Ex-Farc leader killed in Venezuela by Colombian troops, rebel group says

Ex-Farc leader killed in Venezuela by Colombian troops, rebel group says

One of the most prominent commanders of a group of Colombia’s former Farc rebels who reject a 2016 peace accord, has been killed in Venezuela in an operation by Colombia’s military, according to his new armed group.

Seuxis Hernández, known by his nom de guerre of Jesús Santrich, was one of the chief negotiators for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in peace talks with the Colombian government. But he gave up on the peace deal less than two years following its signing after he was indicted in the US for alleged cocaine trafficking.

In a statement posted on its website, Santrich’s new rebel group, the Second Marquetalia Movement, said the 53-year-old insurgent was killed on Monday by a Colombian commando unit that illegally entered Venezuelan territory.

After the ambush in the western Venezuelan state of Zulia, the troops cut off Santrich’s little finger before returning to Colombia, the statement said.

Colombia’s government did not immediately comment on the group’s claim, which would constitute a major breach of Venezuela’s sovereignty and heighten tensions with Nicolás Maduro’s government. There also was no comment from the Venezuelan government.

Colombia’s defense minister, Diego Molano, said the government was trying to confirm reports that Santrich had been killed in a battle between dissident factions.

Several other versions of Santrich’s death were published by Colombian media, including one account that said he was killed by mercenaries trying to claim a $10m reward offered by the US.

In March, Molano blamed fighting for control of drug trafficking between the Venezuelan military and illegal armed groups for violence that caused thousands of people to flee to Colombia.

About 13,000 Farc members demobilized under the peace deal, and formed a legal political party, but about 1,500 former rebels refused to give up arms.

The US said last year it was offering rewards of up to $10m each for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Santrich and another prominent dissident commander, Iván Márquez.

Márquez, who was also a negotiator during the peace process, disappeared in 2018 after his nephew was arrested and bundled off to the United States.

Santrich had been set to serve in one of 10 congressional seats granted to former rebels, but he was indicted by the United States, sparking months of legal wrangling, before he too disappeared in mid-2019.

Both men reappeared in an August 2019 video announcing a new offensive against the government.