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Tuesday, 25 January, 2022

Are the FARC dissidents hiding in Venezuela?

High-profile Colombian media outlets Semana and El Tiempo have for weeks been printing articles and photos showing evidence of the presence of FARC and ELN guerrillas in Venezuela, something that Nicolas Maduro denied Sunday.

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By Carlos Camacho in Caracas.

In the past, Maduro has publicly invited FARC commanders to ditch Colombia and come and live in Venezuela. However, those big gestures were no mentioned during his speech on Sunday; Maduro blasted Semana and El Tiempo by name and attacked Colombian President Ivan Duque for allegedly trying to oust him.

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During a live broadcast from Vargas state, a visibly shaken Maduro criticized Semana and El Tiempo for making “false scandals, false media positives to cover up the new plans of Ivan Duque.”

Perhaps it was the Semana bit saying some “Venezuelan sources” collaborated with Colombian law-enforcement in locating the guerrilla bosses in regime territory. Also, El Tiempo naming the officers who were acting as go-betweens for the regime and ELN.

Duque, Maduro said, is also behind a plot the regime just dismantled intended “to kill the deputies of Venezuela” in a bomb attack against the Maduro-controlled National Assembly.

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On Saturday, February 6, Semana magazine published a report stating that Ivan Marquez and Jesus Santrich, both dissidents of the guerrilla group Fuerzas Armadas (FARC), are hiding in Venezuela.

For years, Hugo Chávez tried to get Bogota to recognize FARC as a legitimate interlocutor. In 2016, FARC and the Colombian government signed a landmark peace deal that ELN declined.

El Tiempo now says ELN gets divided into three camps; drug-trafficking has created a schism inside the organization: Senior commanders in an asylum in Cuba, protected by the island socialist regime. Then, there are still some fighters in Colombia. And, finally, a drug-dealing faction in Venezuela.

But perhaps the most scandalous charges by El Tiempo concern Maduro’s minions Freddy Bernal and Iris Valera, acting as middlemen between ELN and the regime.

Award-winning Bogota magazine, Semana, published a series of exclusive photos that appear to show dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that did not accept the 2016 peace agreement, including senior commander Ivan Marquez and Jesus Santrich. In the pictures, people have set up camps, brandishing weapons, and even the small plane they use to move cocaine in zones of Apure and Zulia states.

You must read Indigenous from Apure flee from their ancestral land to escape violence

The men are accompanied by lower-echelon bosses Hernán Dario Velasquez, alias “El Paisa,” and Henry Castellanos Garzon, alias “Romaña.”

Semana states that Márquez is in Elorza, Apure, a city that he turned into the base of his operations and where he meets with his lieutenants.

“The influence of Márquez extends through Arauca, Vichada, Guainia and the Venezuelan state of Amazonas, on the border with Brazil,” the publication adds.

Amazonas state is a gold mine zone, and both FARC and ELN have long been reported to play a part in illicit gold mining in that zone.

Meanwhile, Santrich is in Zulia state, on the border with Colombia, where, according to the research, he exerts his influence in the areas bordering La Guajira, Cesar, and Norte de Santander.

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