In Depth

Why Farc is threatening to tear up Colombia peace deal

President Ivan Duque offers bounty for capture of rebel leaders planning to resume armed conflict

Senior members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) have announced that they are ready to return to war following three years of peace.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the South American country was “on the edge” on Thursday after the Marxist insurgency’s “top peace negotiator” called on followers to take up arms to resume the Western hemisphere’s longest-running guerrilla conflict.

Luciano Marin, better known as Ivan Marquez, made the announcement in a 32-minute YouTube video in which he appears alongside around 20 heavily armed guerillas in front of a sign that reads: “While there is a will to fight, there will be hope of victory.” 

How did the conflict end?

A peace deal was signed in Havana in 2016 that “sought to formally end 52 years of war killed over 260,000 people and forced seven million from their homes, in a bitter conflict between left-wing rebels, government forces and state-aligned paramilitaries”, The Guardian reports.

Colombia’s then-president Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering the treaty, after the first draft was narrowly rejected by Colombian voters in a referendum. A revised version of the deal was subsequently approved by the Senate, formally ending the insurgency.

Why does Farc want to take up arms again?

One-time Farc commander Marquez claims that Colombia’s current president, Ivan Duque, has failed to stop the killing of leftist activists and rebels since the signing of the peace deal.

“In two years, more than 500 social leaders have been killed and 150 guerrilla fighters are dead amidst the indifference and the indolence of the state,” Marquez said in the YouTube video. “This is the continuation of the rebel fight in answer to the betrayal of the state of the Havana peace accords. We were never beaten or defeated ideologically, so the struggle continues.”

He added: “When we signed the accord in Havana we did so with the conviction that it was possible to change the life of the most humble and dispossessed.

“But the state hasn't fulfilled its most important obligation, which is to guarantee the life of its citizens and especially avoid assassinations for political reasons.”

Although Marquez failed to name any other reasons for the resumption of the conflict, The New York Times says that a return to violence would be the culmination of many factors, chiefly a “lack of political support in Washington and Bogota for the 2016 peace accord since Donald Trump was sworn in as president of the United States in 2017 and Ivan Duque came to power as Colombia’s president in 2018”.

“Both leaders, through acts and omissions, have undermined the pact’s prospects for success,” the newspaper says.

So is further bloodshed inevitable?

In the newly released video, Marquez signalled that the group will persue a less ruthless strategy than previously and will only “respond to offensives” and “seek dialogue”. 

Nonetheless, President Duque has responded to the resurgent threat by offering $882,000 (£725,000) for the “capture of each of the rebels” who appeared in the footage.

“We are not facing the birth of a new guerrilla force, but criminal threats of a gang of narcoterrorists who have the shelter and support of the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro [president of neighbouring Venezuela],” Duque said.

“Let us not fall into the trap of those who today intend to hide behind false ideological clothing to sustain their criminal structures.”

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