BOGOTA – The peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group is at “its most critical moment” because of the arrest of a forma guerrilla commander, the deputy leader of the insurgency-turned-political party said Tuesday.
“With the arrest of our comrade Jesus Santrich, the peace process is at its most critical moment and is at risk of becoming a true failure,” Ivan Marquez said at a press conference in Bogota, reading from a prepared statement.
Santrich, 51, was detained in Bogota on Monday by the Colombian Attorney General’s Office based on an Interpol Red Notice issued on behalf of a court in the United States.
US federal prosecutors accuse Santrich of conspiring with three others to smuggle several tons of cocaine into the United States in Nov. 2017, close to a year after the peace accord was signed.
“Santrich’s arrest is part of a plan orchestrated by the US government with the assistance of the Colombian Attorney General’s Office,” Marquez said.
That plan, he said, “threatens to extend to FARC’s entire leadership, with the goal of decapitating our party and burying the Colombian people’s longing for peace.”
The FARC statement calls the arrest a “disgraceful subordination of Colombian justice” to the US government.
At the same time, the leadership urged demobilized FARC fighters gathered in training and reincorporation zones “to keep calm and reject this provocation.”
The statement also urges Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos “to follow the accord and to keep his word,” while requesting “an emergency meeting.”
Santos, for his part, said in a nationally televised address aired Monday that he would not hesitate to authorize Santrich’s extradition, if necessary.
The peace accord shields FARC members from extradition for crimes committed before the accord was signed, although this would not apply in Santrich’s case since his drug conspiracy charges refer to crimes committed a year later.