A high-ranking leader of FARC, the former guerrilla group that laid down arms last year after signing an historic peace agreement with the Colombian government, is under investigation for involvement in cocaine trafficking, according to a bombshell report from the Wall Street Journal that highlights the severe effect this could have on an already-unstable implementation of the accord.
The newspaper reported that the drug investigation into Iván Márquez, who featured prominently representing the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla throughout years of peace negotiations, involves both Colombian and U.S. authorities for violations that occurred after the signing of the deal.
The office of the Colombian attorney general has denied that such any drug-related investigation exists into Márquez for acts taken after the accord was finalized. On Twitter, the office said that the attorney general “reiterates that it has no investigation for drug trafficking against Iván Márquez, after the signing of the Peace Agreement
Márquez has also responded with defiance on social media, saying on Twitter, prior to the attorney general’s public statement, that the prosecutor and others are trying to undermine the peace process.
The Wall Street Journal reported that authorities intercepted a video in which Márquez can be heard discussing a drug shipment with a Mexican gang member.
The timing of the alleged crimes may be key. Under the peace agreement, at least in Colombia, those crimes committed during the conflict are subject to a special tribunal in the country, while any acts carried out after the signing of the deal, as this new investigation is reportedly are concerned with, would be subject to the normal judicial process.
The news comes weeks after the controversial drug-related arrest of Seuxis Hernández Solarte, aka Jesús Santrich, another high-ranking member of FARC. That arrest by Colombian authorities was based upon an indictment of Santrich, and other defendants, in a U.S. court that could have the ex-guerrilla facing 10 or more years in prison.
“As alleged, these defendants conspired to ship thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia to the streets of the U.S,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement. “Thanks to the investigative work of the DEA, they are now under arrest and face significant criminal charges.”
Santrich has been held in Bogotá, and may be extradited to the United States to face charges, where he was transported to a hospital in the Colombian capital this week following an extended hunger strike.
The combined fallout of the Santrich arrest and the specter of a drug-trafficking investigation into Márquez could have serious ramifications for the future of the peace process. The roughly 300-page final accord contains scores of provisions to be implemented, and the nation is well behind schedule on putting many of the key aspects of the deal into practice.
Moreover, with the peace process already beginning to fray under the government that signed the deal, a presidential election that begins in May will put a new head of state in power later this year. The conservative candidate leading recent polls, Iván Duque, is hostile to the peace process, while others in the campaign have also been critical of implementation.