The possible alliance of FARC and ELN threatens to burn the border between Colombia and Venezuela

Political tension is added to 2,200 kilometers plagued by armed actors with diverse interests


The FARC dissidents, captained now by what was 'number two' of the guerrillas, alias 'Iván Márquez', and the National Liberation Army (ELN) threaten to join forces in what would be a determining factor to configure the volatile situation on the border between Colombia and Venezuela and the damaged relations between their governments.

The previous Government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed an agreement in 2016 to end more than half a century of war that has bled the country with more than eight million victims. Since then, the implementation of the agreement takes place between important advances and enormous difficulties.

The possible alliance of FARC and ELN threatens to burn the border between Colombia and Venezuela
The possible alliance of FARC and ELN threatens to burn the border between Colombia and Venezuela

The biggest cloud that plans on the peace process is the announcement made on August 29 by 'Iván Márquez' in a video that seems to be recorded somewhere along the border between Colombia and Venezuela. The former chief negotiator of the FARC proclaimed his return to arms, along with a score of dissidents, including the negotiator 'Jesus Santrich', accusing the State of “betraying” the texts of Havana.

'Iván Márquez' also announced his intention to lead the FARC dissidents in a merger with the ELN – reconverted to Colombia's first guerrilla after the disappearance of the FARC as such – whose peace process with the Government, inherited also from the Santos era, he broke up in January with the attack on a cadet school in Bogotá. For now, the 'elenos' remain silent.

The International Crisis Group warns in its report 'Reduce the aftermath of the new guerrilla in the Colombian border' about the impact that this new armed group would have on both sides of the border. I would add the 2,300 members estimated to be the FARC dissidents, most of them new recruits, and the more than 3,000 ELN guerrillas.

However, the think tank itself emphasizes that it is not clear that this alliance will materialize. In the first place, because, although 'Iván Márquez' is the former senior guerrilla who has turned his back on the peace agreement, “so far nothing suggests that the 24 dissident factions are looking for new leaders.” And, secondly, because FARC and ELN have a long history of internal conflict.


The current president of Colombia, Iván Duque, has lowered the category of this hypothetical new group as “gang”, which puts him at the level of organized crime and common crime that the Casa de Nariño – except for a few exceptions – fights in the police field, reserving the Military Forces to the guerrillas.

In it, the Foreign Minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, insisted on an interview granted to Europa Press this week on the occasion of his time in Madrid that if the FARC dissidents and the ELN converge on a new actor it will be “a group narcoterrorist “, not a guerrilla. “The State is prepared through legitimate force to face it,” he said.

The main cause that 'Iván Márquez' and his companions wielded to re-wield the weapons was the lack of compliance by the Government of the peace agreement, referring to the intended modifications in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) and the wave of attacks against former guerrillas and social leaders, who have left at least 149 and 462 dead, respectively, in these three years, according to data from the Ombudsman's Office of Colombia.

However, for the International Crisis Group, “there are undoubtedly criminal interests at stake.” The FARC dissidents have been concentrated along the Pacific coast and the Orinoco River and in the Eastern Plains and have knitted alliances with the ELN on the border with Venezuela and in Venezuela itself with illegal drug trafficking and mining as dominant activities.

The head of the political party emerged from the extinct guerrilla, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, 'Timochenko', has agreed with the Government that the step taken by 'Iván Márquez' and 'Jesús Santrich', both indicated by drug trafficking in the United States, could have a “personal motivation”. The truth is that the vast majority of the almost 13,000 former FARC guerrillas have maintained their commitment to peace.


The 'think tank' is sure that the hypothetical merger of FARC and ELN dissidents will have a strong impact on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, more than 2,200 kilometers in which guerrillas and countless criminal groups already operate and that now It is the main escape route for Venezuelan immigrants and refugees.

This border has always been subject to special tension, often associated with the cyclical political frictions between the governments of Bogotá and Caracas, and now, with the wave of violence in Colombia and the crisis in Venezuela, it is again a hot spot.

Duque has directly accused his counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, of protecting 'Iván Márquez', 'Jesús Santrich' and the ELN in Venezuelan territory, while the 'Chavista' leader has criticized the Colombian president for allegedly making a hearing fat with smuggling mafias and criminal groups.

The photographs of the self-proclaimed “president in charge” of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, along with members of Los Rastrojos, Colombian criminal gang, have fueled tensions. According to Maduro, they helped him make a round trip to the neighboring country in February, when the Venezuelan opposition was trying to get humanitarian aid in exchange for, once he conquered the Miraflores Palace, let them roam freely for border.

The political combat has its replica on the ground. From September 10 until the 28th, some 150,000 Venezuelan military personnel carry out maneuvers at the border. Colombian forces maintain special vigilance, although the Government has clarified that there will only be defensive acts, and if they are necessary.

Colombia, for its part, is one of the twelve countries that the TIAR or Rio Treaty consultation body has convened to address the Venezuelan case, the first step to activate a regional agreement that contains a collective defense clause, and has advanced that at the 74th UN General Assembly, which will be held next week in New York, he will ask for international sanctions against Venezuela for his alleged support for terrorism and drug trafficking.


Meanwhile, “there already seems to be local alliances between FARC and ELN dissidents in Venezuela, among other reasons, to coordinate nacrotrafficking between the border states of Arauca (Colombia) and Apure (Venezuela), as well as to exercise control over the illegal mining in the Venezuelan state of Amazonas, “warns International Crisis Group.

“In this context, the risk is now so high that Bogotá will attribute any transboundary incident involving FARC dissidents or the ELN – including real, imminent or alleged attacks against Colombian targets from bases in Venezuelan territory – to what considers an illegitimate and aggressive government in Caracas, “predicts the 'think tank'.

In his opinion, in order to get as far away as possible from a bilateral conflict scenario, the parties should “establish communication channels to resolve the outbreaks of violence, whether they are border intrusions or attacks by armed groups”, without rushing to assume What group would be involved and why?

The Duke Executive, on the other hand, urges him to “redouble his efforts in the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement in order to deter the formation of more dissident groups.”

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