict-in-venezuela/

 

The killing of a notorious Colombian dissident guerrilla leader on Venezuelan soil has the potential to destabilize underworld dynamics in both countries, fueling an already raging conflict along their shared border.

On May 18, the Segunda Marquetalia – a dissident network of former guerrillas from the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) – announced the death of Seuxis Pausias Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich.”

The formal announcement came after a flurry of news reports alleging Santrich’s death, first by news site El Expediente and then by Semana magazine, which stated it had confirmed the death with “high-ranking sources” in Venezuela.

Shortly afterward, Colombia Defense Minister Diego Molano wrote on Twitter that “intelligence information signals that alias Santrich and other criminals were killed in supposed confrontations that took place yesterday in Venezuela.” He added that the information was “being verified.”

Reports conflicted as to how the guerrilla leader was killed. El Expediente claimed the Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guard (Guardia Bolivariana Nacional – GNB) was responsible, while Semana asserted that Santrich died in clashes between armed groups. The Segunda Marquetalia claimed that Colombian armed forces killed him in a raid, while the El Tiempo newspaper reported claims that mercenaries seeking a bounty were behind the operation.

While it’s unclear who killed Santrich, his death comes amid growing tensions among various factions of dissident FARC guerrillas.

This conflict has centered around the western Venezuelan state of Apure, where the Segunda Marquetalia has been at loggerheads with the 10th Front faction of the former FARC.

In addition, the 10th Front has been battling with the Venezuelan military in Apure since March 2021, leaving an official death toll of 16 soldiers and an unknown number of guerrillas. The 10th Front has also captured eight Venezuelan soldiers.

The 10th Front’s leaders and their allies have accused the Second Marquetalia of being behind the conflict, claiming they have been coordinating the attacks against the group with corrupt Venezuelan officials. In turn, the Segunda Marquetalia has pledged never to attack Venezuelan forces and dismissed the 10th Front as “irregular Colombian forces.”

InSight Crime Analysis

Santrich’s death is a strong sign that Venezuela is no longer a safe haven for Segunda Marquetalia guerrilla leaders. The question is now whether the threat to the group comes from elements of the Venezuelan state, from Colombian forces or from underworld rivals.

Of the numerous versions of events, the least likely one has been put forward by the guerrillas themselves: Colombia dispatched commandos into Venezuelan territory to kill Santrich. This would represent a violation of sovereignty with international repercussions that the Colombian government would be unlikely to court, even amid long-running animosity between the countries.

The idea that a mercenary force launched such a dangerous expedition within Venezuelan territory to claim a bounty also seems unlikely, though given the recent history of mercenary activities in Venezuela, cannot be ruled out.

While it is possible that Venezuelan forces led the attack, this would represent a huge shift in the government’s approach toward this faction of the ex-FARC.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been publicly supportive of Santrich and Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” who formed the Segunda Marquetalia in August 2019 after abandoning the peace process with the Colombian government. A month before the announcement, Maduro directly welcomed Santrich and Márquez to Venezuela. Since then, the group’s leadership has been based in that country, where it has been able to operate freely.

If Venezuelan security forces did kill Santrich, this either means that Maduro is no longer willing to protect the Segunda Marquetalia or that security forces were not responding to orders from the national government.

The most feasible scenario is that Santrich was killed by criminal rivals, most likely connected to the ex-FARC 10th Front and their allies.

While the conflict in Apure has mostly been between the 10th Front and the Venezuelan armed forces, local media reports claim that there have recently been clashes between the Segunda Marquetalia and the 10th Front in the municipality of Muñoz in Apure.

Furthermore, the most powerful ex-FARC faction, the dissident network led by Miguel Botache Santillana, alias “Gentil Duarte,” has publically sided with the 10th Front in the conflict, while making it clear that he blames the Segunda Marquetalia for the violence in Apure.

Both Duarte and the Segunda Marquetalia have sought to bring together various dissident FARC factions in Colombia and Venezuela into a united fighting force, resulting in a growing rivalry between the two sides.

If the 10th Front or Duarte’s network had a role in killing Santrich, the powderkeg of tensions between this dissident FARC faction and the Segunda Marquetalia could explode into open conflict, with potentially severe repercussions in Venezuela and parts of Colombia.

Either way, the Segunda Marquetalia’s perceived impunity in Venezuela has been shattered.

PROFILE: Seuxis Pausías Hernández, alias ‘Jesús Santrich

 

https://insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/seuxis-pausias-hernandez-alias-jesus-santrich/

 

Seuxis Pausías Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich,” was a senior former FARC commander who participated in that guerrilla group’s demobilization process before taking up arms again in 2019 to form a new dissident force known as the Segunda Marquetalia. He was killed in May 2021 in Venezuela in uncertain circumstances.

Santrich was one of the most important delegates for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) at their peace talks with the Colombian government, and he was involved in the drafting of the final peace agreement signed in 2016. Though he was granted a seat in Colombia’s congress as part of the agreement, he could not be sworn in because he faced charges for his alleged involvement in sending a drug shipment to the United States. This led to him being arrested and released from jail twice, until he ultimately fled from a FARC reintegration camp in July 2019.

Santrich then appeared to be based along the remote Venezuela-Colombia border, with other dissident FARC leaders. An influential voice among the guerrillas, he seemed to be a key negotiator for the new Segunda Marquetalia when it came to brokering ties with other former FARC groups, other armed factions and Venezuelan authorities.

It was reported on May 18, 2021 that Santrich had been killed in clashes in Venezuela

History

Seuxis Pausías Hernández Solarte was born in 1966 in Toluviejo, in the department of Sucre, where his parents were teachers. During his student years, he joined the Colombia Communist Youth (Juventud Comunista de Colombia – JUCO) and then became a militant member of the Patriotic Union (Unión Patriótica – UP), a recognized left-wing party. After graduation, he became a local official in Sucre’s municipality of Colosó,

In 1991, he joined the FARC after one of his colleagues was killed by members of the former Administrative Department of Security (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad – DAS). His alias within the guerrilla group was taken as tribute to his friend, Jesús Santrich. His role in the creation of Resistance Radio (Radio Resistencia) and his friendship with Luciano Marin Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” saw him quickly gain importance within the FARC. He became a key figure within the 19th Front of the FARC’s Caribbean Bloc, despite suffering from Leber’s Disease, a degeneration of the eye which has left him nearly blind.

One of his most important tasks was to help lead the FARC’s communications and propaganda efforts through a clandestine network of broadcasts, such as Cadena Radial Bolivariana and Voz de la Resistencia. It is believed that the website, resistencia-colombia.org, which featured exclusive content from the FARC, was also run by Santrich.

He also took part in the peace process with the government of President Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002).

Santrich, who lived along the border with Venezuela, played a key role in the FARC’s relationship with Caracas, as Santrich is known to have been an avid believer in former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and his Bolivarian Revolution. In 2007, he and Márquez met with Chávez in Venezuela to discuss a humanitarian agreement.

In 2008, he joined the FARC’s General Staff. When peace talks began between the FARC and the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos in 2012, he became one of the FARC’s main negotiators.

After the signing of the final peace agreement, Santrich became one of the three FARC representatives in the Monitoring and Implementation Commission of the Agreement (CSIVI), overseeing the peace process. He was also set to be one of the 10 FARC representatives in Congress in July 2018.

But his entry into Congress was blocked after his indictment by US federal prosecutors on drug charges. The April 2018 arrest of Santrich and the demand by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) for his extradition set off a legal firestorm since FARC members — under the peace agreement — cannot be extradited for crimes committed prior to December 1, 2016. The Attorney General’s Office wanted him extradited, but Colombia’s peace court, the Colombian Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz – JEP), asked for more evidence about his alleged crimes and their timeframe.

In May 2019, about a year after Santrich’s arrest, the JEP’s judges blocked the extradition of Santrich because they could not confirm, based on the evidence given to them, whether Santrich broke the terms of the peace agreement. Santrich was released from prison, but the Colombian prosecutors had him immediately rearrested, saying they had new evidence against him. Santrich was then released again, this time by the Supreme Court, because he was still considered to have immunity as a member of congress, though he had not been seated.

He moved to a designated Territorial Space for Training and Reincorporation (Espacio Territorial de Capacitación y Reincorporación – ETCR) in the northern Cesar department, along the Venezuela border. He did not stay for long. With the help of a comrade, Santrich climbed through his housing’s window, and then he fled across the border into Venezuela.

After the formation of the Segunda Marquetalia, he appeared to mostly be based between Apure, Venezuela and Arauca, Colombia before his death in May 2021.

Criminal Activity

During his time with the FARC, Santrich was one of the main leaders of the Caribbean Bloc. Due to his degenerative illness leaving him blind, he became known as a spokesperson, focusing on ideology and propaganda, rather than on military action. Two years after signing the peace agreement, he was accused of sending 10 tons of cocaine to the United States.

The drug smuggling operation allegedly happened between June 2017 and April 2018, and involved Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa Cartel. It appears that the charges against him stem from a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) operation in which Marlon Marín — the nephew of Iván Márquez — was observed retrieving $5 million from a DEA informant acting as an emissary for the cartel.

Geography

Hernández joined the Caribbean Block of the FARC, specifically the 19th Front that operated in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The group also had influence in the region of the Montes de María, the Serrania de Perijá and the departments of Sucre and Córdoba. By consolidating himself as an important member of the General Staff, he was able to expand his influence to other regions such as Nariño, Putumayo, Guainía and Caquetá and establish contact with important leaders of criminal groups such as the dissidence of the FARC and the Urabeños.

After the formation of the Segunda Marquetalia, he appeared to mostly be based between Apure, Venezuela and Arauca, Colombia before his death in May 2021.

Allies and Enemies

Hernández was known to have been close to Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera, alias “Simón Trinidad,” who was extradited to the United States in 2004. He also maintained a strong friendship with Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” another former top FARC commander, member of the General Staff and former leader of the Caribbean Bloc.

Outside of former FARC leaders, Santrich maintained contact with other dissident FARC groups, including those led by Miguel Botache Santillana, alias “Gentil Duarte” and Géner García Molina, alias “Jhon 40.” He was also suspected of having direct contact with Rafael Caro Quintero, alias “Don Rafa,” one of the founders of the now-defunct Guadalajara Cartel and once an important member of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Santrich was also a major target of the US government, which offered a $10 million reward for his capture, as well as Iván Márquez, in June 2020 due to their alleged connections to the Venezuelan government.

Prospects

Despite initially accepting to demobilize and being part of the FARC’s negotiation team, Santrich abandoned the peace process in July 2019 and formed the Segunda Marquetalia that August, alongside Iván Márquez.

The Colombian government issued a colossal reward for his capture but it appears Santrich moved to Venezuela shortly after. He remained at large for two years until his death in May 2021. Different versions of his death suggested he may have been killed by Colombian troops, Venezuelan armed forces or by rival dissident FARC factions.

BACKGROUND: Segunda Marquetalia

 

https://insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/segunda-marquetalia/

 

The Segunda Marquetalia is a group made up of former FARC guerrillas who refused to demobilize after the group’s peace agreement with the Colombian government in 2016.

It is led by one of the most influential former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia — FARC) leaders, Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” who took up arms again in 2019 after abandoning the peace process.

The group operates mainly in mountainous regions along the Colombia-Venezuela border, seemingly with the tacit approval of the Venezuelan government, but it is unknown how many men it has at its disposal.

The Segunda Marquetalia is in a curious position as its leaders are among the most well-known and sought-after criminal leaders in Colombia, but little is known about its size, geography or the criminal economies it is involved in.

On May 18, 2021, one of the Segunda Marquetalia’s most senior figures, Seuxis Pausías Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich,” was killed in Venezuela.

History

In August 2019, a number of former FARC commanders, led by Márquez, released a YouTube video announcing their return to arms and the creation of the Segunda Marquetalia, alleging that the Colombian government had betrayed the 2016 peace accords.

Next to him appeared a number of well-known ex-FARC Mafia leaders, including Hernán Darío Velásquez, alias “El Paisa,” Seuxis Pausías Hernández, alias “Jesús Santrich,” and Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias “Romaña,” along with a number of commanders from various fronts and mobile columns.

The group claimed to be continuing the FARC’s political struggles and stated they were the “heirs to the legacy of Manuel Marulanda Vélez,” the former leader of the demobilized guerrilla group.

El Paisa abandoned the FARC training and reincorporation camp he had been based at in Miravalle, Caquetá, around April 2018 and appears to have headed for Venezuela. In August 2018, Márquez disappeared from the same camp after Santrich was arrested on drug trafficking charges, allegedly committed after the FARC demobilized.

Romaña went missing in March 2019 after failing to appear at a mandated court appearance.

As for Santrich, after his 2018 arrest for drug trafficking charges, he faced potential extradition to the United States. This extradition request was denied for a lack of evidence and he was freed in May 2019. He briefly took up a seat in congress that had been reserved for members of the FARC political party, but he fled shortly afterwards to Venezuela and joined up with his old comrades. He was killed in May 2021 in Venezuela.

Criminal Activity

In the August 2019 video, Márquez and his commanders stated that their group would continue “collecting taxes that serve as financing for the rebellion … and that are applied to the illegal economies and multinationals which loot our wealth.”

While it is unclear exactly how the Segunda Marquetalia is currently funded, it’s likely that it draws significant income from drug trafficking and extortion, the criminal economies in which its members have extensive experience.

Leadership

The main leader of the Segunda Marquetalia is Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” who was a member of the FARC Secretariat and the guerrilla group’s second-in-command at the time of its demobilization.

A close ally of Márquez was Seuxis Pausías Hernández, alias “Jesús Santrich,” an ideologue who was key to the group’s public relations with other potential allies, before his death in May 2021.

Other prominent leaders include Hernán Darío Velásquez, alias “El Paisa,” former commander of the FARC’s Teófilo Forero Mobile Column, and Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias “Romaña,” former leader of the FARC’s 53rd Front and who likely plays a key part in the Segunda Marquetalia’s military strategy.

Allies and Enemies

In the video announcing the creation of the Segunda Marquetalia, Márquez called on the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional — ELN) to “coordinate efforts” with the new group inside Colombia. In doing so, Márquez suggested reforming the defunct Simón Bolívar Guerrilla Coordinating Board (Coordinadora Guerrillera Simón Bolívar), a movement created in the 1980s and 1990s by the FARC, the ELN and the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación — EPL) to carry out joint operations.

The 18th Front of the ex-FARC Mafia has also recognized the leadership of Márquez. But to date, it is the only front made up of former FARC fighters to have sworn allegiance to Márquez.

In 2018 and 2019, the group’s leaders met on two occasions with members of the ELN in the Venezuelan state of Apure, according to a number of media reports. The discussion reportedly revolved around the coordination of cocaine shipments between Colombia and Venezuela, especially in the Colombian department of Arauca, which the ELN has a strong presence in.

Beyond these ties to the ELN, the Segunda Marquetalia has planned to unify ex-FARC Mafia groups, including those led by Miguel Botache Santillana, alias “Gentil Duarte.” However, any such unification seems distant. Many of the fighters now under Gentil Duarte may not value Márquez’s legacy enough to follow him and may even view him harshly for participating in the peace process at all.

This rivalry appears to have worsened in 2021 with the ex-FARC 10th Front reported to have clashed with Segunda Marquetalia forces in Apure, Venezuela, as well as perhaps having been involved in the death of Santrich.

Geography

The Segunda Marquetalia seems to be operating mostly along the border between Colombia and Venezuela, especially in the state of Apure in Venezuela and Colombia’s Arauca department.

With the adhesion of the ex-FARC Mafia’s 18th Front, Márquez’s group has gained a presence in municipalities in the north of Antioquia, such as Ituango, and the southern part of Córdoba department. But for now, this appears to be the only satellite group that the Segunda Marquetalia has in other areas of Colombia.

But the formerly nationwide reach of leaders such as Márquez, Santrich and Velásquez means they may well be able to bring former combatants into their ranks in other parts of Colombia.

Prospects

Márquez appears to be trying to make the Segunda Marquetalia a unifying force for ex-FARC Mafia groups across Colombia, but he also needs to increase his number of fighters and criminal income to stay afloat.

Since their high-profile announcement in August 2019, the leaders of the Segunda Marquetalia have remained largely underground. It appears most of their sway has been along sections of the Colombia-Venezuela border, especially in Apure and Arauca. In 2021, reports of sporadic clashes between Segunda Marquetalia fighters and members of other ex-FARC factions seemed to confirm this.

It appears their best chance at reuniting the guerrillas who refused to demobilize would be to ally with Gentil Duarte, another former FARC commander who has been trying to bring disparate splinter groups together. But reports of clashes between the two groups appear to have ruled this out.

In Venezuela, the group may have received help from the Venezuelan government after President Nicolás Maduro welcomed Márquez and Santrich to come to the country in 2019. Like the ELN, the Segunda Marquetalia is likely using Venezuelan territory as an operating base safe from reprisals from Colombian armed forces.

The killing of Jesús Santrich inside Venezuela in May 2021, however, seems to indicate a change of fortunes for the group. The death of one of their most prominent leaders in uncertain circumstances suggests Venezuela is no longer the safe haven it once was.