Maduro rattles sabers over alleged death of ex-FARC’s Márquez

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Iván Márquez announces founding of Second Marquetalia.

The alleged death of ex-FARC’s chief peace negotiator, alias Iván Márquez, and guerrilla who retook arms as a FARC dissident commander, escalated a war of words between Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro and the Colombian government. News that Márquez was inside Venezuela during the raid by a rival group of FARC dissidents, or ELN guerrilla, was confirmed by Colombian military intelligence, yet the exact location of where Luciano Marín Arango was killed remains unclear.

Marquez joined FARC in 1985 and commandeered the Western Bloc until his demobilization in 2016 with the signing of the peace agreement.  The death of Márquez comes as FARC dissidents are fighting other illegal armed groups along the Colombia-Venezuela border for control of drug trafficking routes. The commander of the Second Marquetalia is the fourth high-profile death within the organization since its founding in 2019.

Dissidents Seuxis Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich,” Hernán Darío Velásquez, alias “El Paisa,” and Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias “Romaña,” also died inside Venezuela and under similar circumstances to the alleged killing of Márquez. However, with the previous deaths, including that of alias “Gentil Duarte,” (another FARC dissident who broke ranks with the Second Marquetalia, and was killed in May 2022 during a Colombian military raid close to the border), Venezuela’s Maduro remained silent.

Saturday, however, Maduro ruptured his silence and blasted Colombian President Iván Duque for “taking revenge” against Venezuela “in his impotence, his hatred, and his defeat.” Maduro’s remarks were made during the ascension ceremony of 15,000 soldiers. “As Duque goes to the dump of history, he continues to activate plans of terrorist attacks against Venezuela’s electrical system, terrorist attacks against political leaders, and Venezuela’s military…so stand your guard!” affirmed the Bolivarian leader.

Maduro, however, did not reveal the alleged “proof” behind his claims. Maduro’s saber rattling came hours after President Duque referred to Maduro as “a criminal and murderer,” during one of his last interviews as head of state.  Colombia denounced Venezuelan before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2018, along with four other countries in the region: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru.

“As soon as it became known that Márquez was dead, the Maduro regime began an internal hunt to ask for explanations of this fact and find those responsible. For this reason, he (Maduro) issued an “alert” to the army and began a series of false accusations against Duque,” claims an editorial in Venezuela’s El Nacional newspaper. The Caracas-based publication claims that the nation’s Energy Minister confirmed that the Amuay refinery was paralyzed by an electrical “incident,” and the Panamericana substation suffered an outage caused by sabotage.

Colombia’s Foreign Minister, Marta Lucía Ramírez, also condemned Maduro for launching false accusations, stating: “As is customary, once again the dictator launches smoke screens accusing the Colombian government of alleged actions against Venezuela, a country that we Colombians and our government deeply respect and love. These accusations are baseless.”

Márquez’s purported death came during the same bank holiday weekend in Colombia as rumors began to circulate that Nicolas Maduro was invited to attend the presidential inauguration on August 7 of Gustavo Petro. President Duque ruled out any possibility that Maduro could enter Colombia given that the current government does not recognize him as a legitimate leader. President-elect Petro then responded to President Duque, stating that he “respects the position of the current government.”