Top FARC Leader, Wanted for Drug Trafficking, Flees to Venezuela
Jesus Santrich has abandoned his security detail, and sought refuge under the protection of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, as Colombian courts consider the charges against him.
The case of FARC leader Jesus Santrich in Colombia has enraged the country, after the nation’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) prevented his extradition to the United States, despite overwhelming evidence of his involvement in cocaine trafficking. Now the guerrilla leader has abandoned his security detail, and is alleged to have fled Colombia for Venezuela.
In a video shared on social media, we see a group of ex-guerrillas in Venezuelan territory, with Santrich among them.
The statement issued by the National Protection Unit (UNP) adds that Santrich left a note in the room he occupied, which he apparently signed as well. He claimed that he would spend the night with one of his children in the city of Valledupar. However, the son in question claimed to have no idea about the whereabouts of his father. The UNP reported that Santrich’s security detail is made up, for the most part, of trusted members of the FARC party.
The guerrilla leader’s departure occurred a month after he was freed from jail, and was sworn in as a Congressional deputy representing the Revolutionary Alternative Community Party (FARC), although he is still under investigation by the Colombian and US authorities for the crime of drug trafficking.
In the first days of July the Supreme Court of Justice scheduled a hearing related to this case, at which the guerrilla leader was required to be present. That day will be key; it is still unknown if Santrich will take the same path as several of his companions and refuse to appear before the courts, or if he will show up for his hearing.
“Santrich is confirming his guilt on the charges for which he is being investigated”
The PanAm Post spoke with the criminal lawyer Diego Suárez about the implications of the alleged escape of the guerrilla leader and what this means for the Santos-FARC agreement and the legitimacy of the JEP.
In his opinion, what happened is very serious and undermines the credibility of the agreement, to such an extent that Santrich is confirming his guilt on the charges for which he is being investigated.
“He more than anyone else knows the political implications of evading justice and despite this, disrespects once again what is stipulated in the agreement. I do not believe in the ‘abandonment’ thesis of his security scheme. Out of respect for legality, the Office of the Prosecutor must call for questioning as soon as possible for each member of his security detail, to rule out an eventual complicity in his escape.”
Suárez added that what happened “strengthens the voices of those who are calling for the revocation of the JEP.”
For his part, Rafael Guarín, National Security Adviser, said that what discredits the Havana agreement is “impunity, not the demand for justice.”
Decisions that favor or translate into impunity destroy trust and make it difficult for society to overcome wounds left by terrorism and human rights violations.
Santrich “the parliamentarian” who is now fleeing justice
Now Colombia faces a reality which had been warned of since the JEP decided not to extradite him, as Santrich is choosing the same path as other feared guerrilla leaders, such as Iván Márquez, Paisa, and Romaña, who are fugitives from justice after disagreements in political matters and implementation of the agreement by the national government.
The guerrilla leader fled despite the fact that on several occasions he has affirmed that he does not “owe” anything to the justice system, in relation to the evidence presented by the Prosecutor’s Office and for which reason the United States has accused him of the crime of drug trafficking and requested his extradition.
Santrich currently enjoys parliamentary immunity, a fact that has enraged those who have warned of the breach of the agreement and the JEP, and requested suspension of the guerrilla’s jurisdiction, including President Iván Duque. Due to the crimes that are imputed to him, many warned that Santrich could escape the jurisdiction of the court; a warning that appears to have come to pass, in the wake of hisf escape to Venezuela.
Santrich will enjoy protection from the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro. Santrich’s guilt is confirmed by the statements of the former guerrilla Marlon Marín, nephew of alias ‘Iván Márquez’, who is a protected witness and who was captured for the same crimes for which the guerrilla leader is accused. Also, there are videos entered into evidence by the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office that show Santrich closing a deal to send ten tons of cocaine to the US, a crime that was perpetrated after the signing of the Santos-FARC agreement.
For now, the FARC party has asked the guerrilla leader to assume the consequences of his actions before the courts. “Any personal decision, or group decision, that departs from these decisions goes against our political line and, therefore, can only compromise those who make those decisions,” the party said.
Anoche nos reunimos con con la subdirección con la UNP encargada de nuestra protección. Preocupación por los asesinatos y por el clima de odio y estigmatización promovido desde el Gobierno. pic.twitter.com/jZoEPPOC5x
— Jesús Santrich (@JSantrich_FARC) June 29, 2019
This was the last photo posted on Santrich’s social media. It was taken Friday night in the reintegration zone in La Paz, Cesar. There, he appears with his bodyguards.