BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) – A rebel leader who resigned with the Colombian government in 2016 He was three years free from the peace agreement, was killed by Colombian troops in Venezuela, his new militant group said on Tuesday.
Seuxis Hernandez, better known by his nickname Jesus Santrich, was one of the chief negotiators of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in peace talks with the Colombian government. But he renounced a peace deal that came two years after he was accused of selling cocaine in the United States.
In a statement posted on its website, Santrich’s new rebel group, the Second Marquetalia Movement, said the 53-year-old rebel was killed Monday by a Colombian commando unit that had entered Venezuela illegally.
The group said Santrich was driving while in the western Venezuelan state of Colombia when Colombian soldiers attacked him with grenade launchers and firearms. The statement said that the troops cut off Santrich’s pink finger before returning to Colombia by yellow helicopter.
The Colombian government did not immediately comment on the group’s claim, which would be a serious breach of Venezuela’s sovereignty, fueling tensions with President Nicolas Maduro’s Socialist government. There was no comment from the Venezuelan government either.
On Tuesday, Colombia’s defense minister said the government was trying to confirm reports that Santrich had been killed in a battle between rebel groups in Venezuela.
Colombian media outlets have published several other accounts of Santrich’s death, including a report that he was killed by mercenaries who wanted to capture him and demanded a $ 10 million ransom from the US State Department last year.
Santrich was a member of Colombia’s left-wing youth group that joined the FARC in the early 1990s after one of his fellow students was killed by a Colombian police officer in Barranquilla. At the time the rebel group began peace talks with the Colombian government, Santrich was recovering from a genetic condition but established himself as one of the group’s leading ideologues.
Shortly after the signing of the FARC “Colombian Government” peace agreement, Santrich had problems with law enforcement. He was arrested in April 2018 after US authorities in New York accused him of plotting to smuggle 10 tons of cocaine to the United States. The allegations were based on video recordings obtained by undercover agents who met Santrich in 2017.
But Santrich was released from prison before being extradited after the Colombian Peace Tribunal ruled that US authorities had not provided sufficient evidence. Under the terms of the peace deal, former insurgents cannot be extradited for crimes committed during the war, but can be held responsible for any crimes committed after that.
Santrich, who accused the Colombian government of trying to form a circle, briefly took over the congressman as part of a peace deal with the FARC. But during a visit to a former rebel village near the Venezuelan border, he gave up his security record and disappeared.
In August 2018, he appeared in a YouTube video in which a group of former FARC insurgents announced that they would continue to fight the government, accusing them of not fulfilling the promises made in the peace agreement. They renamed their new organization the Second Marquetalia Movement, a movement toward the peasant village that gave birth to the FARC guerrilla movement in the 1960s.
Santrich’s group was widely rejected by former FARC leaders who remained committed to the peace deal and now form a political party with 10 seats in the Colombian Assembly.
Colombian officials say the former FARC dissidents’ Santrich faction is trying to seize illegal mines and drug trafficking routes along the Colombian border with Venezuela.
Colombia has long accused Venezuela of harboring former FARC fighters, including Santrich վան Ivan Marquez, the leader of the Marquetalia movement, who is also wanted by the United States on drug charges. But recently, the Venezuelan army has also been involved in battles with another group of former FARC fighters, led by Duarte, who captured eight Venezuelan soldiers in May.