- BBC World News
He was a FARC commander, initially supported the peace process that led him to the Colombian Congress, and finally died in hiding after having returned to the armed struggle.
Seuxis Paucias Hernández Solarte, alias Jesus Santrich, died this Monday in Venezuelan territory, according to the dissident group of the FARC to which the guerrilla commander belonged.
However, neither the Colombian government nor the Venezuelan government confirmed the news.
After studying law, he joined the armed movement in 1991 and gradually rose through the ranks of the FARC. He remained in rebellion in arms until 2016, when the disarmament agreement was signed with the government of the then president. Juan Manuel Santos.
But in 2019 he took up arms with his partner Ivan Marquez.
Santrich was wanted by Interpol at the request of Colombia and the United States had also issued an extradition order for crimes related to drug trafficking.
Santrich had already been detained in Colombia from April 9, 2018 to May 30, 2019.
His release then came amid a long controversy between Colombian judicial institutions and the rejection of the government of Iván Duque.
The former guerrilla soon after acceded to the Colombian Congress thanks to the 2016 peace agreement, which established that the then political party Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionario del Común (now called Comunes) would automatically benefit from 10 seats for the 2018-2022 period.
However, shortly after taking office, in mid-June 2019, he disappeared and his whereabouts were unknown until now, although the Colombian government insisted that he was in Venezuela and that he had the protection of Nicolas Maduro.
He was one of the ex-commanders of the FARC protagonists of the negotiations in Havana for the end of the armed conflict.
Seuxis Paucias Hernández Solarte He spent 25 years in the ex-guerrilla, which he joined at the age of 27.
He chose Jesús Santrich as a nom de guerre in homage to one of his best friends, who was assassinated.
He lost his sight a decade ago due to a degenerative disease that was detected from his youth.
Signed the disarmament pact at the end of 2016, Santrich submitted to the Special Justice for Peace (JEP), a special court to try crimes committed during the armed conflict.
This special regime granted reduced sentences and a guarantee of non-extradition to the military, guerrillas, and others involved in the five-decade war waged by the Colombian State and the FARC.
The agreement stated that any other crime committed after the date of signature (November 1, 2016) must go directly to the ordinary courts.
That was the argument used by the Prosecutor’s Office when arresting him in April 2018.
The entity pointed out that the ex-guerrilla tried to send cocaine between 2017 and 2018, so he could no longer enjoy any special jurisdiction and could be extradited.
The controversial liberation
Santrich was so important that, after his arrest in 2018, other former commanders threatened to break the peace treaty if his surrender to the United States was consummated.
From that moment on, a debate began on which institution had the competence to take his case, the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation or the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.
In early May 2019, the JEP declared itself competent to deal with the Santrich case and froze his extradition order.
From that moment on, a tug-of-war began with the Prosecutor’s Office that included a fleeting release from prison and his recapture just minutes later due to a second drug trafficking accusation.
Finally, the Supreme Court intervened in the controversy by recognizing Santrich’s status as a congressman and ordering his release.
In addition to the conflict between Colombian judicial institutions, other political actors in that country intervened in the controversy.
On numerous occasions, the president Ivan Duke he regretted the release of Jesús Santrich and even asked that the decision be appealed.
“How can one pretend that we have a mobster taking over as a congressman?” Duque criticized at the time, who asked the Attorney General’s Office to suspend the parliamentarian.
The United States regretted that the guerrilla’s surrender was thus prevented.
The accusation against Santrich in the United States established that the crimes for which he is accused occurred after the signing of the peace agreement.
Santrich’s subsequent disappearance added strength to those who criticized his release and inauguration as a congressman.
A hard-line negotiator
In the peace talks held in Havana, he was part of the FARC negotiating team and was characterized by representing the hardest and most intransigent line of the guerrillas.
Partially blind from a degenerative problem, Leber’s syndrome, which affects the optic nerves, Santrich always appeared wearing black glasses and a Kufiyya (Palestinian kerchief) draped over his shoulders.
This is how it became known when the Government and the FARC were in the preliminary phase of the negotiations in Oslo.
On that occasion, when asked if the FARC were willing to apologize to their victims, he replied in a mocking tone with the lyrics of the bolero “perhaps, perhaps, perhaps”, clinging to his friend Iván Márquez, head of the negotiating team of the warfare.
Return to arms
Just last Thursday, the Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia had approved the extradition to the United States of Santrich “because, among other reasons, the conduct of conspiracy to commit a crime and drug trafficking that is charged abroad lack political connotation.”
On June 29, 2019, he escaped from their escorts and his trail was lost until two months later, he appeared in a video with Iván Márquez announcing that they were abandoning the peace agreement to go underground.
In that statement, Santrich criticized the Colombian state for having “betrayed” the agreement between the FARC and the government and accused President Duque of not knowing “that the agreement was signed.”
Duque was a target of his sporadic statements in the last two years.
“‘Memento mori’, Duke. Procrustean gets his Theseus, meaning that every fat pig gets his December,” Santrich said in a video recorded on February 13. The president replied: “I am not afraid of threats from criminals.”
The dissident group of the FARC to which Santrich belonged said on Tuesday that he had died in an operation of commandos of the Colombian Army in Venezuela.
But the Colombian government did not confirm the news, so it remains to be seen if the guerrilla leader really died or if it is a strategy of his environment to remove him from the scene now that the Supreme Court authorized his extradition to the United States.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.