FARC dissident “Gentil Duarte” killed in Venezuela

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FARC dissident "Gentil Duarte"/FILE

Miguel Botanche Santillana, alias “Gentil Duarte,” has been killed on the Venezuelan side of the Colombian border after a confrontation between FARC dissidents and ELN guerrilla.

Gentil Duarte was among Colombia’s “most wanted” having started the first FARC dissident front in the country after the signing of the 2016 peace accord between FARC and government of President Juan Manuel Santos.

“Gentil Duarte,” who at the time of his death was 57, had joined FARC at age 14 and became one of the guerrilla’s most important commanders. Duarte operated in Colombia’s Orinoco and Amazon regions, and responsible for attacks against civilian populations in the departments of Guaviare, Meta, Vaupés and Putumayo.

Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office had issued multiple arrest warrants for Duarte for crimes that include forced recruitment of minors, kidnapping, murder and environmental destruction.

Duarte was also responsible for the deaths of at least 14 former FARC combatants who surrendered their weapons as part of the Final Accord. According to news sources in Venezuela’s Zulia state, and that borders three Colombian departments (Norte Santander, César, La Guajira), Duarte died during an attack involving “explosives” against a camp where he was being protected by Javier Alonso Veloza, alias “Jhon Mechas” of FARC’s 33 dissident front.

Duarte had sought protection inside Mechas’ camp since November, along with his partner “Salome.” The Colombian government had issued a $2,000 million peso (US$500,000) reward for information leading to the capture of Gentil Duarte.

Duarte is the fourth dissident commander of the “Second Marquetalia” to be killed
within a year, and criminal organization founded by the former FARC peace negotiator, alias “Iván Márquez.” Front commanders Romaña, El Paisa and Jesús Santrich, were killed last year in separate attacks inside Venezuela, or close to the neighboring country’s border.