A former leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who rearmed in the wake of a 2016 peace agreement between the group and the Colombian government, has been killed in Venezuela, according to local media.
Hernan Dario Velasquez, known as El Paisa (the Peasant), announced in 2019 that he and several well-known FARC commanders were rearming and forming a faction called Segunda Marquetalia. Velazquez had been among the negotiators of the 2016 peace deal.
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He was killed in an attack by mercenaries seeking to cash in on rewards available for his capture, Colombian media reported on Sunday. The killing took place in the state of Apure near the border with Colombia, according to reports.
Neither Colombia nor Venezuela has acknowledged Velasquez’s death, although El Tiempo newspaper cited high-level sources who denied the Colombian government was involved.
Colombian President Ivan Duque has long accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of sheltering and protecting FARC dissidents, but Caracas has repeatedly denied the accusations.
An Interpol red notice, which functions as a type of international arrest warrant obliging member countries – including Venezuela – to arrest and extradite criminal suspects, was reissued for Velasquez earlier this year.
Velasquez had been connected to several high-profile attacks, including a car bombing that killed 36 people and wounded dozens of others in February 2003 in Bogota.
Some 13,000 fighters have surrendered their arms since FARC rebels reached the 2016 peace deal with Bogota. About 5,000 have rejected the deal.
According to the Indepaz research institute, approximately 90 armed groups with some 10,000 members remain active in Colombia.
Last week, the United States lifted its designation of FARC as a “terrorist organisation”, while adding two splinter groups – Segunda Marquetalia and FARC-EP – to the designation.
Speaking to local media last week, Ivan Marquetalia, the top commander of Seguna Marquetalia, called on the Colombian government to engage in talks with all armed groups operating in the country, saying the government should seek “complete peace”.