Bogotá, May 18 (EFE).- A former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader, Jesús Santrich, has been killed in Venezuela, his dissident group said Tuesday.
Santrich (birth name Seuxis Paucias Hernández Solarte) once helped lead the FARC, but then became a negotiator for the peace deal struck with the government in 2016, which ended 50 years of war. He later abandoned the deal and returned to arms.
The rebel leader died while traveling in a truck in Venezuela when it was ambushed by Colombian commandos with rifle fire and grenades, the group named Segunda Marquetalia said in a statement, which could not be verified.
It was released hours after the Colombian government said that it had information that indicated that Santrich died in a confrontation in Venezuela, but that it had not yet confirmed.
“Intelligence information indicates that in alleged clashes that occurred yesterday in Venezuela, alias ‘Santrich’ and other criminals were killed. Information in verification,” tweeted Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano, without giving details of the alleged confrontation or where it occurred.
“If this fact is confirmed, it is verified that drug criminals take refuge in Venezuela.”
Colombia and Venezuela share a 2,219-kilometer border, but their diplomatic relations have been broken since Feb. 23, 2019, by order of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, after an attempt by opposition leader Juan Guaidó to cross the border from the Colombian city of Cúcuta leading a caravan of humanitarian aid.
The news of Santrich’s possible death comes just five days after the Colombian Supreme Court of Justice approved his extradition to the United States where he is wanted on drug trafficking charges allegedly committed after the signing of the peace pact.
Santrich was arrested in Bogotá on Apr. 9, 2018 by the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office, complying with the extradition request of the US Department of Justice.
However, after a tug of war in the Colombian justice system, Santrich was freed and on June 11, 2019 he took a seat in the House of Representatives. Despite this, he slipped away weeks later.
The Colombian government maintains that after abandoning the peace agreement, the guerrilla leader took refuge in Venezuela in the company of other dissidents, including Luciano Marín, alias Iván Márquez, who was also one of the FARC’s chief negotiators in Havana.
On Aug. 29, 2019, Márquez and Santrich announced their return to arms from underground in a video recorded in a jungle and posted on the internet.
While the peace deal led to about 13,000 FARC fighters to lay down their weapons, some refused, leading to the establishment of FARC dissident groups such as Segunda Marquetalia. EFE