US: $10 million each for arrests of 2 Colombian rebel chiefs

Washington D.C.

In this April 10, 2018 file photo, Luciano Marin, also known as Ivan Marquez, a former leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, speaks to the media during a press conference in Bogota, Colombia. The top peace negotiator for the FARC announced Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, that he and a cadre of hardline supporters are taking up arms again, accusing President Ivan Duque of failing to uphold the accord that sought to end a half century of bloody fighting. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara, File)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The United States is offering rewards of up to $10 million each for the arrests of two prominent Colombian rebels who were key figures in the nation’s historic peace process but have since returned to arms.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of State offered the prize Thursday for help in bringing Luciano Marín, alias Iván Márquez, and Seuxis Hernández, alias Jesús Santrich, to justice.

Former rebel leader Seuxis Hernandez, also known as Jesus Santrich, opens his arms during a press conference at the FARC party headquarters after he was freed from his second detention in connection with a drug case in Bogota, Colombia, Thursday, May 30, 2019. Colombia’s Supreme Court decided that the former FARC peace negotiator, who is accused of conspiring to ship cocaine to the U.S., should be released and determined that his case is part of that court’s jurisdiction because his post as a legislator. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Both men had been given seats in Colombia’s congress and were active proponents of the 2016 accord ending Latin America’s longest-running conflict but fled amidst accusations that they had continued drug trafficking.

Hernández was jailed in 2018 after prosecutors in New York ordered his arrest on drug charges, accusations he denied. He disappeared about a month after Colombia’s Supreme Court ordered him freed while the charges were investigated. U.S. officials were also investigating Marín when he went missing.

Both men reappeared in August 2019 when they released a video showing them back in their olive-green uniforms alongside a small cadre of dissidents, accusing Colombia’s government of failing to uphold the peace accord. Colombian officials allege Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is providing them shelter.

The U.S. Department of Justice charged Hernández and Marín alongside Maduro and a dozen other Venezuelan officials in March with conspiring to export cocaine to the U.S.

“For decades, the FARC has used drug trafficking to finance their terrorist activities and partnered with corrupt Venezuelan elites to threatened (the) United States and our allies,” DEA Acting Administrator Timothy Shea said. “We hope these increased rewards will encourage those with valuable information to contact the DEA.”

The decision by Marín and Hernández to return to arms was a significant blow to Colombia’s peace accord. Both former commanders with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, had helped negotiate the deal. They were two of the group’s most visible leaders promoting the accord after it was signed.

In their absence, the FARC’s remaining leadership has continued pressing forward with the agreement’s implementation. The former rebels have created a political party and embarked on new lives as civilians. But they also remain under threat; the United Nations recorded 77 murders of ex-combatants in 2019.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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